Behind the scenes of an Australian Women’s Weekly shoot!

You MUST buy this month’s edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly- the one with Carrie Bickmore and a massive wreath of red flowers on the cover.

Of course Carrie’s story is moving and certainly cover-worthy, but in amongst the fashion, beauty, recipes and exclusives, there is a tinsel-toned feature on my family as well, which I would unbiasedly suggest, has way more heart.


I won’t reveal the amazing story of the “greatest Christmas gift” as clearly you need to buy the magazine ($6.95 from your favourite newsagency), but I will give you an insight into how we ended up the main focus of this month’s mag (except of course Carrie and Glen McGrath and other celebrities including Chrissie Swan, Lisa McCune and Amanda and a thousand pages of Christmas recipes).

It started at a little too much to drink dinner party and ended with 18 people all dressed in neutral colours, waiting for a break in the wind and smiling at exactly the same time for the festive-flavoured group shot, which you will see when you grab your December edition.


Behind the scenes group shot

My parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, with a train trip from Sydney to Perth on the Indian Pacific when I attended a friend’s catered dinner party.

One of the guests was Bryce Corbett the Executive Editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly.

Because the dinner party was catered our generous host didn’t have as much to do in the kitchen and as such had more time to entertain, continually topping up her guests’ wine glasses and taking music requests.

The evening was of course fantastic fun, the food was fabulous, there was dancing on the breakfast bar, loads of lemincello, even a Rupert McCall style poetic rendition and the conversation covered every topic imaginable including my parent’s trip, which is how I came to get an email the next day from Bryce.

He’d written a note to himself to contact me regarding a story involving my father, which he admitted he needed me to retell in parts (lemincello is dangerous).

Being a former television journalist I know it’s an incredible story, but Bryce’s careful, insightful treatment has given it new life and significance as only an outsider, with a better than average story-telling ability, can do. (all right as you will gauge when you read it, the writing is better than better than average, perhaps bordering on exquisite).

What you will read (when you buy this month’s edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly, for the small price of $6.95), is a beautifully crafted personal story I dare you not to feel touched by.

The accompanying pictures came about after more than 25 emails from the patient Picture Editor of the Weekly trying to arrange:

  • a date where everyone could make it to the Gold Coast (we killed two birds with one shoot and scheduled it for my mother’s birthday)
  • who exactly was to be in the shoot (decided on the 18 you’ll see in the picture, no husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends or step children, although they were all there for the birthday celebration as it would have turned into 28 people)
  • what everyone had to wear
  • who was to get hair and make up
  • where exactly to meet (my sister had to do a location recce and send pictures)
  • what time
  • back up plans
  • etc
Behind the scenes action!

Behind the scenes action!

On the day of the shoot, the two hair and make-up artists were put through the wringer.

They had the wrong address and so my sister had to go and collect them from the location they had been dropped at.

Starting a little bit late they were under the pump thinking they had only four clients to prep.

But because it was only hours after the very late Rugby World Cup Final, all 10 of us women and teens decided we too wanted a touch up and just kept sitting in front of them with hopeful expectation in our eyes.

So it might have been a bit stressful.

Sorry Gemma and Maria, but thanks for the calm under duress.


Arriving at the Tallebudgera Creek location any fears of a wet weather shoot were quickly dismissed with the photographer blessed with a beautiful, sunny Spring day and sparkling blue water back drop.

Of course it was blowing a gale.

Styled superbly by Stav and Louise, the adorable white Christmas tree with red and baubles was swaying and some of the smaller, light-because-they-were-empty present props were being buffeted or stolen.

My four and six year old nephews couldn’t understand that they weren’t real presents and they couldn’t unwrap them or take them home.

All of the teenage girls (and their mothers) had straightened their long hair for the shoot so the wind swept look was pretty easy to achieve.

Luckily for us the photographer was Russell Shakespeare (one of Queensland’s most esteemed snappers) as he had the challenge of not just capturing everyone looking at least normal and facing the front at the same time but ensuring highly fashionable fly-away locks weren’t hiding any of the 18 faces.

Add to that the red, love-heart shaped helium balloons that were supposed to sit upright not wind-blown horizontal to help make the picture pop.

That is of course the balloons that weren’t literally popped by the three grandsons, who were supposed to be holding them nicely as they smiled to the front.

And the one flat balloon  nephew Nathan had to hold as he ran and smiled into the wind, while his mother yelled and waved her arms to try and get everyone else to look to the front and not watch the balloon runner.


As the shoot was a Sunday, Bryce brought his family including his two gorgeous kids, his parents-in-law and his dog.

The dog was roped in as a prop, once the deflating balloon numbers depleted, but it clearly wasn’t smiling and looking forward and was cut from the shot.

His children helped hold their dog and other random items like hairbrushes.

His father in-law was seconded to lighting assistant as the wind kept taking hold of the reflective boards.

We discovered the next day that his father-in-law/lighting assistant and my dad/magazine star played rugby league together.

There was also supposed to be a BBQ and a light breeze.

But as you’ll see when you buy the magazine then read the story on page 88,  just a couple of pages behind the ultimate gift guide, the final product is a tale and accompnaying pictures that will hopefully inspire you this Christmas.

Thanks Bryce and looking forward to your next dinner party story!

And oh if sales of the magazine are up this month I’m sure Carrie’s cover, your writing and our photo shoot may have combined beautifully. If not well there’s always Julie Goodwin’s Christmas turkey with apricot and almond stuffing to upwardly impact December sales.



















a couple of my nephews doing a slow motion run holding quickly deflating balloons and 18 people in white or beige being rounded up


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