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  • Demonstrator: Filmmaker Notes

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    Posted on: 08/05/2008

    By Warwick Freeman 

    Demonstrator was a logical step for Freeman Fishburn Productions. We were experienced television and stage producers and directors, having driven the innovative and popular shows of the time - Mavis BrampstonBandstandJacques Brel etc etc. I had moved into movies with the Goldsworthy features... it was time to direct an Australian feature. We were certainly ahead of the game... Demonstrator was 1971, the Australian Film Commission was not formed until 1973 and after that came Picnic and Mad Max and Caddie and ...funding.  In hindsight, we should have waited! 

    Thirty five years later and an audience of distinguished film fanatics is about to again dismember the somewhat naïve attempts at international movie making. I do hope that the ladies have worn their hot pants and that gents have donned their flared pants and perhaps the odd hacking jacket. The time warp has to be taken into account. 

    How Demonstrator began: 
    Freeman Fishburn, the producers (Warwick Freeman and Jim Fishburn), were approached by David Brice, then a newsreader with CTC7 in Canberra. David had optioned a book by Don and Elizabeth Campbell and came armed with a trio of ACT Solicitors who would raise funding. Act One (The Fund) was formed and FFI (Freeman Fishburn International) was commissioned to make Demonstrator.

    Why Freeman and Fishburn? After so many years as Producer Director of the Nine Networks Bandstand and so many specials and programs for that network,  I accepted a gig with Reg Goldsworthy (radio actor and advertising exec) as Head of Production  for Goldsworthy Productions. Not many film aficionados know of the Goldsworthy input to Australia's film making fortunes, but we made three features, all Aussie with an American Director, Eddie Davis. Nice guy and he taught us all a lot about the rudiments of production. We'd done a deal with an US company CUC to release the pics and provide a negative pickup, so the financing was local (an insurance and finance company wooed by Reg G). All crew and cast was local except for the acting leads. The pictures were It takes all KindsColour me Dead and Girl from Peking. We went on to help with Squeeze a Flower and Sidecar Racers. I mention this because the Goldsworthy period was rather formative in the early period...and the pictures were not all that bad, but not recognised, for no apparent reason, as Australian. 

    Demonstrator started. Jim Fishburn had worked for me on casting for Goldsworthys - the highly regarded theatre producer and Mavis Brampston producer relished the challenge of real movie making. Old friend and mate Kit Denton was the logical choice to write the screenplay, so on board he came. Kit also worked as Production Manager and as a military and discipline enthusiast it was a very interesting role for him. At least the crew thought so.   

    Kenneth Tsang was the only import actor ...from Hong Kong. 

    Six week shoot. Three in Canberra. Three in Sydney - locations and studio (the old Eric Porter Film Academy at North Sydney).  

    A surprise! Each evening after shooting I was embraced by the solicitors representing Act One the financiers (arm around the shoulder), and asked to dine with local business people. It was not until after a few of these dinners that I realised that I (as director) was the catalyst for ongoing funding. They didn't have all the money. So each night I'd leave Tony Buckley to cut and I'd go and regale housewives and shopkeepers with behind the scenes tales of glamorous actors and other movie-making lore. We finished it on budget, or under, and on time. But the relationship with Act One became strained.

    What was I directing? A great story? Actors? The performances? A drama of the times? I don't really remember. We were all new to it and the job was functional. Get it shot, in the can, and make it audience friendly. I do remember ensuring that all the screen requirements for movies of the day were intact. The car chase, the sex scene, the nudity ...and of course the music themes (the song).

    Bob Beetles Young wrote a good score and two really good songs. You'll find them in there somewhere, and over the closing titles. They did not move up the hit parade. We were naive. The approach to enticing great performances from actors, or the passionate need to tell an important story was not an underlying rationale. None of the parameters of current day movie-making prevailed. I don't really remember the driving force except for that of the Aussie film industry's need for a serious contemporary picture... we tried for that.

    But Demonstrator did add to the quest for local product. As did the Goldsworthy catalogue, Squeeze a Flower and others of that tremulous period.  

    A matter of concern for movie-making of the early Seventies was the sound track - the mix. We had not really taken command of that part of post production in Australia. So we decided to go overseas to Glenn Glen sound in LA. After four days we had experienced a true Hollywood ride. On the mixing stage for Hello DollyMidnight Cowboy and Patton, and with the engineers from Robert Wise' team, at 4am on February 9, 1971, we wrapped the sound track. Bob Young, Musical Director, Ron Purvis, Sound Engineer from United in Sydney, and me walked via a few bars to our hotel on Sunset Strip, eventually getting into bed ready for a long sleep at 5.55 am. Six minutes later the San Fernando Valley and my team shook to one of the most devastating earthquakes in Californian history. We were ejected from bed by 7.2 on the Richter scale. Demonstrator was launched. We all wondered what the hell we'd been drinking.

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