Content Cafe


Monkey business on Pirates of the Caribbean

by Pip Bulbeck

Jennifer Cornwell, Unit production manager

LAST FIVE INTERNATIONAL CREDITS: Thor: Ragnarok, Kong: Skull Island; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales; Gods of Egypt; Unbroken.

DESCRIBE YOUR JOB: Madness! I have overall management of the film and budget. I’m the second in charge, with key responsibility of keeping within the budget. I’m normally the first person the studio employs on the ground so for a 17 week shoot I am generally on for another 17 weeks prior, plus 6-8 weeks post on a film like Thor.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE MORE MEMORABLE PROJECTS YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED IN: I love working on the international productions. With the bigger budgets you end up doing things where you think “Wow.” And every production is different. On Pirates 5 we built these massive concrete pods with gimbals on which the pirate ships rotate. I know more about concrete pads than I ever thought I’d know. And I did love Unbroken as Louis Zamperini’s story was such a great story. It wasn’t such a huge budget but it was the process of bringing his story to life, and recreating Japan that made it one of those memorable projects.

MOST CHALLENGING REQUEST ON AN INTERNATIONAL FILM SHOOT: On Pirates 5 we were filming on the Whitsundays for three to four days right at the end of the shoot, including on the iconic Whitehaven beach when he had weather issues. We had the crew on the beach with these massive swells and got stuck on Hamilton Island with 300 cast and crew who couldn’t get out, including leads who were due to fly out of Australia. While they had extra time in the resort, it took us three days to get everyone off the island after chartering every plane available that we could.

CRAZIEST MOMENT ON SET: Every day is a crazy day and you can’t plan for everything. On one of the ships and gimbal on Pirates 5, Barbossa’s monkey literally got sea sick and threw up on Geoffrey Rush. We fed the poor thing Ginger biscuits to settle his stomach. You never know what the day is going to bring.

FAVOURITE ACTIVITY IN AUSTRALIA: I have had a great run of work so when I’m off I love to go boating around Broadbeach (home near the Gold Coast) and relaxing at home. Just living the Gold Coast lifestyle. I have to have a regular massage to massage away the week.

IF I WASN’T WORKING IN FILM AND TELEVISION I WOULD… have ended up in the entertainment industry. I have a secretarial background and worked at Expo 88 in Brisbane.

I’D LOVE TO WORK WITH… Rephrase that to, “I love to work with all of the US producers who have done some amazing films here.” There’s such a variety of people, each of whom has different qualities that I love to work with.

I KNEW I WANTED TO WORK IN FILM AND TELEVISION WHEN… I freelanced and fell into the industry. It found me. Once you’re in it’s hard to get out.

WHAT IS YOUR WORK MOTTO OR PHILOSOPHY? “To be honest and fair and keep everyone happy.”

Article originally published as part of Ausfilm’s Wizards of Oz campaign. Read it here.