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How I Do It: Tiny Disco’s Creative Director on the importance of saying yes

WORDS BY AMY FOCIC

“The ability to say yes and try new stuff is hugely important.”

Impressive job titles are one thing, but what about people who have carved out their own niche and created a job specifically for them? Rather than landing that covetable LinkedIn byline, working for yourself presents a whole new way to choose your own adventure. That said, it’s not always about exploring the road less travelled – sometimes it can mean forging your own entirely untrodden path.

It’s a tough slog, but if being your own boss is your own personal dream, How I Do It is the column for you. We’ll talk to established freelancers and friends of FJ who’ve been at this long enough to have the benefit of hindsight, and they might be able to help you figure out how exactly they ‘do’ what they do.


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Money, agents, timelines and tight turnarounds – this is what it takes to build creative success. This week Chelsea Morley, the founder of creative agency Tiny Disco, tells us how she went from dropping out of her advertising degree to creating a boutique advertising production company. Here’s how she does it. 

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

I’m the creative director of Tiny Disco, which is a creative agency based in Melbourne. You could say we specialise in online and digital content. But I’m also a cinematographer, so I also shoot most of our content. So I guess I’m a creative director first, cinematographer second.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

I guess like anyone, when I was young I had big bold dreams and my dream was that I just wanted to be Sandra Sully. That was my whole thing. Or a fashion designer, and I was never any good at fashion designing. So I finished school and I got into advertising at RMIT and I hated advertising which is kind of hilarious because that’s what I’m doing now. I ended up doing a Bachelor of Media Studies and majored in journalism, then kind of took that path of media and journalism and worked in TV. 

My first TV gig I got in my second year of uni, and it was one of those fluke moments. It was just right place, right time. I’m all for hard work, but I kind of just fell into this role as a junior and it was terrifying. Working in a newsroom was the most intense and scary time of my career. Then I jumped ship and started working on The Project as the chase producer which was much more aligned with what I wanted to do. 

Then I had my first child, and I just didn’t think I could go back to that. Any woman who is in a really big role and a really intense career probably hits that point after they’ve had their child or even when they’re pregnant, when they feel doors close or feel like they can’t go back to that role. That really happened to me in a big way: my first child entered the world and I just felt like this overarching push away from that career path I had chosen. 

And then I think my son was a couple of months old, and I was just like “I’m going to pick up a camera”. I liked making content for TV, so why didn’t I just pick up a camera? And I think it just happened at the right place, right time – again, seems to be a theme – and I convinced my husband who’s a photographer to let me come along and film some stuff with him, and it all just went from there. 

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

Trusting your gut and not allowing yourself to be stepped over. There’s that on one hand, then on the other side, the ins-and-outs of business. Like learning how the hell you’re supposed to run a business. Some days it’s just problem after problem, then you have massive wins, and extremely low lows. I think the challenge of accepting that as a woman it’s okay to work as well.

It’s 2021 and that feels like a really stupid thing to say, but I have two children now and there’s that eternal guilt. It’s starting to fade a little, but when they were really tiny, it was a huge thing to grapple with. Do I take these amazing opportunities and be away from my kids, or do I focus on them and then potentially lose those opportunities? Whoever said you can have it all is lying!

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

Being a female founder in advertising, it’s still male dominated. Often when we have people applying for art roles women feel intimidated by that space because traditionally it’s been a male role. Or in the post-production team I really make it a thing that I prioritise and give women and minorities a space to come and apply. I worked in TV and I never saw a female hold a camera. I think what I want people to know about us is that my whole goal is creating this safe space that’s driven by females. Our staff is 90 per cent female, our aesthetic is very female-driven, and I guess we’re trying to buck that trend of what advertising is and the idea of what the advertising industry is. 

What’s the best part about your role?

Having something that I can make my own – actually, our own. We had just two staff for a really long time, it was kind of nice and cute and lovely, but then we hired all these people and a question that would constantly come up in interviews was “What’s your culture like?”. I was like, I don’t understand, I’m supposed to think about culture now? But now that’s quickly becoming something that I’m really enjoying and loving. I don’t look at my employees as employees, I look at them as friends who are coming in to make some cool shit with me. 

What would surprise people about your role?

The amount of hours I work! I think I’ve shot myself in the foot a bit because it’s not a traditional role, it’s a role that I’ve made. So I guess when I’m in the office and I’m creative director and we’re talking about projects or campaigns or riffing on creative ideas, that’s a whole role, and then I have my cinematographer and production hat, which is two roles in one. 

What skills have served you well in your industry? 

Communication. Hands down, communication is the sole thing that gets you through every day. I’ve had clients throw whole campaigns in the bin, and I’ve had to step in and just get to the core of the problem and identify how I’m going to fix it. I thrive in those environments – I think that’s from live TV, where you’ve got a split second to go “Fuck it, let’s go with that.” It comes down to communication with your clients, communication with your staff, communication with yourself on what your vision is as well. Without communication, everything falls apart. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

Be human first. Because we’re taught that we need to put this persona on at work and I don’t believe in that. Also openness. I think something that’s served me really well in my career, and it’s something my mum taught me when I was little, [is] just say yes to every opportunity. My mum said no to a lot of opportunities when she was younger and I think she still regrets that. The ability to say yes and try new stuff is hugely important. But within reason. Don’t take candy from strangers.

What about a practical tip?

You need energy to think on the spot, because things don’t work. If there’s one thing that is definite on set, it’s that things are not going to work. So you’ve got to work on the fly and come up with alternate ways. And also I think [a] positive attitude. For people who have been on set, everyone will remember a bad set, everyone will remember the energy on set, so trying to keep energy up and the positivity going is a really practical tip. 

@chelseamorley

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