Newsletter 24 – June 1998

Online archive copy of Newsletter 24 which was a printed newsletter:

 

From The New Editor - Paul Healy

Welcome to the first edition of the ASE newsletter without the nifty navigator, Matthew Tucker at the helm. Matthew, after two years on deck, has handed over the watch. From now on we are sailing in unchartered waters, so expect one or two bumpy bits while we learn the ropes. We would heartily welcome all potential shipmates and trust that as many people as possible will sign up for the voyage.With that out of the way I can now abandon this terrible nautical flavour to add that the Newsletter has a number of future articles dealing with issues of where we as a film-making community have been, and where we might be going. Included is the first of what will hopefully be a series of oral histories conducted with contemporary screen editors. We start off with an interview with David Stiven who has edited such films as Crocodile Dundee 1 & 2 and Mad Max 2. Providing background to David’s history is an article on Lee Robinson, an independent producer of a kind that has rarely been seen in any country.

There is also the first of a number of articles about Moral Rights and the relevance it has for editors. This is an issue that we all should understand and it is the intention of the serialised article to provide a discussion paper on this issue. More than anything, this sub-committee wants to hear from you, the readership, about what you want to read. It’s your newsletter!

Due to Matthew’s religion (which excludes the number 23) the last newsletter number was 22 when it should have been 23.

- Paul Healy

In the beginning was the Copyright Act 1968. Australia is a party to the Berne Convention on Copyright. In order to bring Australia into line with other signatory countries, it was necessary that Australian legislation be updated to ensure that its domestic laws made certain provisions for moral rights. Given that the Berne convention was signed in 1928 it was just about time.Copyright, generally, is what is known as an economic right. The assignment of copyright deals with questions about who owns an intellectual property. Moral rights is not about ownership issues. It does have an impact on ownership issues, but more of that later. Moral rights deals exclusively with the right to claim authorship of a work, and with the right to object to any distortion or mutilation of that work, or any action that would prejudice the reputation of those claiming authorship. Authorship can, and in some countries, notably, France, does include all those people who made a creative contribution to a film. It does not exclusively refer to the writer. In these countries film making is recognised as a collaborative undertaking. That is why in Australia producers and directors could bid to be included in the consideration for the granting of moral rights, but then so could the the rest of us.

Moral rights is a concession granted by an act of parliamentary legislation to uphold and enforce the work of an author and to protect that author from an action, on the part of someone exploiting that work, that would be detrimental to the reputation of the author. Moral rights are basic human rights, making an acknowledgement that the people who are conceded moral rights (recognised as authors or creators) have a right of protection under law to ensure their work is not tampered with without their knowledge or permission and without them having some power under law to prevent such a thing from happening.

Producers and production companies are opposed to people seeking a moral rights concession because, they argue, it impedes their exploitation of the finished product. They argue that if Producers were subject to an obligation that forced them to seek permission from the various moral rights holders to make changes or alterations that potential buyers might request them to make, then they would be unreasonably restricted from exploiting the film in the world market place. Unfortunately this sounds rather like the argument that mining companies use to oppose Land rights legislation. At this stage no one is actually saying that they are opposed to moral rights in principle but there are some pretty strong advocates for a Waiver and Consent clause. The acceptance of this clause would substantially mean that production companies would have the power to ’obtain’ permission from the employee to surrender their rights. This would effectively negate the moral rights concession for all time. So millions of dollars are being spent framing a piece of legislation that contains the seeds of its own obliteration.

Ask yourself this question. If you spent six months of your life ensuring that the edit of a project was as good as you could possibly make it; that everything was working properly and the film flowed smoothly from beginning to end, and you signed off on it and two months later saw it
missing thirty minutes and looking like somebody who couldn’t edit had cut it, and two months later saw it missing thirty minutes and looking like somebody who couldn’t edit had cut it, what would you do? Your name is still on it as editor and, as far as eveyone knows those bad edits and the nonsensical structure are the result of your editing. You could just walk away and be pragmatic, knowing that the producer had been asked by a distributor to make those changes or no sale. You could also ask yourself the question, why did the producer bother hiring you in the first place? If they respect you as a professional sufficiently to allow you to edit the film but their respect doesn’t extend sufficiently far enough to consult you on changes they have to make later on, how much respect, for your work and the general position of editors, do they really have?

The definition of authorship was hotly contested during the three day Senate Committee inquiry into the proposed legislation, conducted last August (1997); some argued for a widening of the term to include all those who helped “create” the film, while the main argument was firmly against any widening of the terms of definition.

The position of the Attorney-General’s Department was not so clearly expressed in the evidence it gave. To quote a senior officer of the Attorney-General’s Department:

”...We are aware that in some European countries film is protected as a collaborative work, and that other creators beside the director have some form of moral rights...this is generally not the case in common law countries where, as in Australia, a film is not protected as a collaborative work and its maker, usually a production company, is the owner of the copyright... (i)
the recognition of the producer as well as the director as the author of a film may be unique...Of course other creators, such as screenwriters, play an integral part during the making of the film. However they are not regarded as the most important creative contributors to the final product.”

But then this officer relented in his evidence to concede:

“...the Department does not for a moment challenge assertions that, in some instances, screenwriters and maybe musical composers have made a very decisive contribution to films...(ii) it is not as if [screenwriters and composers] are without recognition under the moral rights legislation...as they do have a work for which they have immediate authorship: the script and the musical work respectively”

There are two points for query here.

The first point (i) is that the A-G’s Department has to start measuring out units of value according to their mysterious idea of creative value. Very dicey. it seems that they have to perform this tricky manoeuvre in order to justify having to make an exception for producers being included in Australian legislation when they are excluded fron moral rights legislation everywhere else in the world.

Their last point (ii) is a very important one, at least in the sense that it demonstrates how murky they can make the water of understanding. At first it seems to confuse the issue of economic (i.e. copyright) rights over authorship (moral rights) entitlements. It’s also interesting to note that the Department is careful to cite as an example only those two contributors( screenwriters and composers), who already have a copyright entitlement. But it seems to me that they have created an easy way to dismiss any further claims by saying they already have moral rights. It’s true that they do; they have moral rights in the script and in the music score respectively, but they don’t have moral rights in the cinematograph film, i.e., the release print version. In other words they cannot negotiate the way their material is treated in the final version of the film. This is the very basis of this moral rights legislation.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee report into the legislation has some moments that give one pause for reflection. At one point you have the Advertising Federation of Australia arguing for an exemption from the Bill on the grounds that advertisements weren’t “pure art”.

In his evidence to the Committee, Mr Jan Sardi, a member of the Australian Writer’s Guild and writer of the screenplay of the Oscar-winning film Shine elaborated on the role of the writer in the creation of the cinematograph film. He stated:

“The screenplay is the film on the page ... I would actually like to give one out, not the entire script, but I have got here a scene which is a fairly famous scene from Shine ... If you look at it, it is basically the film on the page. People often just think maybe writers write the story or they just write some dialogue. There is some dialogue there, there are also visual effects, there are sound effects, there is some lighting, there are special effects, there is make-up, there is music, there is editing, and there is also the visual effects, there are sound effects, there is some lighting, there are special effects, there is make-up, there is music, there is editing, and there is also the narrative device obviously to move the story along. That is the scene in the film where David Helfgott collapses on the stage. I sat down and that came from here, okay. I had to type that, and I was thinking when a writer writes they write in a sense with the film happening up in the head, and what you are doing is, you are putting it down in order for people to be able to interpret that and to realise that, and the entire production process is that, basically. It is trying to realise the that, and I was thinking when a writer writes they write in a sense with the film happening up in the head, and what you are doing is, you are putting it down in order for people to be able to interpret that and to realise that, and the entire production process is that, basically. It is trying to realise the intentions of the screenplay.”

Other writers are more generous and concede that others have some sort of creative input as well. The Australian Writer’s Guild should be fully supported in their fight for recognition writer’s moral rights, but the
rest of us should think long and hard about what this legislation could mean to us. If a time to redefine film making as a collaborative process ever existed it is now. Despite the opposition from the producers and distributors, who would rather see control and exploitation of the medium restricted to just those two groups, this Copyright Amendments Bill might provide an opportunity for those of us involved in all levels of film and video production to seek the formal recognition that I think is long overdue.

- Paul Healy.

Quotes from: ’Consideration of Legislation Referred to the Committee.’ Senate Legal & Constitutional Legislation Committee.
“An appropriate way to explore this distinction between the artist and the artisan is to ask whether an individual’s contribution is essential to the creation of the work. A Titian or Tintoretto could ask any number of apprentices to complete the background of a scene, but without his original inspiration there would be no work at all. While the apprentices undoubtedly contribute their artistry, without original purpose or inspiration it does not constitute creativity. (Senator Bill O’Chee.)

From The PresidentFinally, after months in planning, we have finalised the details for the ASE work practice survey. This will be a Nationwide survey of editors -members and non members - that will provide details about working conditions, contracts etc. It will be used as a benchmark for surveys in the future so that eventually we will be able to see the direction and trends of editing work practices in this country.
The survey will be undertaken and collated by a reputable market research company. So in the next two months, if you get a phone call, please spare the time and help the ASE to build its database.
Also this month NSW full members will receive information about a wages and schedules guideline, as well as a location and time for an extraordinary generalmeeting to thrash it all out.
We will also discuss at that meeting all the latest industrial news as well as ASE's general activities. Victorian members will receive the guidelines at the Fade to Grey Conference to be held in September.
Support the ASE and come to the meeting and give us your feedback.

See you there.
-Denise Haslem

rom the Australian Film Television and Radio School.IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO BECOME AN EDITOR!

If you would like to move from Assisting to Editing or you are stuck in a rut cutting doco. and want to do drama (or vice versa) it is not too late to make a ’late’ application to the AFTRS Editing Department.
We teach AVID, dAVE and Film Editing. But teaching you to use the equipment is less important than teaching you to ’think like an editor’. By that I mean working creatively and collaboratively with the director and having the confidence in yourself to make creative decisions.
We are now a post graduate school but that does not mean you have to have a prior degree. If you have worked in the industry for several years we can give you RPL or Recognition of Prior Learning equivalent to a prior degree.
We teach Documentary and Drama in the Graduate Diploma year but in the MA year you have to chose between Doco. or Drama. Every year is a separate year and by that I mean you have to apply in competition with outside applicants if you want to progress from Grad. Dip. to MA.
We attach a lot of importance to experience in the editing `industry’ because we really want you to know what you are getting into! And we want proof that you really want to be an editor because now in the AFTRS specialised environment you won’t be doing much else. If you want to direct, apply to the directing department.
All courses are taught by industry professionals as we attach great importance to industry currency. This way we keep up to date and the students have regular contact and networking possibilities with current professional editors.
If you would like to make a late application please send your CV or Resume with a covering letter to Maree O’Neill in the Student Centre, AFTRS, PO Box 126, North Ryde, NSW 1670.
And if you need any further information please call me on 9805 6598.
Sara Bennett, Head of Editing. AFTRS.

AUSTRALIAN SCREEN SOUND GUILD DEMONSTRATIONJohn Bowring from Lemac will demonstrate the new hard disk synching system used in telecine "auto-synching" of rushes.
The television series "Murder Call" has been using the system for two series. The team consisting of Post Production Supervisor - Benita Kerry, Sound Recordist - Phil Keros, Picture
assembly Editor - Carsten Orlt and Sound Supervisor/Mixer - Tony Vaccher will be on hand to discuss the process with us and run a couple of reels demonstrating the process.
Whether you record or post picture or sound this is an opportunity to find out what's involved and resolve any issues you may have had using the system.

Saturday 1st August
2:00pm
Videolab
4-14 Dickson Ave
Artarmon
Numbers are limited due to space in the telecine suite, so please RSVP to the ASSG phone number: (02) 9973 1677

The June (1998) edition of American Cinematographer carries an article entitled “Penny-Wise, Image Foolish”. The article contains a great argument ( one that even economic rationalists would appreciate) for budgeting for print dailies (film rushes).“In a world in which directing and producing are continually proving to be entry-level positions, key management and creative slots above the cinematographer are often occupied by people whose knowledge of the job’s requirements and experience with implementing them are - to put it kindly - limited.”
- Richard Crudo D.O.P.

ASE & AFTRS Look To the FutureOn July 2, 1998, WIFT launched their Mentor Scheme, “The Editor’s Initiative” which was aimed at getting women ,who are at mid-career level, together with more experienced practitioners. Fiona Strain, ASE’s secretary, was asked to tell those assembled what ASE’s own attachment scheme was about. The other speakers were: Carolyn Vaughan, Vice President of WIFT, and Jacqui Feeney on behalf of the FTO who has funded the WIFT scheme. They offered their support and interest in skill development, mentorships and promoting women in the industry. Kathy Shelper gave an account of her mentor relationship with Helen Bowden. Emma Hay discussed her relationship as a mentor for Natalia Ortiz, in Editing. What follows is the text of Fiona’s speech:
Why am I an Editor? - I like to work quietly on my own and solve problems , I like the creative challenge of it, and I like the fact that I can share my work with the world when I am happy with it, I do not have to perform in public, ... so if I am bit nervous , that’s why. ASE formed because of the growing unease amongst the editing community about the Editor’s diminishing role and conditions. Specifically with issues like; how are emerging editors to be trained in a climate where budgets are tight , assistants are not working at the same time, or on the same tasks as editors, schedules are short, and the whole approach to editing has done a major technical shift in the last five years which means even experienced editors need to do major amounts of training to re-adapt. (Maybe we need a mentor scheme where new editors train the old ?)
On many productions, computer equipment has taken over the rushes management tasks previously done by the assistant, producers are already paying a high price for the edit suite, and cannot see value in allocating a significant part of the budget to help someone learn the ropes- in this way the assistant no longer has an obvious role and is deleted from the budget.
ASE is trying to address the
specific issue of how to train documentary Editors. In the past EVERY documentary had an assistant. This is where the basic skills of Editing were learnt:-
*In a practical way as they managed the footage, logging and filing.
*By observation they understood the Editor/Director
relationship.
*They observed how to structure, and create the script for the
documentary.
*With constant access to the Editor they also gained confidence
in articulating suggestions for change, and built up the skills
to cut themselves.

These days in documentary, assistants are few and far between.
Those that are employed only input rushes into the system , and
do not get to observe any of the creative processes. Others may
be spread across a number of productions if they are employed by
a facility, and again miss out on any significant creative
exposure.

As a result - where is the next generation of documentary
Editors coming from ?

The ASE is setting up an attachment scheme where an assistant,
or emerging Editor will be closely involved in the Editing of a
documentary. They will be attached to an Editor, assist in the
input of the material into the system and be involved in the
development of the cut through to final lock-off . In this way
they will gain tangible experience of the role the editor plays
in creating the documentary film. They will also be paid to do
this task- from a fund set up by the ASE .

Support of Mentorship scheme -

We do not see that there is any conflict in our attachment
scheme, and the WIFT mentor scheme, as ours is a very specific
target group, and we see the WIFT scheme as covering a much
broader base.
Our members come from a wide range of areas in Editing,
including Assistant Editors, Television Drama, Documentary,
Features, Corporate films, Commercials, Online Editors, and Sound
Editors - many of whom will be willing to take on a mentee.

Jenny Ward, the Vice President of the ASE, and myself have
offered to support the WIFT scheme in whatever way possible. We
can help find willing Editors to participate, and broker
marriages between those who wish to be mentored , and those who
wish to mentor.
We are also open to any ideas that WIFT and it’s members have to
suggest how we can help.

Some ways the ASE has tried to help Editors and assistants are:
Melbourne have set up an informal “buddy” system
We hold “Conversation” evenings with editors & assistants,
looking at quite specific areas of editing.
Screenings and discussions of particular works with individual
Editors.
Creative and technical workshops
Areas of contact. Eg The Newsletter.
AFTRS

I have been Editing Lecturer at the AFTRS for three years.

We train Editors, not assistants,

We are teaching Post-Graduate courses , but we recognise industry
experience as prior learning, so our students don’t necessarily
have to have a degree. They just have to show talent and a true
focus on editing.

We teach both Documentary and Drama, with specialist teaching in
both areas.
We recognise the need for observing professionals at work-so we
try to get students on attachment-
*Karen Fleming MA Drama student in her second year is going to LA
to work with Mike Most at the Post Production company “Encore”
which specialises in visual effects.
*Karryn de Cinque , our MA2 student -will be attached to Marc
Van Buuren on “Flipper 2” on the Gold Coast & has approached
Henry Dangar in order to be attached to Bill Bennett’s film “In a
Savage Land”

Why the training is so good
*We teach our students to “think like Editors”, so although they
learn the technical skills of editing on a variety of systems,
including film, the main focus is in their storytelling skills,
the confidence to make decisions and to trust their judgement.
They also gain skills in working collaboratively with the
Director.

*Our coursework teaches the students the persistence required to
finetune a cut ,and identify where the film is not working-

We do this in a range of ways.

*All tutors and lecturers have Industry currency, and act as
mentors, not just teachers.

*We give a group of students the same script & same rushes to cut
(without a director), and then view the 5 often completely
different interpretations.

*All films made at AFTRS go through an enormously rigorous
schedule of discussion and collaboration - right from script
stage, and especially throughout the Editing. The Editors are
given plenty of creative space, but also offer their work up
regularly for public scrutiny. They get fantastic experience in
audience reaction, learning to make decisions about what it is
they can do to help the film work, and what criticisms to
completely ignore !

*Our Editors are also encouraged to not only be involved from
pre-production, but also to have substantial input through the
whole post-production period, including the mix.

*We run short courses for those already in the industry who are
wishing to upgrade their skills.

*In conjunction with the ASE, the AFTRS run a series of “Frame
by Frame” seminars where we view and talk about the editing of
particular films such as Jill Billcock’s work on “Romeo + Juliet”
, Richard Francis-Bruce and “Seven”, Ray Thomas and “Black
Harvest”.

*We take on volunteers as assistants for the slate, giving them
basic skills and experience in assisting an Editor. (Also work
experience kiddies !!!)

*The Industry Training Fund For Women provides a degree of
subsidy to Women who are undertaking courses at AFTRS and wish
to upgrade their skills in technical areas.

*Between 65-85% discount can be arranged on relevant courses.
Most of our Avid courses have participants who are recieving
subsidy.

*The ITFW also provides up to $2000.00 for individual women who
wish to be involved in an attachment scheme.

Talk to Sara Hourez. At AFTRS

The AFTRS is dedicated to providing people with the skills to
work effectively in the Australian Film Industry

in this way the assistant no longer has an obvious role and is deleted from the budget.
ASE is trying to address the
specific issue of how to train documentary Editors. In the past EVERY documentary had an assistant. This is where the basic skills of Editing were learnt:-
*In a practical way as they managed the footage, logging and filing.
*By observation they understood the Editor/Director
relationship.
*They observed how to structure, and create the script for the documentary.
*With constant access to the Editor they also gained confidence in articulating suggestions for change, and built up the skills to cut themselves.
These days in documentary, assistants are few and far between. Those that are employed only input rushes into the system , and do not get to observe any of the creative processes. Others may be spread across a number of productions if they are employed by a facility, and again miss out on any significant creative exposure. As a result - where is the next generation of documentary Editors coming from?
The ASE is setting up an attachment scheme where an assistant, or emerging Editor will be closely involved in the Editing of a documentary. They will be attached to an Editor, assist in the
input of the material into the system and be involved in the development of the cut through to final lock-off . In this way
they will gain tangible experience of the role the editor plays in creating the documentary film. They will also be paid to do this task- from a fund set up by the ASE .
Support of Mentorship scheme -
We do not see that there is any conflict in our attachment scheme, and the WIFT mentor scheme, as ours is a very specific target group, and we see the WIFT scheme as covering a much broader base.Our members come from a wide range of areas in Editing, including Assistant Editors, Television Drama, Documentary, Features, Corporate films, Commercials, Online Editors, and Sound
Editors - many of whom will be willing to take on a mentee.
Jenny Ward, the Vice President of the ASE, and myself have offered to support the WIFT scheme in whatever way possible. We can help find willing Editors to participate, and broker
marriages between those who wish to be mentored , and those who wish to mentor.
We are also open to any ideas that WIFT and it’s members have to suggest how we can help.
Some ways the ASE has tried to help Editors and assistants are:
Melbourne have set up an informal “buddy” system.
We hold “Conversation” evenings with editors & assistants, looking at quite specific areas of editing.
Screenings and discussions of particular works with individual Editors.
Creative and technical workshops
Areas of contact. Eg The Newsletter.
AFTRS

AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE AGREEMENTSWe have entered a historic phase of Australian industrial relations. As of July 1, 3,200 Federal awards officially ceased to set out dozens of minimum working conditions for most employees. These are now reduced to 20 allowable matters (see box). The main employer group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, would prefer that awards be further reduced to five of six conditions to allow for gr3eater flexibility in deploying their workforce.

employees. These are now reduced to 20 allowable matters . The main employer group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, would prefer that awards be further reduced to five of six conditions to allow for greater flexibility in deploying their workforce. A classic example is ordinary hours of work and shift lengths before overtime or penalty rates apply. Award simplification is the final instalment of Peter Reith's Workplace Relations Act which came into force in January last year. At that time, tougher sanctions to dissuade unions from taking illegal industrial action and the creation of non-union enterprise agreements in which the union movement could have no say.
When you signed onto work on a film or television production all the conditions of the Award automatically applied whether you were paid the minimum award rate or $2500 per week. Workplace agreements (sometimes referred to as Australian Workplace Agreements or AWAs) now allow producers to offer contracts which do not meet Award standards provided they comply with the "no disadvantage test". This means that the contract cannot be inferior to the Award as a whole. However, provided that your fee is higher than the minimum award rate, key Award conditions are no longer compulsory. Testing compliance with the "no disadvantage test" will be impossible as the legislation prescribes that the terms of AWAs must be kept secret.
Most film workers don't seem to care about conditions as long as they get the fee they desire; the Award is viewed as being of no help. However, even when you negotiate above Award fees, the Award is still relevant to your fee. The Award provides that any additional fees, be it for unscheduled overtime or an additional day, is calculated on your actual fee not the minimum rate.
(continued on page 8.)

So what is being done to ensure some of the basic conditions still apply? The MEAA has successfully negotiated a site agreement with Fox Studios Australia and is in the process of negotiating an enterprise agreement with SPAA (Screen Producers Association of Australia). If successful, this will possibly prevent producers utelising AWAs andprovide an effective safety net for film workers. But this will only happen if all producers sign up to use this agreement (some may prefer to opt out of industry standards and offer AWAs). To succeed we must send a clear message to the producer community that technicians as a group are committed to an industry wide safety net. When the American technicians union IATSE sits down with the US producers they can negotiate decent agreements because the producers know that the union represents American technicians. Similarlly, when Australian producers sit down with the MEAA to negotiate agreements they must know the union cannot be ignored.

PART 3 - A MATTER OF FACT
KEN HALL replies to William Shepherd’s claims in this final
episode.(Our thanks go to Cinema Papers)

The December (1975) issue of Cinema Papers carried an interview between Bill Shepherd, veteran Australian film editor, and Graham Shirley, which simply must be challenged.

I am concerned only with the sections relating to Cinesound where there are so many inaccuracies and gross distortions of the truth that -with very genuine reluctance- I am compelled to endeavor to put the record straight. Individually and in the sum total Bill Shepherd's statements leave a totally incorrect impression of the Cinesound organization of the thirties and forties, who was in it and how it worked. There are instances also where some individuals - and I do not include myself among them - got no credit at all for the work they did and are not even mentioned in the recital. This must be adjusted.
Anything I have to say is not intended as pointless criticism of Bill Shepherd. I have always had, and still have, a genuine regard for him and a full appreciation of the work he did for Cinesound as its chief film editor on all features, except Smithy, and after Squatter's Daughter.
But if what Shepherd, now in his eighties, has to say is left unchallenged it will go down into the history of film production in this country as fact. And so much of it is just NOT fact.
Cinema Papers is now the only record, to my knowledge, of film production in Australia. Many of the still surviving members of the original Cinesound people of the thirties have reacted to Shepherd's interview and would want to have the facts on the historical record with credit fairly apportioned to those who earned it. I propose dealing only with major matters, discarding many minor incorrect statements.
Squatter's Daughter

Shirley: Malcolm gets a co-editor's credit on Squatter's Daughter.
Shepherd: I know but he didn't cut a foot of it.
That is an untrue statement. Malcolm got first editing credit on that film because that is what he was. I worked with them both right through. the editing period, as I did on all my films, and there is no doubt that Malcolm did the major job and more. He went right through to the fine cut, with Shepherd doing the sequences allotted to him of course, and was engaged with Shepherd and Phyllis O'Reilly, cutting assistant, in matching the negative to the edited work print when he was stricken,with a serious respiratory problem which troubles him to this day. Shepherd and Phyllis O'Reilly went on to finish the neg. matching, made very difficult by the absence of edge numbers, especially in some bushfire scenes shot without slate markings because of difficulty and sometimes danger.
Bill Shepherd was still finding his feet in film editing at that time. He had had no previous experience of feature sound film cutting. He developed, I believe, into a first class film editor and eventually became probably the best in the country in the thirties. But he learned his trade at Cinesound as we all did. And surely there is nothing shameful in acknowledging the truth of that.
I endeavoured to give George Malcolm, whose, pioneering work in so many branches of Australian film production has not been sufficiently recognized, full credit for his work on On Our Selection and Squatter's Daughter and on matters like building up from scratch the first projection printer in the country, in a previous issue of Cinema Papers.
Sound
Shepherd takes a side-swipe at the efforts of Arthur Smith and Bert Cross to get sound on film, at the beginning of the thirties, by talking of them disparagingly, as "mucking about" with the problem. Their successful wrestle with the difficulty made it possible to found Cinesound and make more than 25 feature films - 18 for Cinesound, three for Chauvel, two for Harry Southwell, one each for Beau Smith and Joe Lippman, besides innumerable 'shorts' and 1,300 weekly newsreels up to the time I left Cinesound in 1956.
All said and done that seems to me to be a satisfactory piece of mucking about.

Shirley: What was your feeling about the use of location sound?
Shepherd:With all due respect I think you lose a lot of atmosphere by trying to use an alternative. Tall Timbers (1937) had the best outdoor sound we ever did. In fact it's probably the best outdoor sound that's ever been done anywhere.
Shirley: Why was that?
Shepherd: Because it was done in the clear blue yonder
This, apart from the obvious over-statement that it was "the best outdoor sound ever done anywhere", overlooks the fact that all Cinesound outdoor sequences, with the exception of a Wallace musical, were recorded in the clear blue yonder. Looping or post-syncing were at that time not available to us or to anyone else I should think. The major factor in the recording of Tall Timbers was the brilliant and frightening sound on the timber drive. This was a manufactured sound made, not in the clear blue yonder but in the studio and environs through the resource and ingenuity of Clive Cross and his assistant, Alan Anderson, of Film Australia. The sound unit operated, of course, under the overall control of the Chief Engineer, Arthur Smith. Credit where credit is due - these people made tremendous contributions to the success of Cinesound on all its films.
Their most notable achievement, in my view, was the splendid recording of the operetta sequences of Broken Melody. There they controlled - in one operation - more than 50 members of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra ' jammed into a space underneath the first floor dressing rooms with the studio lavatories on one side and the generator room on the other. The orchestra was there because we could put wooden rostrums over the concrete floor and the dressing rooms provided us with a wooden roof. The Sydney Male Choir of about 40 voices was in the studio proper and the soloists in another section of it, all, walled in by three-ply flats. It was an incredible, almost impossible set-up. But it worked. They made it work, recording all three orchestra, soloists, choir together, finding balance, light and shade and the real beauty of Alfred Hill's original music.

Shirley: Were there any special demands on you with Broken Melody?
Shepherd: Only in getting the playback tracks ready.
Clive Cross brought Playback and all the details of how to use it back to Australia in the mid-thirties. He was in Hollywood (at his own expense) in 1935 while I was there seeking backprojection. Clive was able to work for months at MGM, in the sound department, and of course every Hollywood musical, including those splendid examples now showing around the world in That's Entertainment, were made on playback.
It was the fact that, through Clive Cross, we now had all the necessary gen on Playback ' including rhythm-punching,** that influenced me greatly in deciding to make Broken Melody. Looking back, it was quite a shocking risk to take back in 1937 to make a film with a major musical sequence upon which it was entirely ,dependent for its climax. If the musical section did not work we had no film. It had not been attempted in Australia before nor has it since.
Clive Cross marked up all the playback tracks on Broken Melody. If that film had failed we would have been dead ducks. But it did not fail due to the work of the whole team and especially Arthur Smith and Clive Cross.
**(Footnote) Rhythm-punching is the method under which the sound engineer marks out the positive musical playback tracks with a set of three, or four, punches equally spaced order to get rhythm so that the clapper sync marks can be made exactly on the last punch. The placement of these punches, and there can be six or even more in one number, is worked out with the director and put intc the places where he expects to change angles.

Pre-preproduction
Shirley: How involved were you with pre-production?
Shepherd: I usually estimated the footage and we had a pre-production conference of all concerned. There'd be the director, cameraman, soundman, myself - all the key members of the crew - and we'd talk about the script and the film as a whole.
Shirley: Were the shots planned before Hall went out to shoot?
Shepherd: Oh yes, we all had a rough idea to start with.

Now let's have the facts. There were NO pre- production conferences at Cinesound on any picture with the single exception of Smithy, and that was abortive. The general conference idea just does not work. The discussions invariably get sidetracked up a dozen blind alleys. Inter-department rivalry is almost always injected - like the never ending war between camera and sound departments that has been going on in studios all around the world since sound films began. Instead of time-wasting big conferences I had talks with the heads of the creative departments during the pre-production period. Sometimes heads of two departments - like set design and camera for instance. The film editor was given the script to time - as far as any script can be timed - and two or more staff men, experienced actors like Alex Kellaway, Frank Harvey or Ron Whelan, under the direction of whoever was going to be dialogue director, sat in to read the dialogue scenes at the right, or at least, likely to be used, tempo.

Orphan of the Wilderness
The real bone of contention is Orphan of the Wilderness, where Shepherd's complete lack of acknowledgement of others involved, let alone appreciation is painfully obvious.

Shirley: You’ve often said that your favorite film at Orphan of the Wilderness.
Shepherd: Yes it was. I’ve always considered it ’my’ picture because I took particular care with the animal sequences. For weeks we filled the studio with trees, ferns, kangaroos, rabbits, snakes and koalas and let them settle in. Altogether we shot between 6,000m and 7,000m, and I didn’t really know how it was going to work until I’d run the footage and decided how to cut one shot with the next (sic). I wouldn’t say the first two reels were without a story but I certainly hadn’t been given a storyline for that section beyond knowing the way it was going to start and end. We had footage of a frog.We had the ostrich being attacked by the kangaroo, the rabbits being frightened by the hawk, and while there was nothing preplanned it all worked out magnificently.
This is sheer stuff and nonsense. All films are the result of a combined effort and a film editor cannot be better than the material provided him by the production crew. That must stand as a self-evident fact.
If I were asked to nominate the technical star of the film I would certainly name George Heath whose photography stands up as really splendid right to this day. I am sure I would be supported in this by all living members of the old crew with apparently one exception. Close behind Heath would come George Kenyon, who, with his staff in the Art and Special l Effects Department, created a bushland setting complete with waterfall and pool, which was so realistic that all the animals were completely taken in by it. They accepted it for real and behaved so completely naturally that it was possible for us to get beautiful and authentic pictures of Australian fauna carrying on their normal lives. At play and in fear of their lives when men with guns came to the glade.
I want the record on this film to be straight once and for all, especially as to the work of two exceptional men who are unable to speak for themselves, the late George Heath and J. Alan (George) Kenyon. And that tribute to them does not overlook in any way the contribution that Shepherd, his staff and many others made.
The film has not so far been seen on TV in this country because of some difficulty over rights and this is unfortunate because the first two reels stand up as a beautiful presentation of a section of the fauna of this country behaving normally in (apparently) natural surroundings.
The shooting plan on this film was quite straightforward. Knock off all the interiors, take the company on location to Burragorang Valley for the major exteriors leaving the bulk of the studio space to be occupied by George Kenyon’s carefully planned and drawn up setting. He used the real thing all the time - grass sods, growing bush, shrubs, trees etc., I still have an Illawarra Lily growing in my garden that came from that set built getting on for 40 years ago!
The grass was watered daily and actually grew because of the heat from a number of two and five kw., lights we had arranged to be turned on for periods each day in order to accustom the animals to the artificial conditions.
The ’roos took to the setting like ducks to water. They were soon playing around the glade, drinking at the pool, living the life of Riley on a lucerne diet.
When we brought the company in from location we were finished with the cast and had the picture in the bag- except for the all important opening animal sequences.
Leo Cracknell, an old circus and vaudeville performer who, with his wife, had a whip-cracking and sharp-shooting act, was in charge of the animals. Leo had a prop. list of the animals we’d require -
(continued over...)

because the script called for them long before shooting began on the film. He came up with some we had not ordered and wherever possible we worked them into the story . I am frankly amazed that Bill Shepherd would allow himself to be quoted as saying, “. . . I did
not know if it was going to work out until I’d run all th footage and decided on how to cut one shot with the next” (sic) “I hadn’t been given a storyline for that section etc. . .”
That statement is just a bald untruth. He had the script - 12 pages of it devoted to this sequence alone. The original story was written by Australian authoress, Dorothy Cotterill, then living in Miami, Florida, and published in McCalls Magazine. It was adapted to the screen by Edmond Seward, then on the Cinesound staff having been brought in from Hollywood. I had a lot to do with the scripted story because I knew I had to bring to life what was on paper and I did not want any ’impossible’ action written in by a man unfamiliar with Australian animals and what you might possibly get them to do.
We shot the animal sequence to the scripted storyline embellishing it where we could and the animals would co-operate, and introducing new animals as they became available.
But the story of Chut, the joey orphaned by a shot from a hunter’s gun, was the same story on the screen that Seward had written in the screenplay the original of which I still have in my possession. There can be no ifs or buts about it, that’s the way it was! There were additions and embellishments as I have said but these did not deviate from the original storyline.
Apart from the script - to which all departments worked - Shepherd got additionally, almost every day, notes I dictated to Jean Smith about the day’s shooting as well as the notes she took in the normal course of her duties. They indicated how and where incidents we had managed to capture - often by good luck but with a growing capacity on everybody’s part to anticipate what the animals might be expected to do in given circumstances - might be used.
Further Shepherd was on the set each day discussing with me the editing which was proceeding while we were shooting as is the case with all properly organized feature films. Is it conceivable - as Shepherd on his own statement would have you believe - that Heath and I, two reasonably’ intelligent people, would go on shooting, without plan or purpose, anything and everything, willy nilly, until we had accumulated in excess of 6,000m of unrelated film all of which was dumped in Shepherd’s lap with the suggestion, “Go on, make something out of that!” Really that’s just too thick to be swallowed and it weakens the man’s credibility all along the line. The storyline was in the script all the time and that is what Shepherd (ably assisted by PhyllisO’Reilly and Terry Banks on this film) worked to. A copy of the original script is in the National Library, Canberra, where anybody can verify what I have said. Bill Shepherd did a good job of editing on Orphan as he did on all films he edited for Cinesound. But others also did splendid ’ jobs as I have tried to show in this factual story of what really happened. George Heath, a creative cinematographer, was shooting “on the fly” a lot of the time on these animal sequences. You cannot direct kangaroos - just as you don’t ’direct’ Prime Ministers. You place a carpet snake, for instance near a joey and wait to see what will happen. You hope the snake will menace the ’ joey because that is what the script calls for. But you don’t always get
what you want. The first time the snake slithers past and the little ’roo, quite unafraid, merely sniffs at the reptile’s body. It took a lot of time, and patience to get the snake to appear to be menace the little’ roo. But with good cross-cutting of c.u.’s of the snake and ’roo, plus a lucky mid-shot of the reptile curling around the roo’s body (thanks to the smart work of the always invaluable set-assistants Julian Savieri and the late George Yates), we got what we wanted.George Heath was tremendously enthusiastic on this sequence. I, or someone else, might notice one or more ’roos about to do something we could use and signal George. He in turn would hand signal the electricians on the gantries and they would have arcs struck and fives swung onto the objective in no time at all. Frank Bagnall, assistant camera, would have to make a snap judgment on focus and we’d be rolling. That way we got some marvellously natural pictures not only of kangaroos but of dingoes, rabbits, snakes, and of a rogue emu who, as soon as he was set free on the set, began chasing the does and joeys all over the place, beatinr at them with his wings. And then, to make our day, the Old Man Roo got fed up and took to the emu, wrapping his forepaws round the cranky bird’s neck and kicking him in the slats with his powerful hind hoppers. And Heath’s camera was on the action all the way.
That was not in the script but it is certainly in the picture. Didn’t need much editing either. Went in practically ’in one’. The small crew on that sequence did a fantastic job and in addition to those already mentioned were, if memory serves me, Johnny McColl and Snow Launt on the lights.

Orphan of the Wilderness won the Film Critics Award of 1937, was released in England, America (as Wild Innocence) on the continent and ran on American TV in the early fifties. It achieved all that not because of the way it was edited, photographed, designed or directed but because of its sheer entertainment value and the novelty and charm of animals behaving completely naturally in what seemed to the audience to be their natural habitat.
Two final things need comment in order to get the record straight. The first has to do with Smithy:

Shirley: Did you edit Smithy? I notice Terry Banks received editor’s credit.
Sheperd: I edited the two reels containing the Pacific flight.They were the main reels and Hall wanted me towork on them. The description of the trip took ONE PAGE IN THE SCRIPT and 1 estimated that it would
come out at 600m.

That is just not true and leaves the implication that Terry Banks was not capable of editing the two main reels’. The facts are that I used Shepherd, in the absence of Ron Whelan, as assistant director on Smithy. Terry Banks was film editor, assisted by Stan Moore. Because of pressure we got from Columbia who were asking for the finished film urgently, I put Shepherd, by now free of his other duties, onto the Pacific flight reels.
For him to say “the description of the flight took one page in the script and I estimated it would come out at 60Om”, shows clearly that he is having script trouble again. How does a production crew get 600m, out of one page of script? The facts are that the Pacific flight ALONE occupied 12 pages of script not counting any of the numerous pages devoted to the lead up to and aftermath of the flight. Here again what went onto the screen was in the script.
Terry Banks got film editor credit on Smithy because that was what he was! And no amount of wild overstatement can alter any of these facts.
One final thing needs attention. I quote Shepherd: “In 1937-38 we started pressing for a union in the industry and the only reason I wasn’t sacked was because Cinesound couldn’t do without me. We had a meeting attended by Hall, the Cinesound employes and people from Filmcraft. When we went back to work next morning everybody was put on the mat and asked why they had been at the meeting. We’d have got an industry going then which would have been a terrific thing ...
He fails to explain how giving the financial principals union trouble and shooting up costs would have got an industry going - one was going anyway. But I can assure him with absolute certainty that if he had been able to persuade his colleagues to follow his lead, Cinesound, with the world-war inevitably closing in and pessimism all about, would have closed down in 1938 instead of 1940!
Shepherd has me at this meeting - which I did not attend - but fails to explain how, next morning, I was suddenly able to change hats and put everybody on the mat for being there!
“I was not sacked” says Shepherd, “because Cinesound could not do without me.”
On that note - and, very genuinely , more in sorrow than in anger - I will rest this case which is one for some of those members of the Cinesound organization to whom the company, and I, owe so much and to whom, in the Shepherd interview, justice has not been done.

ASE Committee (Sydney)Denise Haslem President.
Jenny Ward V.President.
Christian Gazal Treasurer.
Fiona Strain Secretary.
Pam Barnetta
Peter Bradstock
Dany Cooper
Leigh Elmes
Paul Healy
Natalia Ortiz
David Stiven
Matthew Tucker
Frans Vandenburg

Melbourne Committee

Andrew Brinsmead
Michael Church
Patrick Deleo
Warwick Driscoll
Damian Harland
Tim Lewis
Sophie Meyrick
Glen Newnham
Peter Palankay
Jill Rice
Caroline Scott
Richard Stal
Adrian Vallis

© 2021 Australian Screen Editors · Privacy · Contact us