Simon SmithSimon Smith

Simon is an award-winning cinematographer based in Sydney. He shoots observational and dramatised documentaries, drama, commercials and music videos.

From the age of about 12, Simon made small films with a couple of school mates, and saw his future in the film world. He particularly loved the superb work of British cinematographer, Geoffrey Unsworth. Unsworth’s work included Becket, 2001 A Space Odyssey for Stanley Kubrick, A Bridge Too Far for Richard Attenborough, and Simon’s favourite film, the beautifully shot Cabaret. Simon was so inspired by Geoffrey Unsworth, that he decided that cinematography would be his chosen field of expertise. It was this area that Simon nominated in his application to the newly formed Australian Film and Television School. He was blown away when he was accepted into the course. Three years of intensive and fun training followed, including workshops and day-to-day passionate discussion with the likes of cameramen Don McAlpine and Brian Probyn, and constant work on student dramas. Here Simon honed his craft in lighting and camera operating, both on 16 and 35mm film, and in television. In his final year, Simon joined the camera crew of the Australian feature film, Bruce Beresford’s epic Breaker Morant, as clapper loader. A lowly position, but a key one! And a chance to watch the cream of Australian talent at work.

Moya, Mark, Edward, Peter, David, James and Simon: Breaker Morant

On graduating from Film School, Simon got a remarkable break, which threw him into the field of documentary, and took him to a beautiful, but distressing place. “After Pol Pot” told the story of Cambodia and its terrible period of genocide. For his first experience of shooting documentary, Simon was training his lens on the extraordinary people of that country, and hearing their heartbreaking stories. That experience lives with him to this day, and has affected everything he has shot since. Then, soon after, Simon shot “Nagasaki Journey” the story of Australian POWs imprisoned in Japan as the atom bombs fell. Then, “Serpent and The Cross”, an exploration of Aboriginal art and spirituality. Through all these times ,he has marvelled at the power of the camera to capture essential truths about people and events. And marvelled at his luck at getting to experience these truths.

Memorable projects followed in Italy, with Franco Di Chiera’s “The Artist, The Peasant” and “The Joys of the Women”, in France with the Foreign Legion for National Geographic’s “Legion of the Damned, and to a remote village in Vanuatu, for the Discovery Channel’s “Tribal Life: Bunlap” series. Living simply in bamboo huts, the crew, led by director Malcolm McDonald, took part in the life of the village as they recorded its rituals, for 2 months. A glorious experience of a joyous group of people.

Simon has relished the chance to get to know and film remarkable people in the Bush: in the Gulf Country town of Borrolloola for Paul Roy’s “A Dying Shame”, and in Arnhem Land for Darlene Johnson’s “River of No Return”, as well as performers of the calibre of Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, as they performed Hedda Gabler to New York audiences, for Ian Darling’s beautifully crafted”In the Company of Actors”. He joined director Andrea Ulbrick in the snows of Italy and Switzerland to capture the triumphs and set-backs of a group of young athletes competing for a place in the Winter Olympics for “Nerves of Steel”, and has felt privileged to have witnessed so many ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

Most recently, Simon was on the Kokoda Track, and in the skies of Malta and England, filming Spitfires and Tiger Moths, for the landmark Channel 9 series ” In Their Footsteps”. Then to the foggy streets of Whitechapel in London, for the dramatised “Jack the Ripper: Prime Suspect” for  Franco DiChiera, UKTV and the Seven Network. And finally, he is just completing “Paul Kelly: Stories of Me”, a much anticipated feature length doco for Ian Darling and Shark Island Productions.

And the journey continues…..