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|Our Outback Is A Rich Field For

Film Makers

Seven months ago in Hollywood, Merian . C. Cooper, the co-producer of "Chang", "Grass", "Four Feathers" and other out-of-door pictures, exhorted me to go back home to Australia and get into

the field.

"Don't let them keep you in a studio," he said, "don't be ashamed to keep your subjects before the cameras through the weeks, through the months if need be. Don't be afraid to let that great country of yours become your star."

HPHAT was what I wanted

to hear. The famous script writer, Bess Meredith, backed it up as we lunched with her and husband, -Mike Curtiz out at their Incino Ranch

home. ,

Bess was imported to Australia to write the scripts, for Snowy Baker's Australian films, away

back in 1920.

"You're lucky," she said,' "to have so much untouched material that the world wants to see. But without big studios, you've got to get but and press your country into

work-and when all's said and done that's digging out the character

of a land."

With a hope of doing just that of digging out some of the character of our land-we are moving with

cameras and writing pads to the Northern Territory.

The vastness of Australia has never really been mapped for pic- ture-making.

In the studios of Hollywood, the location departments have the U.S.A. pegged out before them. Great maps of all the large areas throughout the U.S.A. which hold a movie potential, adorn the walls or lie in layer upon layer in the drawers especially built for maps, for the U.S.A. is being sold to the world each month by motion pictures.

There are weather charts, great albums of "location", photographs and large books in alphabetical order, with carefully compiled data, giving detailed and accurate informa .tion to all producers.

The following questions are the kind which a Hollywood producer can find quick answers to: Where can I locate a herd of at least 400


CHAUVEL, co-pro- ducers of "Forty Thousand Horsemen," "Sons of Mat- thew," and other Australian - films, have just gone to the Northern Territory. They are in search of a story for a new picture.

In this article Mr. Chauvel tells why he prefers to do his movie-making in the outback, and describes the start of his latest venture.

head of cattle that I can drive hard or "stampede in photogenic settings -and ,in a dry area where the cameras^ can start turning at seven in the morning in the middle of


Where, and at what time, can 1 shoot extensive snow scenes with the minimum of delay occasioned by snow falls or generally bad weather? At what location can I film a large camel train in a setting to simulate


When the answer comes from the location department, it is accom- panied by complete details as to the accommodation available, the state of the roads, the hours of sunshine available, and the measure of local co-operation to be looked forward


The work is ceaseless. Govern- ments, local authorities, travel bur- eaus, chambers -f commerce, sec- ondary industry boards and boards of trade-all are being circularised, contacted, cajoled for further co- operation and information.

Our costs in Australia are small when compared with those of Eng- land or Hollywood. But they have

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Chauvel gaze with approval at a piece

of one of their films.

risen sharply also, tempting the Australian maker of films to plan quick film production within our

limited studios

This, I believe, can becomu a dan- gerous approach to Australian film pioduction

Instead, I believe we should study Australia more searchingly for rew story m iterial to create wider mar- kets and so offset higher costs with greater returns

We should also move our "exterior" filming as much as pos- sible from the dangerous weather of the eastern seaboard and create new backgrounds for new stones

This means the "pegging down" of wide sections of our continent into terms of background, weather, accessibility to locations, transpoita- tton, the disposition of cattle, sheep and horses, and many other facets of information essential to the sound planning of motion pictures.

But all this "pegging" will be use- less without new story material. There is always a story on the open road in Australia As soon as one's car turns from the few beaten tracks, Australia's life comes up like the 'lump Up" creeks

Our story baptism on this trip outwards carne early as we set out by car in the "wet" to motor from Sydney to Brisbane and then to catch our plane to Darwin The Hunter River was obliterating all road access to the northern State

I wanted to take in the "wet" as our first story record, and we were soon one of four cars to get through to Brisbane that week end

We were detoured, and delayed, and sent back, and pulled out, and "rafted" on lorries At every turn the "Australian spirit" was, upper- most, over hundreds of miles, as people fought to save their stock, helped their mates m trouble, and at times almost seemed to enjoy the struggle to beat the waters

One man about 60 years of age and bare to the waist and above his knees in water, was carryirig a heavy sheep in his arms. He had

carried it for three miles

"Where yer goin'?" he asked us, still clinging to his sheep

"To Darwin," I said

"Cnpes," he said, 'yer' goin' in the wrong direction, aren't yer? And the next creek will get in between you an' Darwin, if yer don't hurry up"

Then he asked for a cigarette When we produced one, he said "Well, light it an' shove it in my mouth, will yer?-I can't drop this old-" (alluding to his sheep)

We did as requested, and, with a "good on yer, mate" from the old shepherd, we left him to try and beat the creek before it got between us and Darwin

At the next creek, somewhere in the hills north of Singleton, on a wide deviation, we found a "back in the hills" cattleman He said he had just come through, and if we hun led we could make it, too

"I he previous day he had to cross at this creek and a sudden rush

of water had started to sweep him and his car downstream

He had a rope in his car, so in the midst of rushing waters, as he was being swirled about with hij car, he tied one end of a rope to his bumper bar and the other to a gumtree Then he sat in his car riding out the flood until the cloud- burst eased and the creek fell.

At the . Condamine River in Queensland trucks were ferrying the cars over the bridge, which was under water, while carcases of sheep and pigs and hundreds of snakes

swept down the stream. " '

That was yesterday. To-day, as *"' I write this, I look down over the '. great dry land of the far western ".' billabongs from a plane fittingly "? named "Landsborough" after the Queensland explorer.

An hour or so back on our flight ,,r we passed over the Upper Barcoo,'-", where as a lad I helped move 10,000

starving sheep to the spinifex country -

and relief.

City people could never imagine

the agony and squaior of that drove ^,. -the pall of Oust we lived in-. "" the fading away of the mob, a . hundred dead every morning, and the crows coming in to feast as we left smouldering, woolly funeral pyres at dawn each morning.

Yes, there are stories down there on the wide plains.

I can almost hear the din in my ears. "Don't give us the bush

don't give us gum trees-don't give '" us pioneers. Why not give us pic-

tures about our ckies?"

But have we ever recorded much of the history and the greatness of

this continent? No one picture can " achieve it-only one facet at a time can be pictured.

The screen story of Australia can

only come together for the world - as one would work on a picture , in blocks, each block a separate ' motion picture, each block helping in its turn to tell the story of our country.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
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