spent his childhood growing up in Kangaroo Flat near Bendigo.
His father sold cameras and photographic equipment in his chemist
shop. At the age of seven Tyndall was given a Kodak Brownie Box
camera by his parents and began taking photographs of everything
- family events, his father's aviary, street processions and athletic
meetings. Later he was given a Kodak "Developing Kit"
as a birthday present, and he turned the family laundry into a
darkroom, processing his own black-and-white photographs.
afternoons, he along with his brothers and hundreds of other children
went to "the pictures" in Bendigo. Amongst the films
that had the biggest impact on him were Earth Vs The Flying
Saucers (a 1950s black-and-white sci-fi disaster film), The
Ten Commandments (for its special effects with Moses parting
the Red Sea), Tarzan's New York Adventure and Snow White
and the Three Stooges. He does not remember ever seeing Australian
films, although occasionally some adventurer's journey into Central
Australia and the outback would be screened - not at the cinema,
but at the Town Hall.
however recall enjoying some Australian TV shows, his favourites
being about a gang of kids who had adventures in the nearby Australian
bush (possibly The Golden Boomerang), and Whiplash,
the story of the Cobb and Co stagecoach company set during the
gold-rush era. The images of kangaroos and the Australian bush
together with the sounds of laughing kookaburras made a strong
Looks At Something
As a child,
Tyndall was not particularly aware of the concept of "documentary"
films. However he does clearly remember going to "the pictures"
and being surprised by a different type of film about the Shah
of Iran, which was shown before the main feature. The wealth and
colours of this exotic land, which he had never before heard of,
surprised him. He does not remember when he next saw a documentary
but he was aware that there were different types of films/programs.
On TV, his mother liked to watch a new program called 4 Corners.
He recalls watching, once after school, a 16mm screening of the
Olympics; afterwards the teacher projected the film backwards.
This reverse motion screening fascinated him.
At age 13,
Tyndall was sent to a Catholic boys' boarding school in Kilmore.
In the mid to late 1960s this was a tough, old-fashioned school
that excelled in strict discipline. It made heroes of those that
achieved in sport, and rewarded them with better quality food.
The arts were neither encouraged nor rewarded. Tyndall learnt
the piano and played the church organ. Director Fred Schepisi
later made The Devil's Playground, based largely on his
experiences at the same school. One of Tyndall's few pleasures
at this school was the Saturday night film screenings when 360
boys and a dozen Marist Brothers filled the cold, old theatre
to watch war and prison break-out films (eg: The Great Escape),
westerns (The Professionals), and Elvis films. Films with
sexual references were strictly censored.
Tyndall moved to Melbourne in the early 1970s and completed a
degree in Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne.
There he joined the Film Society and soon became exposed to foreign
cinema. He recalls his first viewing of Luis Buñuel's The
Exterminating Angel as his awakening to the possibilities
of cinema, and an important moment in him eventually becoming
a filmmaker. Stanley Kubrick's films, especially 2001: A Space
Odyssey, also made a huge impact on him.
Rites and Wrongs of Howard Wrightmann
late 1970s and early 1980s, Tyndall travelled extensively overseas,
taking thousands of still photographs. His favourite images were
always people's faces, with the subjects looking directly at the
camera - a stylistic approach that he later extended into his
documentaries about artists. On returning to Melbourne in the
early 1980s, Tyndall had an experimental music show on public
radio station 3PBS-FM. His radio show reflected his particular
interest in new Australian music and experimental music. During
the same period Tyndall co-founded, wrote music and played in
a band, "Red Squares".
interests in photography, film, music and writing merged when
he attended Swinburne Film and Television School in 1985. His
graduating film The Rites and Wrongs of Howard Wrightmann
told the story of an alcoholic writer who had spent his life in
Philip Tyndall made the documentary Someone Looks At Something
about his brother, the artist Peter Tyndall. The low-budget, broadcast-quality
documentary won the Best Documentary award at the 1987 Australian
Video Festival. This work was crucial for Tyndall in developing
an approach, which he still advocates for documentaries about
artists, i.e. "to accurately reflect both the approach and
style of the artist and his/her work". Further, he maintains
that filmmakers making documentaries about artists and their
work should use the film medium itself in reflecting the artist's
approach. He strongly believes that such documentaries should
not just be mere documentation; nor should they be "radio
next three years, Tyndall expanded on his approach and made the
documentary feature Words And Silk - The Real and Imaginary
Worlds of Gerald Murnane, about the Australian fiction writer's
love of writing and horse-racing. The film is an interwoven mosaic
of still imagery, archival footage, dramatic recreations, and
talking head, reflecting the film's fine-line between fact and
fiction. The film received the highest award for a documentary
at the 1990 St Kilda Film Festival, then in 1991 won Best Documentary,
Artist Profile, at the San Francisco International Film Festival,
and Best Documentary at Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival.
The film subsequently screened on SBS's "Masterpiece"
series in the mid 1990s.
In 1999 Tyndall
began teaching 16mm film production at Deakin University. In 2001-02
he also taught a new documentary production course, based largely
on his own approach to documenting the arts. Over the past five
years, Tyndall's involvement in documenting the arts has continued:
he has documented artist's exhibitions, private art collections,
major art events, historic homes and public buildings, and live
continued to be involved in film community organisations, particularly
in relation to documentary. Between 1994-96, he was a member of
the Melbourne International Film Festival's Documentary selection
panel. In the mid 1990s he was a founding member of the Melbourne
Documentary Group, and in 2003 he was a member of the Documentary
Jury, AFI Awards.
Tyndall lists Luis Buñuel, Peter Greenaway, Stanley Kubrick,
Abbas Kiarostami, Errol Morris, Chris Marker, and Paul Cox amongst
his main film influences.
David Petersen, Paul Wright and Philip Tyndall.
Philip Tyndall, May 2003
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