Bec Bignell, is changing landscapes across the country from the perspectives of regional people through her production company Cockatoo Colab and creative agency Rural Room.

Growing up in Kojinup, Bec was like most regional kids and sent to boarding school from a young age, starting to navigate life on her own. This was the beginning of working out that the creative space. Fast forward to now, and Bec has had a career that has spanned 15 years working for the ABC, founding Rural Room. This is a creative agency featuring talented, diverse people from across the country who have creative skills—providing regional stories, through an authentic lens, with Heart! Additionally, Cockatoo Colab is an independent media organisation with a difference. Some of Bec’s projects include 600 bottles of wine, which is available to view on the ABC.

Over the last 18 months, Bec has been working on various projects, not to mention also becoming a mother to 6-month-old, Evie. “Covid has been an exciting time as it has made it very understandable to people who were dubious about the value behind remote working and businesses value and trust that we will achieve with the big project”. Having just worked as Associate Producer and Regional Production Manager on the set of ‘Blueback’ based on the novel by Tim Winton in Bremer Bay. “It was the best experience to live there and be amongst people I have known my whole life, for the filming it was an awesome team and will be an amazing movie”. Bec has also recently written, produced, and starred in the series called “Homespun” which the ABC has picked up. If you aren’t yet familiar with “Homespun”, we suggest you check out the trailer. Excitedly Bec announces that it will premiere in her hometown of Kojonup on the 5th of November, 2021.

Bec intends to work more formally with clients and extend the capacity in which they are able to create work. 2020 and 2021 have provided both Cockatoo Colab and Rural Room the ability to grow. “We have been advocating for regional creatives to be utilised within their hometown, instead of sending people from the city”. Rural Room, which continues to grow from strength to strength as people see Rural Room’s creative value. “People have previously been sceptical on the level of quality our creatives have produced, and now they have no choice”. Bec prides herself on the quality and adaptability of their creatives “Our creatives have the most incredible eye and point of difference which sets them apart”—having overcome being regionally based and proving themselves twice; these dynamic creatives have gained more work through Rural Room, which has also allowed them to build their foundations towards their own space as individual creatives. “There is such a scarcity of people doing creative things in the regions, so the more we can encourage them to grow and the more work we can produce, the bigger the positive benefit for the local economies”. The vision for the future of Rural Room is to see it prosper with more continuous work and campaigns for creatives across the country.

For “Homespun” and projects with Cockatoo Colab, “We want to give regional creatives access to working on these big projects with us”. The flow-on effect and establishment of creative careers in the regions are what it all comes back to for Bec. The intention is that they want people within these local regions to see the Rural Room stringers working on these projects and know that it is possible to have a creative role and live regionally. “I want to break down what I had to do and leave the regions to gain that experience”. Bec is intentionally providing opportunities for future generations to have access to these creative opportunities without leaving their hometowns.

Within the last 15 years, Bec has seen a huge change in the regions, “You can very much stay where you are and do what you love within the regions now”. Largely because of digital advancements, it has made people in communities visible to the wider audiences and people within their own areas. “If you aren’t part of the local sporting club or a new to an area, you might not know anyone exists creatively in your region”. Bec makes an important statement around creativity in the regions, having always been pigeonholed “It was always the eccentric lady, with loud clothes”. On a mission to change, we must understand that everyone has a creative side, from farmers to office workers, healthcare, and everyone in between. It empowers them to tell their stories through creative outlets, no matter what age and platforms. “We don’t want these things just to stay niche. We want them to make international waves”. Connections can be formed throughout the world from regional Western Australia to the other side of the continent. Bec also says, “It is also important for us to make sure the Indigenous voice is heard within the regions”, perhaps overshadowed by agricultural industry-based voices.

The goal of “Homespun” was to bring out all of the voices of the regions to have collective inclusivity. “We can’t just pretend these people don’t exist”. Within the regions, people can feel very alone, and it is important to create a space to make them feel welcome. It is extremely important to Bec that people understand that regional people are educating themselves on a national state. “There are some really great examples of inclusion from the regions, and we need to make that we change the narrative”. City people have seen regional people as rednecks and uneducated for so long, which is not true. “We are sophisticated, educated, and some of the most advanced people in the country”. These attitudes and perspectives don’t change overnight, but if we can create conversation and change opinions.

Asking Bec about what she has planned moving into 2022 got her thinking. “I have sort of come to an end of a cycle, I always plan 10 years at a time, and I get particular with this plan”. Having written specific visions of exactly what she wanted to achieve, Bec admits that it happened for her. “I am at a point in my career where I am going to allow opportunities to come to me”. It is about what feels like the right thing for Bec, rather than her searching for it. “For Homespun, I feel like there is a life beyond what we have created”—hinting that a second series might be on the horizon, with a more extended series and further character development. “Within Homespun, there will be moments that a city audience will watch, and it will go over their head – which is what country people have had to deal with for a long time”. Bec is now focusing on what she wants to achieve moving forward with “Homespun” creatively if the narrative is focused on the same world or a new world entirely. Once Homespun is released online, Bec admits that she will map out the next 10 years once she has the audience feedback and insight and how the program is landing. “Ultimately, I would love to go overseas. Once the borders open up, I would like to do a project in the US and UK”. Being a Showrunner (on a show that Bec created) overseas, is the ultimate dream.

Reflecting over the last 10 years, “Being from the country, I have always been very self-conscious with relatively low self-confidence because there has been nepotism, favouritism, unconscious bias.” Being from the country, anyone who was ambitious or opinionated was never highlighted or encouraged. Bec said, “there has been a lot of change and acceptance in the last 3 to 5 years”, noting the early work of feminists and women that have sown those seeds for opportunities for women, who are now to be able to take these opportunities. “I am extremely grateful to be in these times, to benefit from all the hard work that they put in”. Bec said. She still had that Hollywood trajectory that she should be so lucky to have the opportunity to work in this industry. “As I started to do the work, I realised that was complete rubbish, and that was just a narrative designed to keep people out”. Making sense of this, Bec realised the sky really was the limit and that there was no reason that she couldn’t achieve what she set out to. “The climbing, the struggles, the disappointment, advocating the values has been such a hard slog, and I am ready to let that go and just be”.

Success for Bec is not about the awards or the professional recognition. It is about having people around her she can call when she is feeling dejected, despondent, or defeated that can pep her up and help her get back on the horse and help build her resilience. “So many people look at creative trajectories as getting to a certain point and having that thing, and then I know I have made it. For me, I don’t care about the validation of my peers. I want to work in projects that keep me passionate that influence and positively impact people”. Bec said she feels very nervous watching screens and admits she is highly confronted by being out in the public eye. “I do things like PR and understand that they have a purpose of discoverability, but I find it very confronting”. Bec admits, “Probably the thing I am most scared of is doing the premier in our local community” – stating that she has to feel that. With creativity, there is no right or wrong, it is entirely subjective. “You have to expect people are going to have a difference of perspective and potentially target you.” It is courageous to put yourself out there on a creative project, and this is why Bec is so passionate about the tribe of people who stand beside and around her.