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Melbourne independent filmmakers

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Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph
 
     


James Howard
b. February 4, 1942, Coburg, Melbourne, Australia.

BIOGRAPHY:   Writing was my first interest, being told by my primary school English teacher that I had a future career in journalism. Later I was taken, when about 14, by my father, a school-teacher, to see a production of Macbeth. I loved it. Lady Macbeth’s speech stimulated and shocked me. When in my 20s I became very interested in theatre, attending lots of plays both amateur and professional. I discovered the New Theatre’s production of The Merchant of Venice (subtitled Was Shakespeare Anti-Semitic?) The actor, in a rehearsal setting, played Shylock firstly harshly and then sympathetically. I was certainly impressed and saw the production twice after that, and finally joined the company, intending only to enjoy the theatrical atmosphere and to sell programmes.

 

I soon found myself on stage carrying a coffin in Robert Speight’s play If There Weren’t Any Blacks, You Would Have to Invent Them. I performed in lots of plays after that. I soon started concentrating on being a solo performer of Australian material, and was also obtaining professional television work. Some years later the writing interest became much stronger. I was winning literary awards for my serious poetry and also for my comic monologues. After being encouraged to attend a writer’s workshop at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, and our homework being to write about the nearby Maribyrnong River, I remembered that at about that time a homeless man had been brutally murdered in the Footscray Park. After discovering that he had an Irish name, I wrote a monologue that I intended to perform on stage called Danny.

At that time I knew many filmmakers. I had met the experienced and talented filmmaker Bill Mousoulis. With Bill's help, I thought that I would then try filming Danny, I did not have any filmmaking experience. Danny, 2004, was followed by Michael, 2006 (based on a short story of mine) then Mum, 2008, The Hoarders, 2009, Eden, 2012 and I am currently working on Boats, 2014.

- James Howard, March 2014



CRITICAL OVERVIEW:   I am interested in people and ideas. In my first film Danny I was responding to the brutal inhumanity of a homeless man’s murder.

 
 
Michael

The next film Michael is based on my own experience as a determined but terrified 9 year-old, trudging ‘unwillingly’ to school. I had much to fear. The Christian Brothers employed the strap as did the secular schools. The strap was the consequence for lateness and not learning the ‘tables’ and poetry. I refused to learn poetry under those circumstances and although I love literature and learning, I prefer not to have something tainted in that way. I suffered the consequences. I was not a good social mixer either. My 9 year-old asks “Who made God?” I as an adult would reply “We made God.”

Mum is about love. The character ‘Mum’ is a Catholic unmarried mother who loves and protects her son. The adult son has a remarkable resemblance to Oscar Wilde. I incorporated that idea into the film. I went to school with the mother, she being my partner in the primary school Ball. I would often see her and her son walking around Footscray. I love to have my characters walking e.g. Leopold Bloom (James Joyce) walks around Dublin. Mum follows her impatient son, culminating at the now demolished Footscray Station.

In The Hoarders I am satirising the oppressive obsession of the Catholic Church in forbidding birth control, they preferring to allow the quality of a relationship to be dominated by that dictate.

In Eden, I am satirising the blatant oppressive chauvinism of the Garden of Eden myth – an excuse in my opinion to blame and oppress women. I am also asking ‘what do we need to believe in’, in order to have a fulfilling, intelligent existence, with the revered institutions e.g. the Church, the law, the medical profession, who have proved to be incompetent? I am suggesting self-reliant, independent thinking.

My latest film Boats is a response to the current disgusting demonising of asylum seekers – a short, snappy, satirical film.

- James Howard, March 2014.


FILMOGRAPHY:

 
 
Mum

Danny (2004, 9 mins, digital video)

Michael (2006, 33 mins, digital video)

Mum (2008, 14 mins, digital video)

The Hoarders (2009, 20 mins, digital video)

Eden (2012, 28 mins, digital video)

Boats (2014, in post-production, digital video)


© James Howard, March 2014.

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis