Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Australasian Gazette – 70,000 Pounds Production Nears Completion (1926)

play Please note: this clip is silent
Email a link to this page
To:
CC:
Subject:
Body:
clip
  • 1
£70,000 production nears completion education content clip 1

Original classification rating: not rated. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This newsreel clip from 1926 shows a scene from the film For the Term of His Natural Life in production at the Australasian Films’ Bondi studio, Sydney NSW. A cameraman on a moving platform, or dolly, shoots the scene as Sarah Purfoy (Jessica Harcourt) talks to Captain Frere (Dunstan Webb) in a sitting room and a kangaroo jumps onto set.

Curator’s notes

Australasian Films produced the film For the Term of His Natural Life, which is featured in this newsreel clip. Newsreels such as this were used for publicity. As there was public opposition to the production of this film, due to it being based on Australia’s convict history, a large amount of publicity would have been undertaken to gain goodwill and interest in the film. This is one example.

Australasian Films developed from a merger of the key Australian film distribution and production companies. This 'combine’ was the forerunner in film production of the time until Hoyts entered the market, pushing costs of film buying and production up until it became less viable for Australian companies to compete.

This newsreel clip takes us behind-the-scenes of a film production – in fact, one of the biggest films to have been made at the time. For the Term of His Natural Life was based on Marcus Clarke’s novel of the same name about the fate of an English aristocrat, Rufus Dawes, who was transported for life to the convict settlement of Van Dieman’s Land for a crime he did not commit. Shot both in production studios, as you can see in this newsreel clip, and on location in Berrima, New South Wales, Sydney Harbour and Port Arthur, Tasmania, the film portrays convict life in a penal colony with historical accuracy and also uses glass shot special effects, which allowed the director, Norman Dawn, to restore roofs to the ruins of Port Arthur.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows newsreel footage of a scene from the feature film For the Term of His Natural Life (1927) in production. The camera crew is shown as they film a scene set in a sitting room. The scene shows two characters talking, a young woman and a man in uniform. A pet kangaroo is also in the scene. A street scene with a crowd is being filmed on the same set. Three intertitles divide the footage and provide commentary on the scenes. The film is silent and black and white, and was shot in 1926 at the Australasian Films Bondi Studio, Sydney, New South Wales.

Educational value points

  • The clip shows behind-the-scenes footage of a landmark Australian movie of the silent era being filmed. For the Term of His Natural Life was made for £70,000 at a time when most films could be made for £1,000. It was, in relative terms, the highest-budget Australian film made until Crocodile Dundee in 1986. As well as the set pieces, such as those shown here, location shooting at Port Arthur contributed to its historically accurate depiction of convict life. Special effects such as 'glass shot’ photography were used to 're-create’ roofs on the ruins at Port Arthur, and a real sailing ship was burned for the film’s climax. Five hundred unemployed men were used for the many crowd scenes. The film was restored in 1981 from the fragments still remaining.
  • For the Term of His Natural Life was based on the 1874 classic Australian novel of the same name by Marcus Clarke, and was the first film to be made of this love story about an English aristocrat transported for life to an Australian penal settlement. Clarke (1846–81) left England to start a life in Australia when he was 17 years old. While working as a journalist, he researched the condition of convicts for his novel and visited the convict settlement Port Arthur in Tasmania, where the novel is set. The story originally appeared in serial form in The Australian Journal, produced in Melbourne, and a television miniseries appeared more than 100 years later in 1982.
  • The clip is an example of a newsreel, an integral part of cinema programming in Australia before the advent of television in 1956. Newsreels, issued weekly by Australian newsreel production companies, brought people in touch with local and national news. Subjects for newsreel production were wide ranging, covering topics of interest from sporting events, such as the Melbourne Cup or a cricket test match, to celebrity visits, particularly those of royalty. The making of a big-budget home-grown movie based on a convict theme would have been of interest to movie audiences in 1926 and therefore an appropriate subject for a newsreel.
  • Silent newsreels such as this one incorporated dramatic footage, intertitles and linked segments, as well as a musical accompaniment. The multistory newsreel was popular, and by the 1920s the newsreel industry was thriving in Australia. The introduction of sound increased production costs, however, and many independent Australian companies folded, to be replaced by large US film companies such as Paramount and Fox.
  • This newsreel was produced by Australasian Films, which developed from a significant merger in 1912 of key Australian film distribution and production companies, and dominated the Australian film trade until after the First World War. Australasian Films continued to be a major force in the industry after that time, despite US production company competition. It imported films as well as producing newsreels and feature films. Criticised as a monopoly, it was the subject of a royal commission into the film industry in 1927.
  • Although For the Term of His Natural Life was based on an Australian novel, Australasian Films required Australian director Raymond Longford to stand aside in favour of American Norman Dawn, to try to ensure US release, thus illustrating the early influence of the US film industry on Australian filmmaking. Four of the principals in the cast were American and the principal cameraman was Canadian. Concern about the Americanisation of the Australian film industry was evident in testimony received by the 1927 Royal Commission, which heard arguments about the need to make Australian films more Australian in order to give them international appeal.
  • For the Term of His Natural Life is an example of the work of the US director Norman Dawn, who was director, editor, producer, screenwriter and art director on the film. He brought with him great knowledge of the technical aspects of filmmaking. He had developed in 1905 a 'glass shot’ process, which involved background scenery painted on glass and positioned in front of the camera so as to appear part of the scene. This technique was used in the film, and is still occasionally used today, for example in Dances with Wolves (1990). Tundra (1936), a docudrama set in Alaska, is regarded as Dawn’s greatest achievement as a director.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer £70,000 production nears completion from the newsreel Australasian Gazette – 70,000 Pounds Production Nears Completion as a high quality video download.

To play the downloadable video, you need QuickTime 7.0, VLC, or similar.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

This clip is available in the following configurations:

File nameSizeQualitySuitability
gaz700001_pr.mp4 Large: 14.9MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
gaz700001_bb.mp4 Medium: 7.0MB Medium Can be displayed full screen. Also suitable for video iPods.

Right-click on the links above to download video files to your computer.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer this clip in an embeddable format for personal or non-commercial educational use in full form on your own website or your own blog.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before embedding the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

Copy and paste the following code into your own web page to embed this clip: