Monday, February 27, 2006

On location

After I returned to Melbourne from Canberra and had lost a girlfriend[^] in the process I took Heino up on his offer to film my novel.

A few days later I found myself down in Pier Street, Altona, at a new shopfront that had been converted into a makeshift studio, complete with glass enclosed room that served as the control room. Lots of (then) expensive equipment; control panels and video tape recorders and amplifiers and lights and cameras. It looked like the real deal. Which it was in one sense.

This was a government funded experiment in bringing video to the masses. Of course, if it was government funded that meant that some public servant had been tasked by a politician to launch the project. Ads had been placed in national newspapers and some earnest young enthusiast had responded and convinced said public servant that they could be entrusted with some hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Some things don't change!

In this case it was two earnest young things; Malcolm and Lassya. Lest I sound more cynical than I mean, I liked them both. They had the magical ability to run things without seeming to run them. I like and can respect a manager who can do that.

There were two video centres set up in Melbourne and probably two in Sydney; I only remember one but it defies cynicism to believe that Melbourne got more than Sydney did. I honestly don't remember if there were centres set up outside of Melbourne and Sydney but I doubt it. Australian politics then, as now, is centred on the two major population centres, at least at the Federal level.

But this isn't a political blog even if I can't sometimes resist a snipe at the Republican party.

By the strangest of coincidences, when I moved into my first house in 1993 in Kingsville (West Footscray before it got delusions of grandeur) my new next door neighbour turned out to work for the organisation that evolved out of the 'other' video centre in Melbourne.

I think it was the same day that I first entered those premises at Altona, hereinafter to be referred to as Turtle Video, that I met Robin and Garry.

Yes, that Robin! :-) He had hair in those days. Well, he has hair these days too, but it's on the wrong side of his head! Why is it, I wonder, that bald men grow beards? The obvious answer is that if it won't grow out of one end let's grow it out the other end. Perhaps that's why I, with a full head of hair at 51, don't grow a beard!

The truth is that I find a beard[^] unbearably uncomfortable.

A few days later Robin was doing his first shoot. A typical 20 year old's screenplay; full of angst and the prospect of shortened life; in other words, the story of someone who's just been told that they're about to die of cancer and how they cope. Not a lot dissimilar to the bad novel I hoped would be filmed.

This isn't to make light of the subject. At 51 I just think differently about the prospect than I did when I was 20. I'm sure Robin does too.

So I was introduced to a new world. The world of how badly produced amateur videos are made! That might seem a trifle harsh especially considering that some of our number went on to work in the TV industry and one at least has won international awards (that'd be Heino). But it's pretty much how it panned out for most of us. Robin, for example, as director, had as much of an idea about how to do it as I had. And I had none!

But it was fun to watch someone trying to control the following; an amateur actor who would walk in front of a speeding car; an amateur actor who would drive the speeding car and undertake to stop in time to avoid running the first actor down; an amateur cameraman trying to follow the first actor; an amateur cameraman trying to follow the speeding car; an amateur soundman trying to point his mike at the right place. And finally, it was fun to ogle the breasts of the rather well endowed young lady who sat on the kerb. Hey, I'm only human and back then breasts were important!

No comments: