No corrections yet
MARGARET FINK IS ALIVE AND FILMING
lt has taken me over"
Margaret Fink at work on the set of "The Removalists"
LESS than two years
ago, at certain kinds of parties in Sydney and
Melbourne, and when certain kinds of Aus-
tralians gathered in
London and New York,
the question would be
asked: "Whatever became of Margaret Fink?"
And back would come a
dust\ answer: "She gol
married and settled down."
(jet married she did. 14 vears ago to Leon I-ink. and
had three handsome children named Hannah. John and
Benjamin, and took up cooking so that she could give people the food she
wanted them to have and
herself enjoyed, and started
to manufacture children's clothes because she couldn't buv the kind she wanted in
the shops for her own children, and plaved the piano a bit. and read a lot.
Bul settle down she
didn't. Nor is she likely to.
and if I were asked to name the Australian woman least
likely to settle down until she
turns KM) and bows out to a
congratulatory telegram from whomever is reigning
monarch at the time. 1 would
name Margaret Link.
And if, at those same parties and gatherings, thc question were now to be
asked, it would have to be answered like this: "Margaret I mk is a Ulm producer."
Margaret l ink has just produced her first film. "I he Removalists", scripted h\ David Williamson from his own plav. directed b\ lom Jeffrey, photographed h\ Graham Lind music by The (ialapagos Duck, acting bv kale Fitzpatrick. Jacki Weaver. Peter Cummins, Chris Haywood, Marun Harris and John Hargreaves.
V\ li.il does a him
producer do? A film producer gets together the story, the director, the cast:
decides on locations and studio interiors; hires the
music and the designer and the lighting: and decides what time is to be spent on actual filming and rehearsal.
And. oh ves. the money. The producer finds the money. In this case Margaret, or MFP. which is Margaret Fink Productions, got half ol the necessary $240.000. which isn't much
bv anv but local standards, from the Australian Film
and the other half from
angels, of which her husband
was not one.
lt wasn't, in fact, hard to
get. but when il was needed there was more money about. Lately it has been a
lot more difficult to raise the wind. or the angels.
Margaret sa\s she has
wanted to make films since she was IX.
"B\ 1970 I was really Seriems about making a feature. I was looking around for material, and sitting through everything connect-
ed commercials on
television. pla\s everywhere, advertising films in the cinema documentaries, the lot
"'One night I went to the
Nimrod theatre and saw 'The Removahsls' and it was
love at first sight and sound.
lt took me three years to get the rights, which belonged to
Harp, VI. Miller
"'I admit here that 1 was conservative, cautious, in wanting lo use something
alreadx written. I won't
always be like that.
"I asked David William- son, whom I'd never heard of until that night at the Nimrod, to script the play back to the original, because it had been changed a lot for
the Plavbox and London,
since it was first pul on.
"All this lime I had been
looking for a director and a
cameraman. It's not true that
I said, get me Polanski. That would be too arrogant. I just tried to get him. in a perfectly businesslike way. In
thc same was I tried for Ted Kotcheff, who made 'Wake in Fright'.
"I ran into opposition and difficulties all over thc place,
so in thc end I said. I am
going to damn well do it. and
I did it.
"There are producer's films and director's films..
The producer can be just a name on a film or vet) involved. I am very involved, and everyone understands it. II people don't want to work for an involved producer
Ihev had belier not lake the
job. Next time I may be
billed as co-director." She
savs Uns defiantly, but with a laugh.
"Next time. also. I am
going to have all my interv iews with people taped.
lhere is no doubt I was
being blooded in this film. Thev were going to show me,
before I showed them. Not all of them, of course. But
I'm not a pure fool.
"When people tell me things like. 'Margaret, it looks purple now but il will
come out white.' there is no
was I am going to believe
"What I can't tell actors to do is how to act. 1 don't know how to tell them. 1 can
explain what I want in sets
and costumes, and the kind
of language to be used, but I
can't tell them how to act a scene. That's for the director.
"One thing about me, I
didn't have a lot ol' habits and fixed ideas as ex-
perienced producers would have, and I wasn't up against sexist prejudice. Oh. I'm sure they sometimes called me
that bloods woman, or worse, but it would onl\ he
rationalising, as ihe\ might sa) that bloody Irishman; a hook lo hang something on.
"In a film everyone gets very tense. Each wants to be
thc one without whom thc film can't be made. The film world is full of narcissists
"The) were a good crew but. because I was learning thc uadc as 1 went along, and things came unstuck,
like the clothes, which I did
mysell in the end. about a
"The film world is full of narcissists."
dav before filming started, I was influenced into accept- ing a lot ol stuff I shouldn't ha\e accepted.
"1 react too strongly. I will
have to become harder.
"Ol course. I'm an outsider, a rank outsider. But I know I can communicate. After all. I was a teacher."
I point out thal a lot of teachers can't communicate
That's their biggest trouble or. more correctly, ihe biggest trouble for the children they are supposed to
"Well. I can communi- cate. 1 know it. One of ihe
things I want to do is make a film without people. It will
be about food and there will
be no people in il W hat do you think of that as a test of
communication'.' lhere will
be a tangible absence of people, lt would be fun to acknowledge their absence, like having credits reading "Michael Redgrave.did nol shell these peas. Richard Burton did not carve this joint'. C'ra/v
"Anyway. 1 do expect the next film to be more pleasant, hui that's bv thc way. film making is an obsessive occupation, ll lias
taken me over. I don't see the children as much as I want
to I never read for pleasure onlv. I nev cr plav the piano
"I've learned to get other people to do thc things 1 haven't time lo do properly
I'm alwavs tired and I have been ill three limes. Before I gti to ( annes to show thc film at the I estival 1 have lo go lo a health farm for a rest.
and bm sonic clothes. I have jeans and sweaters. a summer dress, and things to wear at night. Nothing else."
Margaret Fink is a tall,
sometimes beautiful woman,
depending on her mood and
slate of health. She has an
agreeable figure, thick dark hair, very striking grev-green eves and a pale matte skin. She has a delicate profile classical enough to be commanding, if that's her
Her humor is wrv. She sends herself up ever so slightly. When wounded, her expression becomes bleak
She has a confident, clear
voice, with rough edges, and withal a certain genuine grandeur.
In the commercial film world there are onlv a handful ol' women directors
and Margaret Fink is one ol the lew women producers since England's Bctlv box
She is going lo have to light hard lo slav in there making the sort of film she
wants, which "has lo be a world film, not |ust tolerated because it's Australian".
"Another thing. 1 couldn't
make an ockcr film. And I won't make a move until
every word is right 1 don't sec myself making endless "siorv" films, lhere must be more to it than thal."
The telephone rang 12 times while I was sitting with Margaret on the stone sieps of her pencil ll was kindlv answered, so as not to interrupt the interview, hv her co-producer. Richard
Brennan But sooner or iatei
-he would have lo pick ii up herself, because il was never somebodv. as in the old days, just l'or a chat. I he chatting
dav s are over.
The telephone calls were
about thc film, which is
being " tidied up". Thc script
had been sent off to Holland
lo get its French sub-titles Tor the showing at Cannes, and in I urope. The Department ol the Media is sending "I he Removalists". with other
Hims, though there is no
official Australian entrv
Ihe Cannes Festival used to be a lew films and a lol ol
starlets falling out of their
bikinis, bul thal aspect has lapsed since nude starlets can
bc seen on the einem,i screen b\ anyone who has $3 lo sparc.
Margaret I ink's next film
ma\ bc from Miles franklin's book. M\
Brilliant Career'4, then thc next maj be scripted bj Jim ( "Chocolate Frog") McNeil, il he accepts.
"He's new. too." Marga- ret sa\s. "He has no writing habits, just as I have no producer's habits. I realh
want tn work u uh hun
Whs doesn'l a woman
like Margaret l ink who
was once a libertarian girl about Sydney, art teacher in a fashionable private school,
now married to a rich man
and living m a beautiful
house with a collection of
paintings, a nannv for the children and help in the kitchen and gardens just
have a nice hobbv thal won id
give her an "interest", .is thev sav? Such as a boutique where she could emplov a manager as well as injecting
her own selective taste into the stock '
Well, that's the trouble.
Some people just can't be dilettantes. Margaret in
elegant!) describes herseil
,is ci "workaholic."
The I inks' life lus
changed since Margaret went
into the film business
"I've got over the wish to
do everything myself, and I've even got over the guilt of not doing everything myself. Really, I want other people to do the things the\ can do
better than me."
Well. I asked her. whit can \ou do better than anyone else''
"Be me." she said. "Thai's all. Be me."
Margaret Fink in her domestic setting, the breakfast room of her Woollahra home.
Above: Peter Cummins, Kate Fitzpatrick and Jacki Weaver in "The Removalists".
Below: Another scene. John Hargreaves. Martin Harris and Peter Cummins.
Jacki Weaver and Martin Harris in the Margaret Fink film production