Australia's New Film and Television School

By Appleby, Basil | American Cinematographer, September 1976 | Go to article overview

Australia's New Film and Television School


Appleby, Basil, American Cinematographer


A magnificently equipped, professionally staffed academy providing matchless facilities for budding film and television technicians to learn their craft

As Program Coordinator of the Film and Television School, I am, in fact, a sort of overall producer of both television and film programs. As such I coordinate all the different departments into the production of a movie or television program. This involves bringing the idea, script, camera and production management people into the production office to see if the project will work. So, in fact, although the title reads "Program Coordinator", one has all the normal jobs that a producer would have on either a movie or television show.

The objective of the School is to get the best out of whatever the individual may have potentially. Most of the students, of course, see themselves as producers or directors, because they always like to think of the top glamor job as being the ultimate aim. They may want to direct or they may want to produce or they may want to be Freddie Young - and that may well happen, but they must, first of all, decide on a main theme. So we ask them, inspite of the fact that they may have direction as the ultimate aim, to have a secondary choice that they will specialize in. We offer choices that include production, editing, camerawork, script-writing and production management.

During the first year, when they do all the jobs in television, they are also allowed to do television direction, but that is a special course. However, when it comes to their film work, we ask them particularly to make a choice at the beginning of the second year. Just now we've got more in camera than anywhere else. We have two sound recordists, three screenwriters and three in production management, one of whom wants to be a very good first assistant. (What he really wants is to be a top producer, but I told him that comes later.) So now, in the second year of a three-year course, they are beginning to specialize. All the while they will be doing film and editing exercises. We give them a big hodge-podge of film and say: "Make something out of that." They don't know what it is, but they have to make a story out of all the bits of film.

You can't always tell the mind behind the result. You can say: "I don't think you've got what it takes to be a director, or an editor, or a writer. Continue pursuing your first love, but let us remind you that there are other things just as satisfying and you are very good at sound, because the three films you did as a soundman were first-class. Do you realize that you've got a naturally selective ear? It could easily be that you should follow a career as a sound recordist."

One particular person has taken this point and she is becoming a very keen and very quickly professional sound recordist, because she spends every minute, every second she can with the head of the department, asks for extracurricular work, takes home a Nagra, goes to New Guinea on her breaks and records extraordinary stuff.

So already we've got a nucleus of a lot of individual enthusiasts, not a nebulous group of people not knowing what they want. They soon get to the core of what they're good at and we try to encourage them along those lines. Eventually what happens is that they are broken down into crew groups. I break them into groups of eight for television and four for film. When they are in groups of four they can do four productions, rotating as director, lighting cameraman, camera operator and sound recordist.

They can co-op other people into their group, if they wish, but they must stay in the group and move around in it, so that they get used to each other. They may fall out; they may not like each other; they may ask if they may go together into a different group and reform themselves, which they sometimes do, but we are essentially training people in a professional capacity, so we use the basis of the school as if it were a production center. …

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