Back in 1969 or 1970 there was a TV show on Australia’s ABC that screened (I think) on Saturday mornings, . The show was called Otis 69 or Otis 70. It had quite an interest in filmmaking. Two of the regulars on the show were Peter Weir and musician Hans Poulsen. Neither of them were famous at the time.
The show was interesting and so different from anything else I’d seen on TV. I remember one segment where they’d gotten three different composers to write music for the same piece of film. I was a big fan and regular watcher.
Then at one point, they began encouraging viewers to make their own films, and to send them in. It may have been a competition, or maybe it wasn’t, but it certainly put the idea in my head that maybe I could make a film. My dad had an 8mm camera, so why not? Okay, 8mm movie film wasn’t cheap, but if I saved up my pocket money…?
Of course I’d need some actors. Luckily, I wasn’t the only person in Chinchilla, Queensland interested in this sort of thing. Around the same age as me and interested in amateur theatre were Jill Carmichael, Ronald Layne and Michael McAffrey. They were more than happy to become the stars of my very first movie.
At that time there was no such thing as consumer video. 8mm film was the only way families like mine could afford to shoot “home” movies. The cameras couldn’t record sound, but at least with Kodachrome you could shoot film in colour. (Shooting in colour is no big deal now, but it was back then. Colour TV didn’t arrive in Australia until 5 or 6 years later – in 1975).
Anyway, my movie had to be silent. So no dialogue. It became a simple melodrama with a damsel, a bad guy, a good guy and of course – some railroad tracks…
My dad’s 8mm camera had 3 lenses. You could rotate between wide angle, standard view and telephoto. The camera could also do slow motion, but since that used up a lot of film very quickly, I used it very sparingly.
Editing was a bit of an issue, the frames of 8mm film are very small and it’s hard to see exactly what you are doing, so I tried to edit as much as I could in the camera. Most of the shots were just one take, then a new set-up, then the next shot.
After the film was finished I was so very proud of it. There was no way I was going to send my precious original away to some competition where it’d probably get lost and I’d never see it again. So I kept it. All these years. And now, 50 years later, I’ve finally put it on YouTube.
The Good, The Bad and the Innocent had its world premiere at the very next high school fete. We screened it in a classroom and charged people 20 cents to get in. It was accompanied with a musical soundtrack from a reel to reel tape recorder that I had to start at exactly the right time to synch with the film. I can’t remember how much money we took at the box office from the screenings – it all went to the high school, but I remember thinking at the time, there’s a future in this movie making business…
Years later I discovered that George Miller of Mad Max fame also grew up in Chinchilla and that he also fell in love with cinema while he was there. (His family moved before mine arrived in town so we never met, but I’ve seen all of his movies, and Peter Weir’s..). Six degrees of separation etc….