Newsletter 33 – June 1999

Online archive copy of Newsletter 33 which was a printed newsletter:

Impossible Mission

As we increasingly become swallowed up by a global culture, the fight to maintain an Australian identity and an Australian screen industry seems more and more impossible. Last month Henry Dangar, Helen Martin and myself attended an industry get together as a follow up to the Fade to Black Conference which you will remember was called in 1995 to address the crisis occurring in Post Production. Attending this meeting were reps from SPAA, ASDA, AWG, AGSC, ACS and ASSG as well as MEAA. It was quite an auspicious gathering that was meant to be an information exchange, a chance to catch up.

However, as the meeting proceeded it became clear that the agenda was not a concern for what our individual guilds had achieved in the last four years, but rather a grave concern at the overall slump in the industry. While some blame was cast in the direction of overseas productions coming in and dictating employment conditions and personnel, also playing a part was a dramatic downgrading of free to air product by television broadcasters, the inclusion of NZ programs as local product and the relaxing of laws which allow commercials to be imported.

This all points to an underpinning of Australian content standards and the question of protecting Australian culture needing to be readdressed. Many at the meeting felt that the responsibility lay at the hands of the Federal Government whose approach to the arts was so aptly described by David Marr in his Ian McPherson Lecture at the Sydney Film Festival as a government whose policy seemed to be NO VOTES in the Arts or more worrying a possible Votes in NO ARTS.

This struggle to maintain a national culture is not just Australia specific as expressed by French Director Bertrand Tavernier in his recent visit to Sydney. “I think one must create a fight - we have started in France - against the domination of American cinema. It’s not that I’m against American cinema...but I don’t want it to be the only cinema in the world. I think we need now national cinema, we need national culture” from Garry Maddox’s article An Orgy of Destruction, SMH 19 June, 1999.

The group decided to form a loose alliance and to meet in late July to discuss strategies of how to place Australian culture back on the public agenda. We have all experienced this struggle many times before, let’s hope like Jonah, we can find new, clever and positive ways, without too many special effects, to be expelled from the belly of the whale.

Finally many thanks to Jo Smith and the AGSC for organising the get toegther - no mean feat.

Other Matters
On a different point altogether, at the June ASE Committee meeting, it was decided that we would have to add a minimal charge to our training sessions. This is to cover trainers costs and would be in the vicinity of $20 - $40 depending on the session and membership status. And still on the subject of training, Roger Grant who has been the convenor of the Training Subcommittee is moving to Melbourne and has had to resign from the ASE Committee. We all thank Roger for his brief but extremely productive time on the Committee. We wish him well and hope the Melbourne committee can hook him in.

Also keep those cod reels coming in for Uncertain Regard set now for 19/9/1999. And that’s my final reference to fishy things this month.

Til next time
Denise Haslem, President

 

CHOP CHOP MELBOURNE UPDATE

Hit Man’s Hero - Telefeature - Editor Robin Brennan - Armadillo Post (COMPILED BY CAROLINE SCOTT)
Nigel - Feature Film - Editor John Leonard - Assistant - Strutts
Psyridis
Sea Change - Editor Barrie Munroe, Chris Branangan, Assistant Editor
Elena Christie - ABC
Peter Carrodus and Ray Daley are cutting Round the Twist at the Children’s Television Foundation on Lightworks, and they’re being assisted by Strutts Psyridis. As well as editing, Ray Daley is also acting as Post Production Supervisor.
The Southern Star children’s series Pig’s Breakfast is being edited at Channel Nine in Melbourne by Steve Evans on Lightworks and Cliff Hayes on Avid, and their assistant editor is Peter Millington.
In Adelaide Ted Mason is editing the children’s film Kelpie
Rochelle Oshlack is finishing off as visual effects supervisor on Noah’s Ark in Melbourne and Los Angeles on Lightworks and Avid
Sophie Meyrick is cutting a short documentary Unveiling the Ringmaster on a Media 100 at Stanza Television
At Digiline Martin Fox & Mark Pitman are editing commercials, corporate videos, promos for TV series & doing graphics and onlines with Evelyn Cronk as Post Production Supervisor.
As well as running one of Melbourne’s top editing facilities, Tim Lewis is editing a doco about composer Jules Massenet on Lightworks at The Joinery.
Ken Sallows is about to start on From the Outside with Caroline Scott as assistant editor on Lightworks at the Joinery.
Maryjeanne Watt is cutting a 16mm doco Mark Deans Sister H and the Demon Child on a Steenbeck, also at the Joinery

Peter Palankay is doing the final mix of the feature film Envy at Music & Effects. Envy was edited by Roberta Horslie, directed by Julie Money and the composer is Andy Evans.
Rochelle Oshlack is Assistant Editor on the feature The Dish, edited by Jill Bilcock on Lightworks.
Strutts Psyridis is Assistant Editor on The Wog Boys (feature) to be edited by Suresh Ayyar on Lightworks at The Joinery.
Sioux Currie is editing commercials on Avid for Two Feet Films and director Phil Rich.
Mark Atkins is editing the dramatised documentary Pozieres, shot on DVC Pro. Ben Loveridge is Editing Attachment and they’re working on Lightworks at The Joinery.
Ro Woods is Atmos Editor for Thunderstone at Soundfirm with Ralph Ortner Dialogue editing, mixing and sound supervising, Ron Feruglio as Effects Editor and Gerry Long doing Foley.
Cindy Clarkson is in preproduction on a self financed S16 feature The Merchant of Fairness as picture editor and post production supervisor.

The Victorian ASE Committee.
The Victorian ASE Committee meets on the first Wednesday of every month at AAV. These meetings are open to everyone and are a good place to voice your opinions and ideas about the ASE. If you are interested in coming along, call Claire at the ASE office in Melbourne. After losing several key members, the committee is now in the process of rethinking and restructuring with the help of several new committee members. While planning events and workshops is one of our priorities, we also concentrate on raising the profile of film and picture editing in Victoria through the potential of the ASE.
Up coming events in Victoria include a tour of AAV Digital Pictures Post Facilities, a sound foley night, an editors cut and our annual mid year drinks. Watch your mailboxes for information on all these and more. And
feel free to come along and be involved in the decisions that make the Victorian ASE beneficial to all. We need your help.
Victorian ASE Committee
Martin Fox, Cliff Hayes, Peter Palankay, Glenn Newnham, Caroline Scott, Jill Rice, Strutts Psyridis, Scott Grierson & Henry Karjalainen.
New Victorian Administrator.
Claire Fischer, the current Victorian Administrator will be taking leave of absence for a few months in July. The Victorian office will be manned by a new ASE and Committee member Henry Karjalainen, who has already made a impact on the Victorian ASE through his involvement in the ASE Committee.
The Victorian ASE phone number will remain the same but look out for our new postal address in the upcoming weeks. Welcome Henry!
Mid Year Drinks
It’s that time of the year again to celebrate the depths of winter by getting together for a beer. This year the Victorian ASE mid-year drinks will be held on Friday July the 2nd and will be sponsored by tape and film
stock companies. Bring along your coupon to recoup your free drinks and watch out for this regular coupon for drinks throughout the year. Watch your mailboxes for further details about the Mid-Year Drinks.

- CLAIRE FISCHER, VICTORIAN ADMINISTRATOR

 

CINEVEX TOUR

On May 19, members of the ASE gathered at the Cinevex Film Laboratory for an exploratory tour, with Christopher Sturgeon, technical manager, as our guide. The evening was a great opportunity for both film-savvy and video editors to take a close look at the major departments and processes within the “sprockets-only” world of the lab.

Intended as an “open house” tour it all began with a short Q&A session and a screening of The Matrix trailer. Christopher spoke about the incredible advances in cinema technologies that have taken place over the last decade or so. To highlight these he spoke of the development of film stocks with improved grain structures; the use of special effects encompassing traditional film opticals and digital image manipulation using Cineon film scanning and recording; and the development of digital sound applications. He also touched upon emerging technologies such as digital camera and projection systems, yet assured us that at least today, film is very safe as a gathering medium.

We worked our way through the lower level of the lab starting with the Processing and Chemical Replenishment rooms. Cinevex run two processors in the newly refurbished facility. Next on the tour were the Printer rooms where Christopher explained differences in dry and wet gate printing and in printer machine types. On the upper level we met Rohan Wilson and Paul Cross who head the Neg Matching and Optical departments respectively. Rohan explained the finer intricacies of cutting original material and the disciplines required. In the Optical printing room, Paul demonstrated the workings of the step optical printer. Next stop was the Grading room where the film images are balanced and the grading tape made ready for printing.

The evening came to an official close with a screening of an alternate trailer for The Matrix and a back-to-back comparison of two competing digital sound systems – Sony and Dolby – in the trailer for Inspector Gadget. The verdict : not much in it!

Paul obviously had some time up his sleeve to knock up some fine snacks (or so he said), which we all enjoyed. I know I can say that members found it a very satisfying insight into the workings of the lab, although of course not all the areas in which people had hoped to demystify could be covered in one evening. Thank you to Christopher Sturgeon, Rohan Wilson, Paul Cross and Ian Anderson, for taking the time (it ended up being fairly late) to not only show us the lab but also to answer our film questions. Finally, thanks to Cinevex for holding the event – an informed time was had by all.

Henry Karjalainen

 

Avid On Windows NT?

The programme was sold, the work was scheduled and the decision made to go Avid.
Why Avid ?. Well, with a plethora of different hardware, firmware, software and everythingelseware available from almost nothing to mortgage your children, we decided to take the safe and steady approach to post-production.
We had another good reason to go Avid, it was based on an Apple Mac platform, something we had dire need of for our intended graphics manipulation.
But then the world was handed to us on a completely different platform. Avid on Windows NT.
I must admit there was some trepidation about taking receipt of an Avid on an NT box, albeit not due to any lacking on NT's part nor Avids for that matter, but simply the marriage of the two systems. How would they work together ?
What bugs would pop up ? Would it function in the same way ? What about Apple command functions ?
Well. I'm happy to say that apart from some of the basic differences between Windows and Mac, ie the command buttons the system works, feels and looks just as you would expect an Avid to. We're running an Avid ExpressNT and
I must say the Meridian box which supplies the processing power really is a stunning piece of work. Rendering
time is fairly good, about only time to get half way through making a cup of coffee.
But it's not all wine and roses. There are a few things we'd like to have back. Slip and slide trimming
would have been great (next software revision I'm told). Mapping quick command keys to customize
your keyboard annnnndddd since it is an on-line output device, then we'd like to see some better colour-grading
options and vector scope monitoring on video output. (That should keep the techo's happy)
Talking about the on-line aspect of the box brings me to the brink of tears. It truly is stunning. We've just completed a TV half hour at 2:1 and can't believe we've even digitized the stuff in ! So we've jumped back to 3:1 for the next episode and still am impressed by the quality of our output.
As to the graphics issue, we've quite happily installed a nice little graphics programme on the NT for importing
and exporting to, and bought a Mac G3 to boot. Now that's a story and a half in itself. Connecting a Mac G3 and a Windows NT OS ver4 was not easy at all. But thanks to some solid diligence by Rod Sommerich and Athol at Amber Technology, we have a beautiful system running at peak performance. And to top it all off, because the graphics are built
somewhere other that the Avid, two can do the work in half the time.
So in conclusion I feel I must say that Avid running on NT was not only a very good decision technically, but has
proved to be a winner with quality and speed

Peter King
Editor/Producer
Australian Television International
Incorporating Stable Pictures

 

DITING DEPARTMENT/ AUSTRALIAN FILM, TELEVISION & RADIO SCHOOL.
FULL-TIME COURSE
FEBRUARY - NOVEMBER 2000
Excellence in education for Australia’s media industries

THE SCHOOL
The Australian Film, Television and Radio School provides a comprehensive full-time course in picture and sound editing on film, tape and digital non-linear formats. The course covers all drama and documentary disciplines.
Head of the Editing Department, Sara Bennett, and Head Lecturer, Fiona Strain, bring a wealth of experience in feature, television and documentary editing.
The Editing Department also runs industry SHORT COURSES on topics as diverse as: Navigating the Archive and Non Linear Protocol for Producers and Directors. It complements its programs with the exciting ’Frame by Frame’ seminars held throughout the year with some of Australia’s best known editors.These seminars are informal gatherings held in the School’s main theatre. They start with a screening of the editor’s latest work, followed by a lively question and answer session, always a popular seminar segment.

ENTRY CRITERIA
A prior degree is not a prerequisite for admission to the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Editing Course but editing experience in the film and television industry would be a distinct advantage.
Our students come from a variety of backgrounds including features, documentary production, TV magazines and series, in-house corporates and facility technical support. All have a demonstrated interest in film or
television - with a clear focus on editing.

FEES
For successful applicants, the course fee is $4,000 for each year plus enrolment fee of $100 and a $500 equipment/facilities bond. The course fee will attract a 10% discount, if paid on enrolment.
Financial assistance may be available in the form of Austudy or Youth Allowance through Centre Link. An AFTRS Scholarship allowance of $338.40 per fortnight may also be available. Details can be obtained from the Student Centre at the AFTRS.Under the School EEO policy, all suitably qualified persons are encouraged to apply for any AFTRS course.

QUALIFICATIONS GAINED
The curriculum incorporates a three-year structure made up of a series of courses that are of post graduate standing and applications for all full-time courses are highly competitive because places are limited.
Graduate Diploma of Arts (Film & Television) · One Year
Master of Arts Degree (Film & Television) · Two Years
· Master of Arts Degree (Honours) (Film & · Television) Two Years
Applicants with a high level of industry experience and/or advanced tertiary qualifications may be granted credit towards their degree through recognition of prior learning (RPL) and/or credit transfer.This allows an MA or MA (Hons) applicant with the relevant background the possibility of being granted credit for the first year of their course - which would mean they could be completed in twelve months.
Full-time training is conducted at the AFTRS located in Sydney and all full-time courses are open to Australian citizens and permanent residents. New Zealand citizens are considered permanent residents on arrival in Australia.
The employment rate of the AFTRS graduates is approximately 96%.

REGISTRATION OF INTEREST
Applications close on 25 JUNE, and a non-refundable $50 application fee applies.
If you would like further detailed information on the AFTRS Full-time and Short Courses, visit our web site at www.aftrs.edu.au or contact our Student Centre by email or phone, to receive a detailed application form and Information Booklet.You can call the Editing Department direct on 9805 6599 for further information on their courses and your possible eligibility.

 

Letters

Hello Claire ,
I was just going through the new look ASE web site and thought that I would send a note of thanks for the information and the contact
resources. As a recent media graduate who has now decided non-linear editing is where my passions lie , this is for me an
invaluable resource as there are loads of times I feel like I am
flogging a dead horse and speaking with others in my position this is a common story. I did speak to you on the phone last week and I am looking foward to receiving the information for membership and newsletters for upcoming events. Sophie ( who taught the recent AVID course I just did
at Open Channel ) recommended it as a resource and was pleased that I had already thought to contact you.Thanks / Regards
Gavin Walburgh

 

Letters

To the Editor
ASE Newsletter

More Nonlinear vs Sprockets?
It was nice to get Mark Atkin’s perspective on the advantages of editing on sprockets. I too, am one of the romantics that loves the magic of working with the film itself - and the prospect of a schedule that would allow for the relaxed, thought-laden editing process we sometimes pine for, is certainly appealing.
However, I strongly suspect that nowadays most editors and assistants would be offered a generous cut in their normal weekly earnings for the privilege of working in such a fashion! Add to this the likely expectations of most directors and producers - even first-time ones on a personal journey - to see changes and versions and revisions at 90’s non-linear speeds, and your unpaid overtime quickly clocks up!
Add to this too, the fact that nearly every low budget production has a huge unaccounted-for component of goodwill, special deals, personal favours, relaxed debts, etc ... a budget that might look great on paper can put unanticipated strains on the “relaxed” editing process in the long run. Still no free lunch for the editor.
In his original article, Simon Dibbs may have painted a pretty dim picture for the future of sprocket editing. Nicki Roller, on the other hand, defended her choice of sprockets with a very rosy picture of the editing process on A Wreck A Tangle.
For editors, the most interesting and important viewpoint is still begging! How was it for you, Shawn?

Matthew Tucker

 

(archival posting! this is not a current job ad!)

The Australian Film, Television and Radio School is the national creative centre for professional training for the film and broadcasting industries.
DIGITAL SYSTEMS ADMINISTRATOR
($50326 TO $56241 P.A. SALARY PACKAGE)
$43953 TO $49119 P.A. BASE SALARY
The Position: The School is seeking a suitably qualified and experienced person to be responsible for oversighting the administration of desktop digital resources in the teaching departments. They will liaise with the teaching staff and students on the efficient utilisation of resources and undertake installation, configuration and maintenance of the systems.
Skills and Experience: The successful applicant will have experience in production environments utilising editing systems and an understanding of the education process. Their communication and team skills will be well developed and their organisation abilities established. Experience in film or sound editing and teaching is an advantage.
Terms and Conditions: This position is available on an initial 4 year contract with possible access to a further 2 years. Applicants must be Australian Citizens or have Permanent Residency status.
Enquiries: It is in the applicant’s interest to contact Personnel on (02) 9805 6616 or 1300 366 464 (Toll Free) to obtain an application package. Information can also be found on our web site at www.aftrs.edu.au. If, after reading this information, you require further details you may contact Howard Cosier on (02) 9805 6515.
Written applications giving full details of experience and qualifications should be forwarded to:
The Human Resources Manager
Australian Film, Television and Radio School
PO Box 126
North Ryde NSW 1670
Closing Date: 9 July 1999
The Australian Film, Television and Radio School is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

 

Letters

Dear Newsletter,
It occurred to me that what is being overlooked in all of this talk about choosing post-production pathways (Sprockets V. Non-Linear) is the editor. Surely it’s important to ask them what they feel most comfortable with? These days there are many P. P. pathways that can be chosen to suit the exact requirements of the job, but do they suit the working methods and the experience of the editor?
Do I detect an underlying assumption that, somehow, sprockets are easier to cut? This might be true if the editor has years of sprocket experience, but it begs the question: Where are younger editor’s gaining this level of sprocket experience?
I know which way I would want to go as, I’m sure, all editors would. The question is: How many producers would bother asking us?
Paul Healy.

 

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KING OF THE CORAL SEA
An Interview with Lee Robinson
Albert Moran

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"Let's forget what the Australian public thinks about, what they might take to, because if you put an Australian tag on a film it was the worst possible thing you could do."

If Charles Chauvel is the King Vidor of Australian cinema, then Lee Robinson is the Howard Hawkes. Robinson's forte whether in feature film, documentary or in TV drama, has been the narrative action-adventure. His is a masculine world; his heroes are professional men whose work involves grappling with the physical and animal environment as much as it involves dealing with other men. The locations and settings are out of the way, beyond the edges of civilisation. He has an eye and a taste for the exotic. His various projects have led him into the Australian outback of the Northern Territory, to the jungles of New Guinea, to the Pacific and to South-East Asia. In an age of creeping corporatism, his films reconfirm the myth of the rugged, self-reliant individual.
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Contents of this Issue Continuum Contents CRCC OzFilm MU

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Put up: 5 January 1996
Latest: 14 February 1999
HTML authors: Bronwen Kelly ...

Moran: What was it like making films inside the public service?

Robinson: Well. I'll tell you a story. When we were first in King Street we had two or three offices there. And we had a camera room. We had a few lights and stuff. And one day it was pouring with rain. Norman McCraig, the accountant(who later went to San Francisco as an Australian government representative) came up doing some sort of inspection. He came into the camera room. And all the cameramen were sitting there, having a cup of tea. And McCraig said: "Why aren't you men out working?" They said: "Norman, look at the bloody weather." And he said: "But you've got lights." He looked up his thing and said: "You've got 16 lights. Can't you go out and work using them." That was the sort of mentality you had to contend with. When I did Crocodile Hunters, I bought two or three packets of one hundred .303 bullets in Darwin to give to the crocodile hunters to use in the scenes where we wanted them shooting crocodiles. Bullets were worth 9 shillings each and you know these blokes were doing this for nothing. I didn't want them using their own bullets. When I got back I got a long screed about why should I require the purchase of bullets. I wrote back to Norman McCraig and explained that I had to buy them for the hunters to use in the film. He wrote back and said: "How many bullets were actually used?" I wrote back. I think I bought two boxes. I said all but 6 of them were used because I found 6 in the bottom of my case. So I sent him back the six bullets. You would think that that would be the end of that. But no, when the picture was finished and Norman saw it, he counted the number of shots fired by the hunters. He wrote back that he noticed in the film that there were only 13 or 18 shots. What happened to the other bullets? And this was a standard joke - the letter. What could you do? Canberra was the end.

Moran: One of your films at that time was made in a studio with actors?

Robinson: Yes. It was a little picture called Double Trouble (1951). It was a xenophobic picture. We had actors playing Australians in a foreign country. And all these things happened to them. Previously you had seen New Australians having these problems in Sydney. The message was: have a thought about the problems of people who have a language barrier. Be more prepared to help. It had Frank Waters and Rosemary Miller in it We used a set on a stage at Burwood (the Unit's headquarters) which had been a sausage shop or something. The Producer-in-Chief, Stanley Hawes, was not too keen on using drama so he wasn't keen on this project. It was very rare to use actors. Dick Mason was assistant director. Later he did From the Tropics to the Snow (1964) in which he used actors, he even had one play Stanley.

Moran: Can we turn now to your feature work. When did you first connect with Chips Rafferty?

Robinson: While I was in the Film Unit, I wrote a radio serial called Chips: a Story of the Outback, starring Chips Rafferty. I wrote that for a year. While I was earning £9.80 ($19 approximately) as a film director, I was earning up to £300 ($600) a week writing for radio. Sometimes I wrote up to 10 or 12 scripts a day. I got that efficient that I could write these scripts in less time than it took to record them. I could write a 15 minute radio show in, say, two hours. I must have been able to do it in less because I remember once doing 12 in a day. I wrote about 150 episodes of the Chips series so that's how I met him.

Chips was then under contract to Ealing. He sat down at Church Point for a year, being paid a salary with no pictures coming up. The leading lighting cameraman at this time was George Heath who shot Eureka Stockade, Bitter Springs (1950), Bush Christmas (1947) - all those things. George wasn't getting any work because Ealing were dropping out a bit. Chips decided that the only way to keep himself engaged as an actor was to form his own company and to promote and make his own films.

I'm not sure how I became involved. Maybe I'd done something that Chips was aware of in relation to directing. Anyway, he approached me and said "Would you like to go into features?" I said "I intend to eventually". He told me what they were planning to do and asked me to have a think about it. I had to sell my house. We all had to take £15 a week out of the company. Then he and I wrote a picture called The Tribesman in which he was a character called the Sundowner. He lived with the Aborigines and was a mythical kind of a guru. We just went on from there. At the time there were only three directors in Australia. One of them was Ken Hall. But after Smithy (1946) he never did another picture. And there was Charles Chauvel. Neither of them would work for somebody - both were their own thing. So Chips had to find a young director with whom he could work: me. It was a big step to take. It could have come good or it might not have. Raising money was a big problem then. There was the Capital Issues Law that restricted you from raising more than £10,000 ($20,000) in a new company. So you had to be prepared to make a picture for £10,000 or less.

Moran: Can you tell me something about this first film, 'The Phantom Stockman' (1953)?

Robinson: Chips wanted to work well into the outback, to use the outback as locales and I had had those three years in the Territory. I had one experience with drama production at that time when an American director, Peter Lyon, came here and did a pi1ot for a television series. I took leave from the Film Unit and worked as his assistant director and so I knew the procedures and the technique. Also I had directed that short CFU picture called Double Trouble which used actors. As I said earlier, the Capital Issues Law restricted any company and any newly formed company from having a capital base in excess of £10,000. Just why it was implemented I don't know. It probably was a carry over from the war and was designed to keep some sort of level on company development. We looked at the figure and said, it must be possible to make a picture for £10,000? Given that Chips wanted to work in Central Australia, we had to design a picture that you could cover the cost of travel and accommodation for a crew and cast and still come in under £10,000.

Moran: The 'Phantom Stockman' has a strong feeling for the outback.

Robinson: I think it was inevitable. I had six years in documentary. A number of us in the Film Unit were thinking in terms of drama I got involved because I wanted to work with actors. My experience with actors was limited. Chips on the other hand had by now made quite a number of films and he was an impeccable technical actor. The Americans would take their hat off to him. He helped a good deal, there were people in the picture of course who had never made a picture before. There weren't the opportunities here for them to do so. He helped them a good deal by walking through scenes with them on his own and getting things sorted out, timing their dialogue and so on. The other thing was that we were working in actual locations. We decided right from the beginning we would never, ever build sets. We were working to a large extent in situations that were fairly genuine. The Aboriginal involvement, the themes were genuine themes. I suppose, given my documentary background and the fact that you are on actual locations and in many cases using actual people, it was inevitable that that would come through.

Moran: The film is also an Australian western, isn't it?

Robinson: Westerns were very popular then. And the reason Ealing became interested in Australia was because they saw this as a place where they could make their own westerns. But we were all well aware of the fact that there was no money in Australia theatrically and Chips at this point had travelled fairly extensively, the Rank people had taken him to England to do a picture, they had sent him around the world on a PR caper on The Overlanders (1946), he had been to Hollywood, Universal had feted him. He had met people there and was starting to realise what the world was all about. We said, "Let's forget what the Australian public thinks about, what they might take to, because if you put an Australian tag on a film it was the worst possible thing you could do." You see we were on a third-rate level as far as the public was concerned in comparison to imported films from anywhere. The thing was to try and go for different locales and different lines, new material but fairly standard in the international approach. I remember a motto that we used to remind ourselves of. It was something that Les Norman (the producer of Eureka Stockade) said to us. "If you are working in a known background like London or New York you can go for very different story lines, but if you are working in a new background that is unfamiliar to your audience you have to be a bit conventional in your story line because audiences find it difficult to accept a totally new background and a really new story line at the same time." So I think there was a bit of that inherent in all of those early films with Chips. We always went for the unusual background and therefore didn't try to get terribly tricky with the story lines.

Moran: How was distribution arranged?

Robinson: Through Herc McIntyre of universal. I knew Herc vaguely but I knew of his support for Charlie Chauvel. Chips, of course, knew Herc because, as a Rank actor, he was Universal property (Universal was the distributor in America for an Rank pictures). I got to know him very well. He was the godfather of my youngest boy. We became very close family friends in the 1970s and 1980s. Herc released the film as a support. Whereas he was supposed to take, say, 85% for the main picture and 15% for the support, he changed it and gave something like 22.5% to us and took a bit off the American picture.

The picture was in profit within three months of being finished. Chips was in Hollywood then. He'd gone there immediately after shooting The Stockman to do the Desert Rats (1953) with Richard Burton. The producer of that film was Robert Jack who was, I think, Daryl Zanuck's son-in-law. So Chips knew him from being on the picture. I sent a print over for Jack to look at. He said "It is no good for us. But I'll put you onto the distributor in New York who handles small pictures." And it was sold for just about what it cost to make. We went on from there to England and we again sold it for just about what it cost to make. Here I think Herc got us just about what it cost to make. So it very quickly paid a dividend to the investors. Immediately we got the sales we went straight into another film. We were shooting within four or five months. The Capital Issues Law had been lifted so we had a budget of £25,000 ($50,000) this time.

Moran: When did you write a script for the second one?

Robinson: As soon as Chips got back from London we went straight down to Church Point for two or three weeks and wrote a script. We then went to Thursday Island and did a reconnaissance there. The film was King of the Coral Sea (1954). It was more successful than our first film. I sold the American rights to the film in the Marble Bar to Lee Gordon who wrote a cheque out on the bar. Ill never forget that day. We took about £34,000 out of England. And we made about £26,000 here. So again that tripled its costs in about three months. Then we went into co-production with the French. A French producer came here looking for a partnership. Of course Chips and I were the only people operative here. Nobody else was making anything.

Moran: How did you go directing actors after working with documentary?

Robinson: Good. I was regarded in the business as a good director of action. While there was action going on I was alright. I simply had no background in drama. Also I was relatively young in relation to what other directors were at that time. I was 23 when I did Namatjira. I was 29 when I did Phantom Stockman. That would be unheard of overseas. You simply did not get the opportunity to direct pictures at 29 and it might have been better in the long term if you hadn't either!

Continuum:
The Australian Journal of Media & Culture vol. 1 no 1 (1987)
Australian Film in the 1950s
Edited by Tom O'Regan

Printed with kind permission of the author, Albert Moran
and the publisher, Tom O’Regan
http://wwwtds.murdoch.edu.au/~cntinuum/index1.html

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