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Australia Post – Onward Speed (1970)


Produced by The Film House for the Australian Post Office, this is an amusing instructional film on maximising the effectiveness of business mail procedures.

Curator’s notes

Onward Speed was produced for the then named Australian Post Office, for distribution to its business clients. The film, directed at executives, secretaries and mail room staff, humorously instructs its audience in the efficient management of business mail. In the days before computers, everything was documented on paper and everything was posted by snail mail. Multiple carbon copies were made of every letter typed. These copies, along with correspondence received, were placed in paper files and passed back and forth between individuals within the organisation. The competent collection and delivery of all this paper was critical, and the mail rooms of large office buildings and big business organisations were major affairs.

Essentially a two-hander, Onward Speed is an economical production, with sibling actors Jon Finlayson and Rhonda Finlayson conducting a series of witty scenarios to illustrate the rights and wrongs of business mail management.

The Film House was founded in 1966 by Fred Schepisi. Schepisi began his career in advertising, before managing the Victorian branch of Cinesound. His interests and development as a filmmaker were broadly based, and he managed The Film House with a similar approach. The company produced film, television, commercials and corporate work. It soon became a centre of the film industry in Melbourne, with a reputation for innovation and daring. Schepisi used income from commercials, sponsored documentaries and corporate programs to fund more risky films. He nevertheless approached every project with equal commitment, seeing each as an opportunity to experiment with ideas and techniques. In 1976, six years after Onward Speed, he directed his first feature film The Devil’s Playground. Ultimately he went on to direct a long list of features, first in Australia and then in Hollywood – the bulk of which have been critically very well received.

For the National Archives there were preservation issues beyond the ordinary with Onward Speed. The 16mm print of the film was in poor condition, but an 8mm copy of the film – made at the time of production – was reasonably well preserved. However, in a situation typical of the difficulties caused by the recurrent superseding of audiovisual formats, the sound stripe on the 8mm copy could no longer be accessed by existing equipment. Therefore the 16mm sound had to be married with the 8mm image to make a new digital master.