FILM MAKER -
I am more than pleased today to welcome and interview one of Australia's most decorated film makers. Prior to this interview, I rang Bill and had a good chat. He most certainly is down to earth, modest and interesting. Now, judge for yourself.
Welcome, Bill ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR FILM-MAKING JOURNEY.
I am now an experienced and award winning film maker with screen credits going back to the 1980's. Including several telemovies (Movies of the Week and Tele-Features – same thing), a cinema feature and hundreds of hours of television drama behind me I feel that my journey is now at a turning point where I want to slow down a bit and pass on bits and pieces of my knowledge and experiences to willing students.
WERE YOU INTERESTED IN FILMS AS A KID?
I absolutely loved the Saturday matinee session at the local cinema. I don't think I missed a Saturday afternoon for years on end. We had comedy cartoons, brief news bulletins and heaps of serials. Mostly cowboys and Indians and Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman et al.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A PRODUCER/DIRECTOR?
I think I actually began this career as a performer for children's parties. I could prepare a story (now a script), manipulate hand puppets (now camera block the action) and perform the play from behind a curtain (now produce and direct). I actually progressed through the industry from being a stage hand at the Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne to a stage hand at GTV9 in Richmond to a music editor and soundmixer at Crawford Productions working on "Homicide". After several years at Crawfords I was promoted to Assistant Producer of "Homicide" and then Director of "The Sullivans". Then I moved to Sydney to be a freelancer directing kids shows and my career took off. Living in Sydney my first big job was of course in Melbourne. Producing "Phoenix" for the ABC. Credit list sort of tells the rest of the story.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I enjoy the people I work with. The collective nature of the creation of a film or mini series or TV series. Every shot, every situation, every drama moment is different and a new experience to live through and capture on the screen. I also enjoy the whole process of travelling with an idea in a brain through the myriad steps of a story on a screen. I've been able to dabble in most of the steps along the way and each one is a joy.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A PRODUCER/DIRECTOR?
The absolute hardest thing about Producing is raising the money to launch a show. Convincing the business hard heads that the idea will work and that the audience will believe the smoke and mirrors when they reveal a great drama.
Directing is only hard when the hours mount up and tiredness sets in. There is a great strain on the brain when as a Director, you answer hundreds of questions each day and every answer has to be a good one and for benefit of the final product.
DO YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, OTHERS OR BOTH?
I work as a freelancer and in that sense I work for myself but at the same time I take on projects that others have initiated. The others may need an experienced Producer or Director and contract me to make their dream come true. Sometimes an Executive Producer or sometimes a Network or Broadcaster, occasionally a writer.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME INVOLVED IN MAKING FILMS?
I was a young man who loved photography, music, people and stories. I made my first film on super 8 and it was a travel-log of Melbourne which ran for 3 minutes. I was about 14yrs old.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT?
Too hard to answer! I have a son, Justin, who is quite an achievement as he in turn has produced a grandson, Max. There we are …. 2 great achievements.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Right now I am Directing "Home & Away" while trying to raise money for a family genre feature film called "T-Bird and the Island of Lost Cats".
Also running mentorships for up and coming film makers …. Cut to the Chase Film Course.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECT?
Spy stories from any era.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Beautifully crafted drama. Most recently on streaming TV - "A Handmaid's Tale"
WHAT DO YOU PREFER TO FILM?
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR EMERGING PRODUCER/DIRECTORS?
Learn all the rules first …. Then do your best to break them.
WHAT IS THE MOST EXOTIC DESTINATION IN WHICH YOU HAVE WORKED?
In the late eighties I Directed the family genre TV Series "Butterfly Island" which meant spending 6 months in the Whitsunday Passage. Sunshine all day, boats to the Island locations, fresh fish on the way home, Resort accommodation. Exotic by anyone's standards.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE OR TIME TO FILM?
It's always great to have afternoon light on water. One of the attractions of Home & Away is the location shoots at Palm Beach, NSW. We shoot on the eastern surf beach in the morning and the western beaches of Pittwater in the afternoons. Great days at the office!
DO YOU PRODUCE DOCUMENTARIES, FEATURE FILMS OR ANYTHING THAT COMES ALONG?
I have directed documentaries in the past and have produced features for cinema and TV but my favourite genre is good drama for TV. I don't produce or direct anything that comes along. There has to be a connection and a story worth telling.
HAVE YOU MADE COMMERCIALS AND VIDEO CLIPS?
No commercials but I did make some video clips in the early days of music video clips. Sebastian Hardy, Jon English, John Farnham, Doug Parkinson.
HAVE YOU MADE UNDERWATER FILMS?
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
I think when a viewer wrote to me with the statement "That is the best TV I've ever seen". It was in relation to a series I produced for the ABC titled "Changi".
DON’T BE SHY. TELL US ABOUT YOUR AWARDS.
Various Logies, AFI (Australian Film Institute), New York Festival Awards. Shared in various script awards, actor's awards, music and series awards.
WHAT DID THESE AWARDS MEAN TO YOU?
At the time of the receipt of an award it meant everything. You felt that the work and dedication poured into the product was "worth it". Some years down the track the feeling fades to a distant, dull glow. It's a case of who cares – that was the past and it was good then. So I suppose what I'm saying is that Awards are very much of the moment and are a great boost to the ego at the time. They also propel career choices.
DESCRIBE THE FUNNIEST MOMENT YOU EXPERIENCED IN YOUR WORK?
Imagine we are in the Whitsundays, on a big powerboat with the cast at helm. Myself, the DOP, sound person and continuity girl all at the rear balanced on the transom. The lead actor is to gradually ease the boat forward on Action. I call Action! and the actor thumps the throttle hard forward and the boat virtually stands on its tail. The four of us at the rear backflip into the sea carrying all the camera and sound gear with us. No one was hurt and in retrospect .. Very funny.
We then had a training session for the actor re boating procedure and shot a take 2.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
I once directed a magazine type TV show titled "Sky High" and was told by a network heavyweight that it was the worst TV he'd ever seen. He didn't last long in the industry.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU AS A DIRECTOR?
Constantly. My relationships, my personal experiences, my lifestyles all contribute to my understanding and my interpretation of drama.
OTHER THAN MAKING FILMS, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love spending time making multimedia art works. Complex projects but very satisfying. Briefly what I do is:
Take a stylistic photo. Print it.
Deconstruct the print with a knife, sandpaper, glue and water.
Rephotograph the deconstructed image using a different light source. Shadows and shapes.
Deconstruct again. Rephotograph and start adding paint, glitter and more glue and water.
Photograph again and then print on aluminium or Perspex.
The result is an abstract art piece and I love to find meaning and form in the final image.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
It's summer, I slip on shorts and thongs and head for the water. Early swim and body surf followed by a coffee and banana bread. Then a day's filming or a day spent making my multimedia art piece. Simple things that amuse and involve me in creativity.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Although I have done it once before (10 years spent in Bellingen on an organic farm 1989 thru 2000)
I would like to take a tree change and spend time without reference to a daily call sheet.
The call sheet is like a reference for a day's shoot. Start around 6am, finish around 7pm.
IF YOU MADE A FILM FOR THE LEADERS OF THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
It would be like my early short film titled "Glimpses of the New Age" made in the 1970's. It portrayed a life of self sufficiency, solar power and positive community spirit as imagined then by the hippies in and around Nimbin, NSW. The updated version would be totally different but would carry the same essential message. "Hey you leaders, get your act together and start leading us towards a peaceful, productive, sharing world where love and charity takes precedence over greed and avarice.”
ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Thanks for the blog Clancy. Here are some links to my work.
Logie Award 2002CHANGI
Most Outstanding Mini Series
New York Television Festival 2001Silver Medal – Best Episode of a Mini Series
“CHANGI” Episode One – “Seeing is Believing”
Australian Film Institute Award 1998THE INTERVIEW
Logie Award 1994JANUS
Most Outstanding Achievement in Drama Production
Logie Award 1993PHOENIX
Most Outstanding Drama.
AFI Award 1993Best Episode of a TV Drama
PHOENIX – Ep 12 – “Under Siege”
Logie Award 1992PHOENIX
Most Outstanding Series.
AFI Award 1992Best Episode of a TV Series
PHOENIX – Ep 13 “Hard Ball”
New York Television Festival 1991Bronze Medal
Best International Mini Series – “JACKAROO”
Logie Award 1991JACKAROO
Most Popular Mini Series.
Film Critics Circle of AustraliaTHE INTERVIEW
Best Original Screenplay
Best Original Music
Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Bill. It's been a pleasure ... And so interesting. I would highly suggest that any budding film makers contact Bill and attend his course. Doubt you'd find a better mentor.
Love ya work!