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Melbourne independent filmmakers

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Ray Argall

 

REFLECTIONS OF THE MELBOURNE INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING SCENE

 
 
with Daniel Scharf, 1984

As a teenager growing up in Melbourne, I fell into photography and then very quickly into film. Armed with my father’s Super 8 camera I did animations, and was fortunate enough to spend my last years of high school at the alternative school Brinsley Rd, where I played with cameras, sound and cinematic ideas to my heart’s content. Creative people should always be given that amount of freedom to explore and experiment. During that time I made two feature length Super 8 films, and shot lots of other Super 8 material. We rented lots of films to show on the 16mm projector, blowing them up onto the big screen and putting the sound through the AV system. I lived in the AV room. My main teacher and mentor was John Phillips, who was also an independent filmmaker. He guided me through those first stages of industry support, and to my first 16mm work, supported by the AFI through the Experimental Film and TV Fund. I also joined the Melbourne Filmmakers Co-op during its final years. I remember Melbourne icons Nigel Buesst, Peter Tammer, Ian Macrae, Ivan Gaal, John Flaus, Ron Brown, John Lord among many others. It was a community of occasionally like-minded filmies, and it was a supportive community too.

We tried to emulate that feeling in later years when I returned to Melbourne in 1980 after 3 years studying at AFTRS in Sydney. Back then the Melbourne - Sydney rivalry was strong, and going to AFTRS was considered a treacherous act. Upon my return I learned it was best to just say "I’d been away" (it felt like returning home after dealing with a teenage pregnancy). After a year or so working at the ABC, I set up Musical Films with John Cruthers. We were planning features and a documentary series, but quickly got caught up in Music Video production, which was a wonderful fertile ground for so many of us in that era (Richard Lowenstien and Andy DeGroot, Paul Goldman and Evan English, Sue Davies, Tony Stevens and John Whitteron to name a few). Unlike TVCs and short drama, there were no rules, least of all from the record companies that commissioned the work, and we tried out many many visual ideas, laying the groundwork for much of our work in features. I should add the record companies at that time were open-minded, and were particularly excited when we did something brilliant (especially if it generated good publicity). The images that came out of that decade of music video production have profoundly influenced and informed our screen culture.

 
Musical Films, (left-to-right) John Cruthers, Ray Argall,
Cristina Pozzan, Bettina Petith, Daniel Scharf.
 
on set "Good Times" (Hoodoo Gurus) 1987
Dave Faulkner at left

There was a community that grew around Musical Films in our little office in Armadale. Ian Pringle, Brian McKenzie, Roger Scholes, all made films out of there, even Geoffrey Wright in later years. Mandy Walker shot her first images during that time; Cristina Pozzan, Daniel Scharf and Elisa Argenzio were all part of the business, Bryce Menzies started his first work in film and many others who are now industry stalwarts passed through those doors. We’d play kick to kick in the street outside, and ping pong in the front yard, we worked through the day and through the night.

 
 
with Mandy Walker on set of
Return Home 1989
 
shooting Wrong World
1984
 
editing at Musical Films
1985 (Bettina Petith)

One feels nostalgic for those times, there was a creative freedom that I fear has been stifled and silenced through years of a steadily increasing culture of screen agency bureaucracy and micro-managing of creative work.

Ray Argall, May 2010


crew, With Love to the Person Next to Me 1986
(left-to-right) Kathy Chambers, Ray Argall, Deb Hoare, Chris Hunter, Daniel Scharf,
Greg Harris, Kerith Holmes, Mark Tarpey, John Cruthers, and Brian McKenzie (centre)

 

 


Ray Argall, 2010

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis