Australian Screen

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Bob Connolly

Ray Argall met Bob at his home office in Glebe, Sydney, where he was digitising footage from his latest project, Mrs Carey’s Concert (2010). The stories of his years in New Guinea filming First Contact (1983), Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1988) and Black Harvest (1992) are every bit as captivating as those he tells about filming Leichhardt Council for Rats in the Ranks (1996). Bob introduced us to the camera that has captured his most famous works, a 16mm Aaton, and shares the passion for music that shines through his work, from Franklin River Journey (1980) through to Facing the Music (2001) and Mrs Carey’s Concert (2010).

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Tell us about one of your titles on the website

This was when Joseph Medang was killed. He was shot on the battlefield and axed, and we filmed his – preparing the body for the funeral. And at this stage Popina, who was one of the central characters in Black Harvest (1992), had had just a series of absolutely awful shocks and blows that destroyed his world in a way. And he was just staring there. And I remember picking up the camera and walking over and sitting myself right in front of him and then just lifting the camera slowly up into a close-up of his face. And just everything went across the face, all the tragedy of the situation. And then he just, at one point just looked straight into the lens – looking at me, really.

And it was – it’s an odd feeling when you’re shooting that because you’ve got conflicting emotions. In the first place because I’d known him for years and he was a dear, dear friend of mine, I was sort of dying inside because I knew what he was going through. But there was another sort of sense of elation in a way as a filmmaker about what I was capturing. Those two things have always fought a battle with me inside, you know. And I just kept the camera rolling, I think for you know, two, four minutes, something like that. And I think it’s a powerful moment in the film because so much is said in that face and yet nothing’s said. And to me that’s one of the great things that you try for all the time – is to have nothing said but everything said at the same time.

Where are we?

Well we’re in my office-cum-editing room. And that’s what happens here. Right now, what I’m doing is using the camera to digitise the material from our latest shoot onto our Final Cut Pro computer system, editing system. It’s the repository of a lot of the stuff that is a memento for, you know, 30 years’ work I suppose. It’s um, gee I don’t know, it’s my cocoon.

How did you get started?

I started off as a trainee journalist at the ABC in 1964, my god. And the first thing I learnt to do there was not so much to be a reporter but I think I learnt a bit about writing. And the reason is we had this extraordinary chief sub-editor named Sidney Mounsey. We’d get sent off to do these little piddling stories about you know, traffic accidents and things, and we’d get called into the sub’s room, the sort of u-shaped table, and he would be sitting – full of all those old fellas with eye shades and rolled up sleeves. Except for Sid who tore strips off us for six months with our copy. Because we were writing for radio and therefore writing for the ear, which means really stripping everything down to its bare essentials, and it was just the most wonderful preparation.

And from that, I was lucky enough to land a job in New York as a foreign correspondent and that’s where I did a little bit of filmmaking, not much. I went from that to This Day Tonight (1967–78). I was absolutely terrible at studio interviews and so started to specialise in order to keep my job, at the same-day story. So for about two-and-a-half, three years I’d go out every day with a camera crew and construct a five or six or ten-minute film story. And that was a massive learning experience and fantastic. Then I went from that to doing half-hour films for A Big Country (1968–91) for about five years.

By that stage I’d been at the ABC for about 14 years and I met Robin Anderson and she sort of figured I’d been there too long so we basically left. And so we set up our first film, which was First Contact (1983). But it was made because I’d worked on David Bradbury’s agit-prop sort of archival-based historical films like Frontline (1979) and Chile: Hasta Cuando? (1986) and Nicaragua: No Pasaran (1984). When we made First Contact (1983), we went around the world for the first time, because it was an independent film, and I got to meet a few observational filmmakers. And I started to see all the classic work, and I was just blown away by it, it was extraordinary. And I decided that that’s what I wanted to do.

On collaboration

Most successful collaboration – Robin Anderson. I was working as a producer at A Big Country (1968–91), which is a long-running documentary series on the ABC, and she got a job. She was just out of Columbia where she did a masters. And I came in after a long lunch once and there was this kid – well you know, 27, I was 33 – sitting in a corridor at a desk, and I sort of did a double take. And I said, 'Oh, who are you?’ And she says, 'Well, who are you?’ And I thought, 'Oh, okay’. So um, we, I think she moved into my flat about three weeks later and then she started telling me to get out [of the ABC], because she reckoned I was becoming institutionalised.

It was a working relationship made in heaven in all sorts of ways because the work that she’d done at Columbia, she did a sociology masters. And so she came with two years of incredibly high level skills in going into a situation and analysing the dynamics of that situation which, in the work that we did together, was just extraordinary. And I learnt a huge amount from her and she learnt on the job as well in a practical sense. But it was just absolutely wonderful to work with someone who was so insightful about, about what was going on. And her analytical powers as well were quite extraordinary. Her sort of courage, her grace under pressure, I mean everything about her – it was just a joy to work like that. I mean I still look back and think of just how lucky I was that, that our paths crossed.

What do you do when you're not making films?

There it is (points to photograph on wall). That’s my boat. Which I get on as often as I can. It’s a 30-foot sloop and I race it in the summer. Sophie and I do with a few friends. And we go off to Pittwater in it and live on it for a week or two at a time. And it’s um, it’s impossible to think about anything else other than sailing when you’re on a boat. I’ve had a boat – first boat I got was in – gee 1965. Because I lived in Sydney and I used to sail a lot as a kid, I used to do a bit of racing and so on. And it just suddenly seemed absurd to me that I shouldn’t use the water more because I love it so much.

How do you relate to the digital era?

Most people by the time we were editing Rats in the Ranks (1996) in the mid ‘90s had switched to tape from 16mm from memory, but we didn’t because we really couldn’t. It was an economic thing, we wanted to keep independence and that meant being able to operate our – with our existing equipment instead of having to gear up. But I saw the inevitability of it.

But it’s odd, you know, my Aaton up there, you know, ten-minute magazines and everything manual on it, I don’t think I ever lost a foot in 300,000 feet of film. But somehow with tape, because it’s so cheap and so easy and so on, you do get, well I do, I just get careless. But as a – as a um, as a production methodology now, I mean we’ve just shot 18-month film, 200 hours of material, with non-linear digital editing equipment – it’s just extraordinary.

What is your strongest personality trait?

I think I get on with people fairly well, and then again some people I don’t get on with. I’m not universally liked, which is fine. I um … I’m fairly determined. When I get onto a film I get very obsessive about it, very obsessive. Like I’m obsessive now, I’m itching to get back to digitising.

Advice for young players?

I tell my kids, who are in the process of getting really excellent educations you know, that if they – if they fall into – or if they choose a profession that it’s an utter pleasure to go to work, and that you get a huge amount of satisfaction out of, then that’s what they should do, because that’s what I’ve had.

On work-life balance

Working in New Guinea was the high point of my personal and professional life. Eighteen months we spent making Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1988). We built – basically built a grass hut on the edge of the plantation, and we didn’t have any kids then. And so a hundred per cent of our time was devoted to just interacting with the people and in this incredibly stimulating, exciting, sometimes dangerous environment where – knowing we were documenting a wonderful unfolding drama. And just being in that culture, in fact it was a real culture shock to come back to Australia because, living in a tribal society, you do realise what an atomised society capitalist societies are. I mean up there everyone is important. And you’re not seen as merely a producer or a consumer. You know, the least prominent person is as important as anyone else.

This Day Tonight

This Day Tonight (1967–78) was just starting out, the precursor of the The 7.30 Report (1986–current). It was in its second year, this was in ’68. And they said, 'We will give you a six month contract and try you out’. My mother said, 'Oh no don’t do that, you’ve got a job for life’. And Sid Mounsey, I was sort of dithering a bit because I had reasonably good career prospects opening up in the news department, and Sidney Mounsey called me in and he said, Connolly – no he didn’t, he said, 'Young Connolly, young Connolly, if you don’t take that job I will never speak to you again’. And so I took it. And um, was very glad I did.

Franklin River Journey

We got a job making a film for the Tasmanian Film Corporation on the Franklin River, Franklin River Journey (1980). At this stage not a lot of people had gone down the Franklin River, but god help us we did, an eight person film crew making a 35 millimetre short about the Franklin River in 1980, which is probably the most difficult and dangerous thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s one thing to go down the Franklin, I mean it’s a grade five wilderness experience, to go down the Franklin in one-person rafts with 35mm film and making a 20-minute short, was as I say difficult and dangerous. And it tests you to the limits and your character and your character flaws are on, on display for everyone.

The idea was to demonstrate what would be lost if the river was dammed by the hydroelectric commission. And our brief was to go down and to show that in the best way possible, the river in its absolute beauty. I always saw the central character, who we chose to go down on a solitary journey down the river, I saw what he was doing – and he saw it in a way – as a religious experience. And that gave me the opportunity to utilise one of my great loves in terms of being a music listener, which is polyphonic and classical sacred music.

First Contact at the Opera House

Andrew Pike in Canberra, who was a film exhibitor but got very interested in filmmaking himself, decided to take First Contact (1983) and a film by Dennis O’Rourke called The Sharkcallers of Kontu (1982), both our films and to double bill them at the Sydney Opera House cinema. And I mean it broke the box-office record, there were queues a hundred yards long outside the cinema. It was amazing.

Spellbound in darkness

The other thing that happened when we toured with First Contact (1983) was the first time I’d ever been exposed to the notion of seeing a documentary in a cinema, in a darkened room. And that hooked me from the start. So if you were to really scratch me I’d say that my first love is to have my film shown in a darkened room. And that people should be held, as Brownlow says, spellbound in darkness.

Financial creative independence

The major influence for me in fact was way away from the world of filmmaking. When we’d done First Contact (1983), which was a standard traditional made-for-television interview-based documentary with archival film, we both felt very frustrated that, you know, it was such a rich story that – and it was very difficult to squeeze it into a TV hour doco. The Australian National University Research School of Pacific Studies asked us to – or suggested to us we might like to write a book and they would offer us visiting fellowships. And I came into contact with a whole lot of historians there, Pacific historians. And what struck me was watching these people spend six, seven years on one project, on a book. And going to the ends of the earth to know everything that was possible to know about their subject, that really appealed to me. You need to master a subject. If you want to say anything serious then you’ve just got to lift your game in every sense – intellectually, methodologically, artistically and so on. And that all percolated away for a year or so.

And so when we went to make Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1988), you know we – I remember the first day that we sort of got there and sitting on Joe’s veranda and um, I had this Aaton camera and she [Robin Anderson] had the sound and I suddenly thought, 'We are completely independent. There is no one sitting over us, there’s no executive giving us a hard time. We’ve got enough money if we’re careful about it to spend it as long as we need to spend – and that could be years – capturing a film.’ And that was an extraordinary feeling of elation. And I remember it very clearly, and ever since then I’ve really valued the notion of independence, financial creative independence. And I’ve always tried to strive for it.

Uncontrolled vérité

This sort of work you divide into controlled and uncontrolled. There are control elements which are: having enough film stock, when 16mm film stock was important as an element; having enough time; having enough creative bureaucratic freedom. It’s only when you’ve got those control elements that you can actually afford to relinquish the control. And that’s another absolute sine qua non of this sort of filmmaking – it’s called uncontrolled vérité and that really means not interfering. It means waiting, it means developing as far as possible a completely sort of independent stance. It means giving away all your ideological fixations, conscious and unconscious, and your biases and all the rest of it. And just being alert to the unfolding nature of what’s going on. Because if you don’t do that, then you miss it.

The hardest form of documentary

I think it’s the hardest form of documentary in all sorts of ways, to be uncontrolled about your capturing of material but at the same time to be governed by narrative requirements. You know, where you fix on some kind of dramatic situation – you’ve got to find it first of all, and then you watch it emerge and then you sort of mine it, you chase after it. And try to stay there and to try to recognise the narrative developments of a situation, over which you have no control. And no knowledge about what’s going to happen. It’s a deeply exciting way of working. And if your first decision-making is correct, in other words where you go, then it can be just a profoundly exciting and stimulating and challenging way to work.

Choosing a subject

We often took up to two years to choose a topic. And often there was a lot of false starts. Because it’s a real leap in the dark in some ways. I mean what you’re doing is you’re saying, now I’m going to sort of attach myself to this situation. Which I know a little bit about but I certainly can’t read, I can’t predict the tea leaves. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know whether anything will happen.

There’s a few things you sort of go on. They are caught up in conflict situations of some sort. And there are big issues behind those conflicts, I think that’s important. But the people themselves, they’re people of high ability, but they’re flawed, they’re complex people. And I think that’s what I look for. It’s like peeling layers off an onion.

Oddly enough the longer that we spend together the more we all get to like each other. And there’s that line, 'to know everything is to forgive everything’. I end up – I’ve ended up liking immensely all the people that I’ve worked with. Although we’ve been through very difficult situations with them. And I think that’s part of the reason why – for them we become a really important part of their life.

Creating out of nothing

The thing I love most about filmmaking, I think – when you set out on a film, a big project like this, it’s this artefact that you’re creating out of nothing. And you’ve got something to show for it. I mean I’ve got all my films, you know up in DVDs and in 16mm prints and so on. And it’s like an artefact that – it’s there, it’s made. And then you sort of leave that aside and then move on to another one. You start from the beginning again. You’re just as scared, you know, you’re just as excited, it’s just as hard. It’s just that it’s a whole new set of challenges that require a whole new set of responses from you. And it doesn’t get any easier.

Learning to edit

And we had the 16mm editing machine and not much money left and Robin [Anderson] said, 'Well, you’re going to have to do it’. And I said, 'What, edit?’ And I said, she said yeah. Because at the ABC, where I trained as a director, you weren’t allowed to touch the – if you laid hands on a 16mm camera, Tony Wilson or Dean Semler would have said, 'What are you doing, you flea?’. You were the director, you didn’t touch the equipment. So it was a real thing for me to actually have a go at it. And the same with editing. So I just started cutting sequences together and they seemed to work, and I was amazed. So I basically cut the thing, I suppose, for about six months and then I got Ray Thomas to come onboard – great editor I’ve worked with ever since.

And then I realised that what I could do – and it’s really important to know your limitations – what I could do was to assemble. And the two of us would work structuring, you know, we’d sort of – we’d get all the stuff transcribed, we’d look at it all, and then we would card it, every single sequence had a card which we’d stick up on a wall, and then we’d start to shape what looked like the overall thing. And I’d just go away and just beaver away for a few days and then Robin would come in and have a look. And that’s essentially the pattern that we developed.

Bringing in an editor

And I say it to people and they still, so many people don’t listen in documentary. They bring an editor in from day one and a lot of them are expecting them to help them with structure and stuff like that. To me that’s the filmmaker’s job. And by bringing in an editor from day one, often by the time you get to the stage where you really, really need an editor, you’ve run out of money. And so we always, in the big films, work right through until we say, 'Okay we can’t make it any better than this, now we bring in Ray’. And then Ray [Thomas] comes in and makes it a million per cent better, because he gets it from a series of sequences to a proper flowing film.

Taking time to get it right

I’ve never spent less than a year editing the big narrative films. I learnt that from David Bradbury. He was my biggest influence in all sorts of ways. Because I was working at the ABC when the AFC [Australian Film Commission] asked me to work on his Frontline (1979). He’d never made a film in his life, and I’d made 20. But the biggest impression was that he did not lock off on that film with Stuart Young, the editor, until it was right. And the process of getting it right was just a revelation: bringing people in all the time, bringing in dozens and dozens of people in screenings; listening to what they’re saying – some of it critical, some of it praiseworthy; knowing how to sift between the useful and the not-so-useful information; and gradually synthesising this process. And getting the film better and better and better and better. But not being conditioned by economics, which so much filmmaking is – they finish too quickly.

Please yourself first

The big film we made, which I sort of consider our first serious film to be honest, which is Joe Leahy’s Neighbours (1988), we really made that film to satisfy ourselves. It excites you and stimulates you and it’s something that you would want to watch. What you want of course is that it will please other people, and the way to achieve that aim is to make a film that will please yourself. Now I mean I think that’s a notion that has led a lot of people far more creative than me to, you know, to do the work they do. That’s if they even examine it, I mean it’s – painters for example and so on. But I think in this sort of work it’s the same and I suggest it’s a very widespread idea among filmmakers.

Exploring human character

But the idea of documentary is exploring human character, of having the same objectives as fiction, in other words, to explore human character moulded out of a real life situation. They are being taken seriously as an art form. And that means that people who are serious about cinema look at them and actually assess them, sometimes critically, and so on. But it’s a nice feeling that that’s happening I think.

Shooting in another culture

Shooting the Joe Leahy films, there were two languages spoken on the plantation. One is pidgin, which we became fluent in after about four months. And that’s the lingua franca for a country that has 500 different languages. And the common language is pidgin, that’s the parliamentary language. But the language that the people speak among themselves in this particular area was Tembaka. And I knew about 150 words of Tembaka, which meant I couldn’t really follow a conversation. And so for a lot of the time you’re filming major confrontations not having an idea what people are saying. You have a rough idea what they’re saying because you know the background and so on, and you know the key characters and you know the topics of meetings. But it is true, you’re a stranger in someone else’s culture: it’s a different language, it’s a different way of thinking.

The New Guinea films were adopted by the ethnographic and anthropological academic world and they’re still used widely in universities. And they are used as, as examples of anthropological ethnographic filmmaking. We never really intended them to be that. We saw them as human dramas, just set in another culture.

Living out the film

So up there, our – we lived on the location, we, the film would come to our door. You know we were 50 yards from – 100 yards from Joe’s house. We were on the main walking track to the plantation from the tribal area. So every, there was never less than 15 people in the place, and so it was just, we were completely immersed in the film itself, living it out.

Caught in the conflict

And I remember that when the fighting first broke out and these were, the enemies at this stage were people that we knew. Because when they’re not fighting each other they’re actually you know, there’s a lot of interchange goes on, intermarriage and so on. They would all come onto the plantation and so we knew them. But you’d go into a situation where the – you think you’d be filming the two sides fighting this way, and sort of the sky is full of arrows you have to understand, they’re sort of firing arrows at each other trying to wing each other. And then behind the arrow people are these guys with shields and spears and if they wing someone then they go in to try and finish them off with the spears. Well what happens is that the axis of the fighting can shift just like that. Suddenly you’re going from being a bystander looking at a football game – you’re on the field. And you’re surrounded by one side and the other side are firing arrows and they’re coming near you.

That happened about four or five times where we’d actually sort of find ourselves first of all with the people around the plantation and suddenly with their enemies. And after a while as things got worse the situations got a bit more ticklish, you know. When the big casualties started and guns started coming onto the – and then something happened which we went up onto the battlefield and Robin [Anderson] was saying, 'Okay, we got to get closer to the enemy’s side’, who were people we knew. But then they started firing arrows directly at us and yelling at us, 'We’re going to kill you too’. And then the other side charged and we had to run for it. And we had to run about 600 metres with gear and all the rest of it, and arrows sort of going past us, and people getting hit in all directions. And that was when she sort of came to her senses and said, 'Shit, we could get hurt here’. And I was very glad she did.

Capturing history

I mean I still think about it now and it upsets me, what happened to those people [in the Joe Leahy films]. But at the same time, you know, I’m just proud to have been around to capture something as, as momentous as that. I mean small in terms of the human drama – it’s not on a world stage or anything like that – but for those people they were momentous events in their life, in their culture.

Black Harvest camera

There’s nothing automatic on it. It’s a French camera and, as you well know, they’re just a wonderful piece of work. There’s a photograph in – in fact it’s on the cover of my book Making Black Harvest. In a quiet moment in the middle of a tribal war in New Guinea in 1990, that’s Joseph Medang, our closest friend and confidant, who was killed in battle about three days after that photograph was taken. You know, this is the camera that I took onto the battlefield every day and ran quickly with.

There’s a scene in the early fighting scenes in Black Harvest (1992) where we – when they first raided an enemy village and then the enemy counterattacked and they say 'Bob, old bidduabai, come’, which is 'the enemy are coming, look out’. So I turned around and started to run and of course I took my eye off the eyepiece but kept on filming. And when you do that the light gets in, into the film, so all you see is this haring down this track with this thing. As usual, displaying a very healthy degree of cowardice.

Savouring the magic

You know, Ray, I can remember when we were editing Black Harvest (1992). And the two of us were up there together working on this extraordinary material and our two kids were playing in the front of this attic area with the light coming in on them, they were just playing there. And there we were – plenty of time to edit, and working on something deeply satisfying both in creative terms and all the rest of it. And I remember saying to Robin, this is – 'Savour this, this is pre-Industrial Revolution stuff, this is. You know, this is man and woman and kids, self sufficient, raising the crops and all the rest of it. This is not capitalised atomising, this is not everyone going off and doing their jobs and coming back exhausted at 7 o’clock. This is living and working at home surrounded by everything you love.’ It was just magic, absolutely magic.

Why Rats in the Ranks?

I thought all councils did was, you know, empty the garbage sort of thing. But what I didn’t realise was that, with an area like inner-city Leichhardt, which was subjected to huge pressure from people wanting to sort of come into the city and moving into these areas and then refashion the houses the way they wanted to, plus enormous former industrial sites, and what you’d do with them – this was a vitally interesting and important are of urban sort of living. And that a council played a key role in it, as a conflict mediator really. And determining the built environment of the city. And so we, think – sat here in our kitchen thinking 'What the well are we going to do?’ Bugger it, let’s just do a film about Leichhardt Council.

Ground rules for conflict

There were three or four factions in Leichhardt Council and they were deadly enemies. And there was a political struggle going on of considerable consequence to them. And we were able to move freely among all of them and film intimate situations where all sorts of secrets were being divulged. But the ground rules that we’d established with them were: if we film with one group of people, that remains absolutely sacrosanct. We will not divulge anything of what’s said or done. And nobody will know about it until the film comes out in two years’ time. Now that rule in New Guinea was, if Joe is in conflict with someone we won’t tell that person what Joe has told us and vice versa. The consequences there could have been an axe in your head, you know. The consequences in Rats in the Ranks (1996) could have been a loss of faith and confidence in our integrity. But they were – ground rules like that were very useful. And we applied them.

The perfect score

In Rats in the Ranks (1996) we used a Bach violin concerto. Which I think is – and I think I spent six or eight months trying to find the right piece of music for that – something that was, it just had to say so many things, that music. It had to send itself up almost in a way, but still be exciting and so on. I went, you know, I went through my entire record collection or CDs. And eventually it was just listening to this piece – Elizabeth Wallfisch was the violinist, and it was transcribed from, I don’t know, oboe or something to violin – just was perfect. And I remember yelling out to Robin and Ray Thomas, 'I’ve got it!’. And they came down and I played them this music, and we quickly sort of dubbed it onto 16mm and it was just perfect. That’s a great feeling to have.

Shooting the right material

Yeah, I mean I remember there’s a scene in Rats in the Ranks (1996), in fact it opens the film, where it’s a caucus meeting, which I don’t think anyone’s ever filmed before. We filmed seven before this particular caucus meeting, and it went for two-and-a-half hours. And I was working with an Aaton [camera] with three ten-minute magazines. Now shooting digital, if I’d been shooting that meeting, I would have had two hours of material. But I had 30 minutes of material. And it was the right material.

Shooting film focuses the mind

I just found shooting 16mm – when you know it’s $3 a second, that it’s costing you, and that’s it’s a ten-minute 40 magazine and that you’ve got to put it in a black bag and change it at the end of those ten minutes – it really concentrates the mind, and you just shoot when you know it’s right.

I think it’s a bit like – shooting with 16mm is a bit like being a trout fisherman, going to just the right place and then doing it. Whereas shooting with tape is like a dredge net trawler – you sort of chuck the net over and just film everything that’s happening. I find that a bit – I actually once in Facing the Music (2001) fell asleep while I was filming.

Music in film

I think music can be a bit of a two-edged sword – sometimes you can overdo the use of music. There are two elements here, I think. One is location sound and the use of sound. That’s something that – Robin [Anderson] always did that, that’s something that I’ve sort of always taken for granted. It’s always very straightforward and just getting the bare necessity.

Working on Facing the Music (2001), I saw music as a really important element, almost another character in the film. And we made a decision in that film to – the students would have these lunchtime concerts every Wednesday and Thursday. We filmed every one of them for a year. I’m a little wary of it, I know how powerful music can be, but also I think it’s sort of a, you know, good servant-bad master thing, you can overdo it.

Cameras

With incredible precision, what’s more, because the viewfinder is just so wonderful – fibre optic viewfinder – and you can just see everything and have real manual control over what you’re doing. It’s a proper cinematographer’s camera, you know. But this is an ambulance chaser’s camera. And that was what I was using to shoot Facing the Music (2001). And there it is, push AF, push auto focus. You know when you’re looking through the thing, because the lens is not very good – it’s not very clear – you can’t really tell whether it’s in focus or not. So you push this button, you know. And I thought after about three weeks, 'No thanks’.

This camera had a magazine on it. And at the end of ten minutes – and I never ever work with an assistant – you’d have to take that off and put it in a black bag, and open it up and put the roll of film in, thread it through there, not being able to see what you’re doing, take it out of the black bag, open up this side, dispose of your exposed roll of film, and then load another one in. I got it down to about – how long did it take you, Ray? I got it down to about four minutes. You know, something like that.

The Robin Anderson Film Awards

Well when Robin died, both our kids were going to MLC School in Burwood. And a group of people sort of assumed that I would want to set up some sort of a scholarship, you know, in her name or sort of an award of some sort just to perpetuate her memory at the school. And so I went to see the headmistress, Barbara Stone, and um, I said, 'Well we’d like to set up some kind of a memorial award at the school, for scholarship’. And it just, then I said, 'It would be nice if it was somehow connected with filmmaking’. And Barbara Stone said, 'Well you know, why don’t – rather than restricting it to the school why don’t you – are there any awards for student filmmakers in high schools?’ and things. And we came up with this idea of a student film competition for high school kids studying film at school.

What’s happened in the last ten years I suppose with the development, the explosive development of non-linear – you know, digital – cameras and editing systems, is that the kids have taken it up. And it’s now a very well established discipline in schools. And a lot of kids are making films, being introduced to the whole art form for the first time. And so we give awards for fiction and for non-fiction and for animation. And for mobile phone films and stuff like that. And it’s, this is now about its sixth year and it’s going gangbusters.