Well, phewee...where have the last few months gone? As I sit here to write this, we are just over a week away from Christmas 2021. The sun has finally found it’s way down here to Tasmania and we have had our first few days and weeks of steady heat. With the long, mild, moist spring drawing out, the garden is a riot of growth and LL’s garden is certainly looking glorious, if a little dishevelled. It is almost impossible to keep up with the chores out there at the best of times, let alone with all the exciting things that have been going on behind the scenes at LL HQ. I’m going to tell you about one of our big projects from the last few weeks - the shooting of our new TV adverts.
In the last fortnight we have had some rather big goals accomplished, as yet to come to full fruition. It has certainly been a pretty hectic period! The first one accomplished, the most stressful and the one with the most danger, I have been thinking about for some time…like three plus years, ‘before I bought the business’ – quite some time. I have been gently mulling it over, cultivating my ideas into a proper concept, and after much planning, last Monday and Tuesday we went out to have a red hot go…we nailed it!
The business is named Lake Leather after the gentleman who started it, one Mr. Ian Lake. And Tasmania, our beautiful island home, is full of lakes, some very famous indeed. There are the Great Lakes. There’s Lake St. Clair and its family of waterways around the national park. There are the numerous highland lakes, too many to name. There are so many beautiful lakes about the state, each one unique in its own special way, that I wonder whether anyone really knows how many there are. But out of all those lakes there are a couple of real big hitters, the really famous ones, the icons. We thought we would bring these two types of lakes together for this summer’s TV ad.
Earlier this year, in preparation for this, I bought a wooden boat - a 10ft wooden tender dinghy. She is beautiful! She was built in Hobart in the 1930s and has spent her life on and off the water around Tasmania. She has attended at least four of the famous Tasmanian Wooden Boat Festivals in recent years, wearing her badges with honour. On the day I purchased her I travelled south to Blackmans Bay, near Hobart, to collect her. She was purchased from a gentleman whose wife had declared it was her or a few of the many project boats he had littering their sheds. The deal was done, and the Good Ship Lake set out for her new home in the north.
She had been sitting out of the water for some five or more years. If you don’t know anything about boats (which I certainly did not, God bless you Google!), wooden boats need to be in contact with water to remain waterproof. The water is absorbed into the structure of the wood, which in turn makes it swell. This process closes the gaps between the planks, making the vessel watertight. The
classic images of shipmates swabbing the decks is a real thing, not to keep the deck clean but to keep the planks moist and swollen, and therefore the ship watertight. Having been out of water for so long, the GS Lake needed to complete this process of absorbing water, called ‘taking up’. So, we sunk it. ‘Taking up’ is this process of the dry timbers taking up water into their fibres. To allow this to happen equally right across the boat thereby reducing the risk of warping and splitting, one way is to fully submerge it. Luckily, I have a friend with a dam who was kind enough to let me sink my dinghy in it. I was surprised at just how difficult this was. I guess I had in mind that it would go down like in a cartoon: the moment it hit the water there would be a fountain through the bung hole and it would disappear into the depths with a watery ‘blip blip blip’ noise. As it was, we took the dinghy out to the dam, managed to get her off the trailer onto the water and it took about twenty minutes of pushing her down to get her under the water. It certainly filled me with a bit of hope that perhaps my end would not be caused by my shonky boat handling skills. Little did I know that the buoyancy was mostly because of the dryness of the timber. She was left submerged for a week
or so to take up, then hauled gently from the deep. Water is heavy. One litre of water weighs 1kg so we had to be very conscious of the weight of the water in our vessel. She had to be gently dragged up and given a chance to drain slowly and surely, rather than winching her onto her trailer and risking tearing her apart with a ton of water inside. We drained her and then I, as captain, put on my captain’s hat and set out for our maiden voyage. I thought it only right that if she was going to go down, I had to go down with the ship. She was definitely watertight! She would need a bit of a tidy up but the first part of the plan was going well.
The Good Ship Lake was left on the dam to maintain her watertight status. Handling of the boat that day made me realise that I would definitely need to
practise my boat handling skills. If we were going to go out and film a TV ad I would need to improve. Days of filming are expensive, so you need to make sure that your time is well spent. You need to know what you want to achieve and have a good plan to ensure those goals are achieved on the day. One thing I did know at that point was that my rooky boating skills had to be improved. I had to be sure that on the day the basic ‘moving the boat around’ was safe and smooth, and not the part of the exercise that was going to be the ruination of it all.
With that in mind, in the next few weeks I went out and practised my boat skills. I can row well enough, but reversing the boat trailer to the water and getting the boat on and off the trailer were two VERY important aspects that I needed to nail. Practice makes perfect right?! After numerous practice sessions, including several dunkings, one huntsman incident (during which I abandoned ship and definitely did not deserve my captain’s hat) and any number of back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth on the boat ramp at Longford (reversing a trailer, eye roll) I was getting good enough to know this would be ok on the day.
The next step was storyboarding the ads. I originally had something very simple in mind, but as is often the case this escalated wildly. Before I knew what had happened, I had three separate stories written up for three separate lakes - including Great Lakes Tasmania. These concepts were discussed with the producer, and we decided that we were going to go for it.
There was a lot of preparation needed to get our plan together. We would be doing three shoots over 24hours at three different lakes, telling our three little 30 second stories. The list of jobs seemed endless: location scouting, securing talent, organising props, outfits, food, accommodation, park passes, filming permissions and a million other things that you would never think of. As a
naturally disorganised kind of person, this was not my forte, but a firm hand from my producer and lots and lots of lists meant everything kept moving in the right direction. Once everything was organised it was simply a case of waiting for the weather to come good. We ended up filming about a month later than we had hoped, but it was definitely worth the wait.
The day went smoothly, with everything going according to plan. It was a long and arduous day, hot as hell and windy as anything. We hit the Great Lake in the middle of the day, Arthurs Lake at sunset, then drove to Lake St Clair in the dark so we could catch the rising sun for our morning shoot the next day. The whole time we had to think on our feet, completely change one idea as the wind made it impossible to shoot safely, deal with problems on the hop and overcome many issues. But the final product is amazing. I am really pleased with the adverts we have produced, and I hope you like them too. Keep your eye out on the TV to see them in the new year. And remember…
There are a lot of iconic lakes in Tasmania, but there is only one Lake Leather.