Thursday, 25 August 2011

REFLECTIONS OF THE MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING SCENE

As a teenager growing up in Melbourne, I fell into photography and then very quickly into film. Armed with my father’s Super 8 camera I did animations, and was fortunate enough to spend my last years of high school at the alternative school Brinsley Rd, where I played with cameras, sound and cinematic ideas to my heart’s content. Creative people should always be given that amount of freedom to explore and experiment. During that time I made two feature length Super 8 films, and shot lots of other Super 8 material. We rented lots of films to show on the 16mm projector, blowing them up onto the big screen and putting the sound through the AV system. I lived in the AV room. My main teacher and mentor was John Phillips, who was also an independent filmmaker. He guided me through those first stages of industry support, and to my first 16mm work, supported by the AFI through the Experimental Film and TV Fund. I also joined the Melbourne Filmmakers Co-op during its final years. I remember Melbourne icons Nigel Buesst, Peter Tammer, Ian Macrae, Ivan Gaal, John Flaus, Ron Brown, John Lord among many others. It was a community of occasionally like-minded filmies, and it was a supportive community too.

We tried to emulate that feeling in later years when I returned to Melbourne in 1980 after 3 years studying at AFTRS in Sydney. Back then the Melbourne - Sydney rivalry was strong, and going to AFTRS was considered a treacherous act. Upon my return I learned it was best to just say "I’d been away" (it felt like returning home after dealing with a teenage pregnancy). After a year or so working at the ABC, I set up Musical Films with John Cruthers. We were planning features and a documentary series, but quickly got caught up in Music Video production, which was a wonderful fertile ground for so many of us in that era (Richard Lowenstien and Andy DeGroot, Paul Goldman and Evan English, Sue Davies, Tony Stevens and John Whitteron to name a few). Unlike TVCs and short drama, there were no rules, least of all from the record companies that commissioned the work, and we tried out many many visual ideas, laying the groundwork for much of our work in features. I should add the record companies at that time were open-minded, and were particularly excited when we did something brilliant (especially if it generated good publicity). The images that came out of that decade of music video production have profoundly influenced and informed our screen culture.

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