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WAO Ghost Spotlight with Sean Finney

Despite the challenges presented by physical restrictions, we have the opportunity through film to further expand and diversify our audience. As we explore this hybrid environment of live and digital performance, we want to shine a spotlight on our creatives working in the Ghost Light to bring the magic of opera to you. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and learn why both clarity and fluidity are vital for a project to flourish.

This week, hear from Director/Editor Sean Finney on his creative approach to filming, the accessibility triumphs of digital programs, and his passion for combining style with story.

1. You have been involved with several Ghost Light initiatives as photography Director/Editor. Can you tell us about your creative approach? What draws you to photography and film as ways of sharing stories?

My creative approach really differs from project to project, but as a general rule I try to find ways to connect with the audience as best I can with whatever I’m filming – to think about why they would want to watch it, and what story I am trying to tell them. I try to have the end goal or brief in mind when writing a treatment or storyboard, but always allow room for a certain amount of organic growth during the process as some of my favourite work has been discovered during the course of filming.

I’ve always been drawn to film and photography; I think because I often find words not enough to tell the stories I want to. There’s so much you can do with film. No two directors will show you a story the same way. Combining my own visual style with the story that I’m trying to tell is a truly exciting and fulfilling process for me.

2. How important do you think it is to continue innovating digital programs both now and when live events return? What are the benefits?

We live in a digital age now. Both pre and post COVID we live such busy lives, providing a digital form of everything we can is essential. The technology we have at our fingertips is incredible so I think we should embrace it.

You can reach far larger audiences with digital initiatives – people who might never have thought they could enjoy it can get a taste for it, and maybe then decide to participate in a live event. It also increases accessibility, whether it’s someone’s location, an impairment or (like now) health restrictions, everyone can enjoy Opera (or whatever the medium).

3. Do you have any favourite moments from filming you can share? What emotions do you like to capture?

It may sound like a cliché, but I enjoy every moment of filming. You really never know what you’re going to get, so embracing each minute is essential. This goes for both the good and the bad parts. It’s a huge investment and takes up so much time, so you have to learn to enjoy it all.

4. What challenges and opportunities did this period present? What did working in the “ghost light” mean for you?

For me, the biggest challenge was not being able to travel. Being in Melbourne has been difficult with all the restrictions. I’m normally in Perth every other month for various work so not being able to come over posed a lot of complications.

However, I am fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented crew so everyone has pitched in and helped each other navigate this time.

On the other side I already spend a large amount of time at home editing, so for the time I wouldn’t have been travelling, nothing much has changed!

5. What have you learned about yourself during this time?

I think I’ve learned that despite how difficult things seem, there is generally always a work around. Also, that the arts community I am a part of is incredibly supportive of one another, so I am very grateful for that.

6. How will you be spending your days now? Restrictions are relaxed in Perth, but not in Melbourne…

I’ll be enjoying another 6 weeks locked inside as of today.

After that, I’m looking forward to coming back to Perth for both work and maybe some time off to spend with my wife and family.

7. What new projects do you have on the horizon?

Next up will be some more WAO projects which, as always, I am extremely excited to start.

Outside of Opera that I am writing several treatments for new music videos and just finished DPing some things for a short film directed by Mel Branson (2AD on The Telephone) that is being entered into an online film festival in a few weeks.


Don’t miss The Telephone – with film directed by Sean Finney, this digital opera production is available on West Australian Opera’s YouTube Channel.



Sean Finney is a Director and Editor currently based in Melbourne after growing up in Perth. Working predominately in the music and visual art industries, Sean works to capture and tell stories that inspire and connect with audiences.

Initially training at Central Institute of Technology in Photography, Sean moved into Directing and Filmmaking in 2012. His focus has been on that since.

Sean has been working with West Australian Opera since 2017, starting with their 50 years “Telling Stories” series.

His perspective and style have earned him opportunities to work with national and international artists and clients, covering everything from doco-series, music festival circuits and adventure travel, to more recently working with WAO on some of the Ghost Light initiatives.

Sean is constantly trying to find new ways to explore visual storytelling through film.