By Katie Chambers
Welcome to NYWIFT, Jacinta Hayne! Jacinta was born in New South Wales, Australia. She has worked in film, commercials & stills productions for over 19 years, both in Australia and internationally.
She was 2nd AD on major motion pictures including Titanic, The Quiet American, and Babe: Pig in the City, as well Production Coordinator many other films, TVC’s, and music videos. She is also a stills photographer. She is based in New York and a member of the Directors Guild of America, and is both an Australian and US Citizen.
Jacinta’s most recent project as a set photographer was the late Jeff Darling’s short film He Went That Way, which stars Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi and premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.
Jacinta spoke to us about her most meaningful moments on set, working with George Miller and James Cameron, and her smart techniques for staying organized.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
I am Australian and have lived in New York for 20 years now. I’ve had great opportunities to work and travel to wonderful projects during my life. I worked my way up through the ranks through experience rather than education.
I work intuitively and collaboratively with others. I approach filmmaking with the objective to interpret the script through the director’s eyes and then become the link and communication channel to all departments so that the film can be realized in their vision as smoothly as possible.
I began working in TV commercial productions then moved on to feature films. In between productions I travelled with my stills camera, creating person projects.
Assistant directors are notorious for being the most organized people on set – it’s the nature of the job! How do you keep yourself – and everyone around you – organized and on schedule?
Being organized on set is natural to me, I’ve been doing it for so long. Keeping notes, making sure I recap the day at the end of the day.
Always taking notes in all conversations.
Asking questions when there is doubt, never being afraid to ask questions or to speak up if something is not clear, repeating what was said if you aren’t sure you interpreted it properly.
Having a pencil on hand, I’m not as versed in working with technology like having an iPad at my hip which is what most of my colleagues use now. Getting all details down allows me to have them all in my head, and then translating that to the call sheet keeping other departments as organized.
And of course, always keeping the shooting schedule on hand and up to date which has all details to refer to.
I often tell filmmakers who are just starting out, “Don’t forget to take still photos – you’ll regret it later if you don’t!” Can you describe for those who might not be aware, what is the role of an on-set photographer and why should everyone have one?
On set photographers are there to capture key elements of the film. The work you make as an on-set stills photographer is usually used for publicity purposes.
They are one person who is permitted to have a still camera on set so the cast, producers, and director feel safe that their faces aren’t going to turn up on social media prior to the film release. It’s a delicate situation at times – some actors are fine with you photographing them, others are not. So you have to be very clever to find positions to place yourself out of the way to get a usable shot.
Depending on the budget of the film – Specials Photographers are brought in to take the editorial and or poster shots, but this can also be your job too, so it’s quite a challenge to be jack of all shots.
You are usually your own department – although you might hook up with the camera department as support – but usually you’re on your own, which has its pros and cons. With digital, the workload is heavy as you take a lot of shots then have to edit down to the best and hand it over to publicity. In some cases, if your film has a high budget, you might have an editor to work with you but in general you need to be organized, sharp (in focus too), and totally out of the way of everyone else working on the film.
Despite your work being important and what may get people into the theatres, it’s no good without the film so it’s a fine balance.
As for regretting not having a record of yourself being on a film set… that interestingly is something I don’t have a lot of, shots of myself on a film set whether I’m a 2nd or Stills – both jobs are very consuming and busy so there is way less standing around to even get a shot of yourself.
You’ve worked on some phenomenal high-profile projects, including Titanic, The Quiet American, and Babe: Pig in the City. What have been some of the most fun – or craziest – experiences you’ve had so far?
Working with George Miller and crew was a gift – he surrounds himself with people who he trusts and care and there is great respect for all roles. On Babe: Pig in the City we were working with primates as well as dogs, cats, and pigs of course. One afternoon I was on set going over the call sheet with the 1st AD, PJ, and the orangutan was standing near me between takes with her trainer and she gently put her arm around my shoulders. It was a very beautiful moment and the feeling remains with me today.
Titanic was a very intense, stressful film – we not only were dealing with extreme conditions but also a mounting budget that continued to be a big issue for the studios. I think my takeaway from that film was that working on such a visionary production with James Cameron pushes you beyond your perceived limits.
Working in Baja Mexico with an international cast and crew was an incredible collaboration. We were working with visually historic elements (a lot of the set design and props were from the original manufacturers of the actual Titanic from the UK), adding the stunts with visual effects that were still evolving (i.e. early in their realization) to create a story that transported you back to that time. It was visionary, but in terms of fun it was very hard work for us all and none of us could really see what a success the film would be as we were so deep in the making of it.
The Quiet American was shot mostly in Vietnam. The majority of crew were Australian, with a small crew of locals including the extras. It also was also quite an intense film to work on – “fun” is not a word I would use easily on a film. I guess in one of my favorite moments might have been when we were back in Australia and doing a dance scene in the studio and the extras were still being prepared. Brendan Fraser was already on set. We were still setting up and rehearsing, and he took me onto the dance floor and led me in a dance, it was yet another special moment. I had worked very hard on that film and that moment was a very welcome relief.
What has been your favorite project to date, and why?
I have several favorite projects, including working with Wim Wenders on Until the End of the World – this was one of my very first international film projects in Australia – it was exciting times, it was the coming together of filmmakers from all around the world and Australia was their last destination to film. We shot in remote parts of Australia that are difficult to access.
To be part of such an inspiring and diverse group of people and working in such incredible landscapes and country was inspiring. Wim Wenders and Robby Muller had unusual stills cameras on the set as well as motion picture film cameras. Watching these guys work was a huge inspiration – that project had an impact on me both with friendships and life traveling with a camera. The cast was incredible too – the late Solveig Dommartin, Max Von Sydow, and Jeanne Moreau, as well as William Hurt and Sam Neill.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Follow your heart. I’m not really sure that’s the best advice I’ve received, but one I hear the most. It’s led me along many paths some of which may not have been my best move but trusting one’s instincts and not being afraid to speak up are all keys to a smoother running set and life really.
What inspired you to join NYWIFT and how do you hope to engage with the organization?
As most of the projects I have worked on although have US, connections were always instigated from contacts I have back in Australia. Since living in New York, I’ve raised a child as a single mom and have continued to stay in touch with colleagues who are based elsewhere but these last years have been out of the loop and would like to connect with filmmakers in this city.
I was inspired to join NYWIFT after meeting an Australian Producer at an Australian International Screen Forum in NY. I am hoping by being a member that I will connect with likeminded women with the objective of potentially realizing a new project.
And what is next for you?
I’m currently exploring and looking for opportunities to connect and collaborate with Australian/US co-productions as well as exploring my own work in photography through artist books.
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