These days, when it comes to seeing our region on the screen – big or small – it’s all about the Sea Cliff Bridge.
The bridge has featured in ads for car brands, petrol companies, insurance companies, TV shows and even a Bollywood movie or two.
But that bridge is far from the only location in the region a creative type chose to use as the background for a shoot.
Moviemakers, TV companies and bands have found locations in the Illawarra to set up their cameras and press the record button.
Refreshing my memory of a one-hit wonder from the 1980s led to me keeping a mental tally of the number of times the region turned up on celluloid.
That one-hit wonder was Mark Edwards, and I was rather fond of his one hit – the 1985 tune Worlds Away.
For reasons I’m not quite sure of (it was probably boredom) a few years ago, I wanted to hear the song again so I searched for it on YouTube.
I'd grown up in Sydney and this was the first time I’d seen the video since moving to Wollongong in the late ’80s.
Immediately, I recognised the location – it was the ocean pool at Woonona.
They obviously spent a lot of time filming there – Edwards and his two bandmates perform around the pool in daylight and at night.
I'd been to that pool and didn’t think it was anything too special – but jeez it looks lovely on the screen.
Legendary band Midnight Oil is another act who chose to film a video in the Illawarra.
Their 1987 tune Dreamworld includes scenes shot at Coalcliff Beach on what must have been a cold winter’s day given how rugged-up the band are as they shoot on the water’s edge.
The steelworks appears in at least two music videos (and probably a few more).The more well-known is Jimmy Barnes’ Working Class Man, which includes fiery scenes shot inside the steelworks.
INXS shot the video for Mediate near the No6 blast furnace without permission; they just walked in (security wasn’t quite as strong as it is now).
The video is shot in a single take, which would be what you do when filming on the sly. They were able to get in two takes before being busted and told and to leave.
Of course, plenty of local bands have shot videos in their home town.
One of the little-known ones is Runaway’s On the Rocks in Wollongong, made as part of an anti-alcohol campaign in the late 1980s.
The locations include the breakwall at Wollongong harbour and MacCabe Park (where a bunch of youngsters pretend to get drunk in the middle of the day).
It’s worth a look for the cringeworthy ’80s fashion and haircuts alone.
The striking rock formations at Bombo’s Boneyard drew the attention of Hockey Dad (Can’t Have Them), Tumbleweed (Mountain) and Ruby Tuesdays (Wooden Moon).
Tumbleweed also used a location near the grain terminal at Port Kembla for their Sundial shoot. Don’t bother trying to find it today; what was vacant land in the early 1990s is now used to store imported cars.
When it comes to movies, recent efforts like Rip Tide and Back of the Net were filmed here but there were other big-screen efforts before those.
In 2003 a film crew headed to Flinders to make A Man’s Gotta Do, a comedy where John Howard played Eddy, a dad and standover man trying to understand his own daughter.
A real-life family moved out of their house for two months so Eddy and his brood could "move in” and use it as a set.
Shellharbour Village and a garage in Addison Street also feature in the movie.
It’s surprising more films aren’t made in the region; there are a number of different settings – the beach, the bush of the escarpment, the city, the industrial steelworks and the country padocks just to the south – all in quite close proximity.
Director David Caesar, who grew up in Moruya, used the Kiama area for his 2001 film Mullet, starring Ben Mendelsohn.
A tale about the black sheep of the family returning home, you can spot the beachside footy field at Kiama and Cronin’s Hotel at Gerringong among the locations.
Back in 2000 Soft Fruit was filmed in Port Kembla. A tale about a family reunion, you can see the steelworks from their backyard.
And it’s slightly outside the Illawarra but the Babe series was filmed Robertson.
The city has featured in some TV shows too.
The most obvious would be the ABC comedy series Wollongong the Brave, which gave birth to the character of Norman Gunston.
The strange theme tune namechecked a number of suburbs and locations, and included the lines “we don’t have class/but we do have Bulli Pass/ and Mt Ousley”.
In 2005, Austinmer had the chance of being the new Summer Bay when it was the setting for the TV series Headland.
Based in the fictional town of South Head, it used the now-absent Headlands Hotel as one of the central locations.
Airing on Prime, Headland premiered in November 2005 but only lasted two months before it got the ax.
Headlands Hotel manager at the time Wayne Comber said the show had boosted trade across the bar with more people coming in for a beer in the hope of seeing the show being filmed.
The series Tricky Business didn’t fare much better in 2015, lasting only 10 episodes before being canned due to poor ratings – though Nine moving it to a new timeslot three times would hardly have helped matters.
Unlike Headland, the characters weren’t in a fictional city but Wollongong – the script featured reference to Illawarra suburbs and landmarks.
The cancellation of Tricky Business left at least one fan unhappy – Trent Hooper was so fired up he started a petition to bring the show back for another season.
While the petition didn’t work, it surely won't be long before another TV show or movie sets up its cameras in the Illawarra.