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MARGARET FINK IS ALIVE AND FILMING

"Film-making

is an

obsessive

occupation 1

lt has taken me over"

she told

PAMELA HUDSON

PAMELA HUDSON

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

Development Corporation

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

them.

"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

teach

"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

mood.

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

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