Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Of course you can come along

I wrote a couple of months ago about the Turtle Video Centre[^].

I was fortunate enough to be invited, by Heino, to become a member in the very early days. Fortunate indeed, for I was part of the cabal who pretty much got a stranglehold on it. The theory was that any member of the public could walk in, give perfunctory identification, book a video camera and recording equipment and walk out with it.

I say perfunctory identification because the world, or at least Australia, was a rather different place in early 1975. Our drivers licenses were a paper document with our name, date of birth and other relevant information typed onto it with a manual typewriter. Photo licenses didn't come until the 90's. In 1982 I was in San Jose buying my first dot matrix printer at some shop or other. I was paying by credit card and the guy behind the counter wanted ID. I showed him my Victorian drivers license and he flatly refused to believe that that creased and worn piece of paper was a valid drivers license! I ended up paying cash and got a great price. Unfortunately, the savings were devoured by the cost of a step down transformer to let that 110 Volt printer run on 240 Volt mains. So we learn...

Well that was the theory. Unfortunately the people running the place pretty much turned the running of it over to us. Optimists! Another theory might run along the lines of 'lazy bastards!'. For, given the power to grant or deny we mainly denied. We had our own projects and who knew when we might need the equipment? So we did block bookings months ahead of time and, somehow, it always turned out that a random member of the public requesting a booking would find that the equipment was 'booked'.

Danno, eat your heart out!

We did all sorts of silly projects. One I remember involved me, as the actor, clutching my chest and faking a heart attack in the Block Arcade, Collins Street, Melbourne. Somehow or other we persuaded the then management of Orrefors to let us set a camera up inside their shop, trained upon the public area. I walked into the shot, faked a heart attack in the tradition of the worst melodrama and had to fend off well meaning busybodies who were genuinely concerned at the prospect of the death of a 20something. Well, it made sense at the time but I'm at a loss to explain it now!

If you encounter me these days clutching my chest and showing all the signs of a heart attack take it seriously. It probably will be!

Having video gear in 1975 was special; it opened all sorts of doors. We once turned up at the Melbourne Zoo and got free admission on the strength of that camera. Try it today and see how far you'd get! We also got preferential treatment at Tullamarine Airport in those innocent pre 11/9 days!

Word must have spread; one afternoon Frank appeared. He was a trifle younger than we. Well, to be honest, he was a lot younger than I but only a trifle younger than Dave, Heino, Gary, Keith, Graham and Andrew. Eager and willing was Frank. We had a shoot planned at Williamstown Cemetery; there was a newly dug grave and time was of the essence before it's occupant took residence. Again, it made sense at the time and I seem to recall that it was I who had the fascination with cemeteries but at this temporal distance the only thing I can remember about the planned production was that Keith, clad in tailcoat and top hat, would rise miraculously out of the grave. Profound stuff! It was my tailcoat and fake top hat of course but as director I couldn't also be the actor! Someone tell Woody Allen that. Please!

Frank was eager to join the crew. We exchanged glances and agreed he could come along. Frank was ecstatic! All he had to do was carry the gear!

Poor bastard!

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