Brisbane cinematographer Josh Zaini teams up with 2016’s Young Australians of the Year to produce campaign film for homeless initiative Orange Sky – by Josh Zaini


I had been aware of the work Orange Sky Australia had been doing in Brisbane for some time. These two young guys bought a van, retro-fitted it so that it could wash and dry clothes and began driving around offering free washing and drying to people living on the streets. 

Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett went from one van in Brisbane to over thirty around Australia, have launched in New Zealand and are soon to launch in the United States. I was a fan of the work they were doing in the community and inspired by the way they went about it. I reached out to Marchesi, one of the co-founders of Orange Sky along with Patchett, and offered to create a film to help with their expansion and brand awareness. A month later we were shooting. 

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A scene from the Orange Sky television campaign – DOP Josh Zaini

Directing as well as shooting, firstly I wanted to make sure we captured a realistic and authentic representation of the stories from the people they interact with everyday on the streets. My producer Meagan Babore and I worked closely with Orange Sky to ensure our vision for the film aligned with real life scenarios, and was as close to real life as possible.

I had seen a few of these types of campaigns in the past and an important aspect for us was creating the story of people who you may not expect to be living life tough. We worked with their team to determine three separate narratives.

I was shocked to learn that one of the fastest growing demographics of homeless people was older ladies either living on the streets or living in their cars. Also young guys, mid-20s, who are living pay cheque to pay cheque. If one thing goes wrong then they are on the street or living in a shelter or home with no electricity. The third scenario was a young mum and daughter, who were living in a tent. This type of thing happens for a multitude of reasons, and domestic abuse is a big factor. The themes in the film were all based on real stories. 

Behind the scenes on the Orange Sky campaign - PHOTO Benjamin Knight
Behind the scenes on the Orange Sky campaign – PHOTO Benjamin Knight

The goal was to establish these people, who look completely normal going about their everyday lives, then reveal that all is not what it seems and there is more going on than meets the eye. So breaking stereotypes of what a homeless person looks like was the primary objective. 

Having recently purchased an ARRI Alexa Mini, the camera was an obvious choice. I wanted to shoot with the Cooke Panchro Classic lenses because I loved the vintage feel of the glass, the drop off and the way they shape faces in particular was a perfect fit for this style of film, because ultimately it was all about the emotion in the face that told the story. Lemac were awesome and helped us with the lenses.

“ The total project costs to Orange Sky were zero. ”

It was incredible to see the willingness of the Brisbane film community to come and volunteer their time for this project. The most challenging part of this project, I thought, would be convincing crew to come and work for free, at night, in winter, on a weekend. Everybody believed in what we were trying to do for Orange Sky. It was an amazing example of the film community coming together. To help the guys who help people in our community. 

We had a tech crew of around twenty people, plus several suppliers from catering, permits, talent, music… the list goes on. Most of the crew I had worked with previously on television commercials, but some were complete strangers. The total project costs to Orange Sky were zero.

Rounding out the camera department was First Assistant Camera Aaron Bottero, Second Assistant Camera David Sciasci, Camera Assistant Scott Edwards, Movi Operator Brendan Isaac, Movi Assistant Matt Davies, Behind-the-Scenes Camera Nathan Barlow and Drone Operator Jeff Camden. We started shooting from sundown and continued through until about 1-2am on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Not too many hiccups really considering all the moving parts.

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A scene from the Orange Sky television campaign – DOP Josh Zaini

My primary goal for the look of this project was to make it feel real and authentic. Initially I had written a script for the film but I ended up ditching it. The power was in the visuals, and I wanted the pictures to do the talking. We were lucky to have amazing talent and locations. We wanted to keep the lighting simple utilising a couple of Sky Panels for moonlight sources and some M18s gelled to replicate the feeling of sodium vapour street lights. It was tricky to not overdo it and keep it stripped back. The goal was to make people have an emotional reaction to these characters without using words. It was a fun challenge.

I was across the whole post-production process. We didn’t have to do too much in the grade, I liked the look of the log so much that I almost wanted not to touch it. We enhanced the colour a bit which did help to create the mood. We kept the blacks pretty high and added a little bit of contrast, however that was about it. 

“ It was an amazing example of the film community coming together. “

A catalyst for bringing people of all walks of life together, Orange Sky facilitates countless hours of community work each week. In February 2015, they took their mobile laundry to North Queensland to wash clothes in cyclone affected communities. They have found a way to treat others the way they want to be treated by restoring respect, raising health standards and reducing the strain on resources. It’s the simple idea that led two young Queenslanders to one of Australia’s highest honours. Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett were crowned Young Australians of the Year in 2016 after creating a mobile laundry for the homeless.

I am actually pretty happy with the end result. I think it’s a powerful story and stayed true to what we set out to do. There are always things I would do differently as a cinematographer, I have never been completely satisfied with anything I’ve ever shot. But overall, considering what we did with what we had, I’m proud of it and enjoyed the challenge.

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A scene from the Orange Sky television campaign – DOP Josh Zaini

I have just finished shooting a short film called Here There Be Monsters for director Drew Macdonald, which has its premiere it Los Angeles next month. Apart from that, I’m back into commercials.


Josh Zaini is a young director and cinematographer from Brisbane who works for Light + Shade Media. He has received several Australian Cinematographers Society awards for his work.

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Written by acmag

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