My most exciting and exotic career moments have come from the 6 films I have worked on with writer/director Rolf de Heer, and Charlie’s Country was never going to be anything different. Our tiny crew, plus lead actor David Gulpilil, boarded a light plane in Darwin and took off for 6 weeks in the remote Aboriginal community of Ramingining, in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory. Accommodation was scarce so actors and crew lived and ate together in the community guest house. We commuted around in an assortment of battered four wheel drives, salvaged and maintained by our busy crew mechanic.
Everyone had taken on extra tasks to keep crew numbers down; I was there to do the stills and behind the scenes video as well as shoot a separate documentary about the community itself. This project had me teaming up with, Molly Reynolds, whose documentaries and on line components for the film 10 Canoes, http://www.12canoes.com.au/ , had won her international awards and acclaim. Our daily adventures often started in the town park, we’d meet locals and follow stories, happy to provide a taxi service for anyone who asked as we explored the community and landscape, infested with massive crocodiles.
As a keen weaver, I could not have found a more inspiring place to spend a block of time. Basketry and weaving were deeply intertwined with the lives the Yolngu people, techniques and traditions dating back 60,000 years. They weaved predominately with leaves from abundant Pandanas trees, stripped, dried and dyed with vibrant pigments sourced from the local bush. Very soon after my arrival I organised to sit with master weaver Mary Dhapalany, twin sister of our lead actor David Gulpilill. She got me started on a dilly bag using a very intricate technique that would keep me busy for weeks. I was privileged also to sit with actress and artist Francis Jubiling, learning a variety of other traditional weaving techniques as well as string making from the bark of the Boab tree.
When Charlie’s Country wrapped in Darwin it marked the end of an intense period of film stills work, 4 films back to back, all of them away, so I was very ready to get back to my special people in my home town. In Adelaide the local film industry was still as busy as I had ever seen it and I immediately started casual work on the television show Sam Fox : Extreme Adventures. I have done very little television stills work, it requires a different style of photography and the fast pace in which they shoot TV makes getting any shots at all a challenge in itself. The Sam Fox crew was made up of all my old friends, people I had worked with for decades, and the young lead actors were fantastic. A committed lunch time hacky sack crew was soon established, turning a good job into a great one.
Its great to be home and have some time to do other things than just work. My girlfriend Ky and I completed our first collaboration, a book called Endangered Community. The fight against an aggressive eviction by local council still goes on for the permanent Residents of the Brighton Caravan Park, as this close and delicate community try to save their homes. We are really proud of our little book and it was great to meet and work with this lovely community, they certainly appreciated our support and creating this record of their threatened lifestyle.
I also launched my basket weaving label, basketboy, this month. Still as obsessed as ever with weaving I keep myself busy working away at a series of small baskets using natural materials sourced from the western suburbs of Adelaide.
The stills photography community mourned the loss of a colleague, John Bramley last month. An outstanding talent, John came from New Zealand and made it to the very top of the stills game, living in California and notching up an impressive list of film credits over two decades including the Spiderman trilogy and the Twilight films. Johns accidental death on location in India brought home to all of us the dangers associated with travel and working long hours, and the importance of spending time with our loved ones.