Tag Archives: Yarram

Movie magic

I love the movies. Even a stint as a movie reviewer, where I sometimes watched three films a day, couldn’t dull my appetite for the big screen.

Thinking back, this filmic fascination probably has its roots in my childhood in small rural Victorian towns. My memory of Yarram, where my family lived for eight years, is that there was a theatre in the main street that rarely screened movies – with one exception.

I can remember seeing a film called Lost in The Bush with my school. As the title suggests, it was about three children who wander off and get lost. The make-up artist must have been skilful as I can still see the children’s faces as they became sunburnt, starving and dehydrated. I suspect it didn’t have a happy ending as it gave me nightmares. If it was intended to educate us about not straying too far from responsible adults it worked. For a few years, anyway.

I also have vivid memories of long, carsickness-inducing drives to the Leongatha drive-in to see films such as Bedknobs & Broomsticks, The Sound of Music and Storm Boy. The latter, based on the book by Colin Thiele, probably rendered me a blubbering mess, sobbing all the way home.

Years later, Dad took my brother and I to a city drive-in to see Star Wars. It rained and we had to put the windscreen wipers on but we still loved every second.

The first film I saw without a parent present was sword and sorcery flick The Beastmaster – memorable to an adolescent mainly because of the minimalist costumes worn by former Charlie’s Angel Tanya Roberts. That was followed by titles such as Monty Python’s Meaning of Life and, after winning tickets from radio station 3BO, Flashdance.

I was still a teenager when I made my first attempt at writing Game as Ned. My approach then was to mentally cast Aussie actors as the characters, trying to picture how they might speak and act in the scenes playing out before an audience of one. Needless to say, I cast Bill Hunter and Bruce Spence, because they seemed to be a prerequisite of every Australian film. Colin Friels was the original Mick (in my mind). I even flirted with Kylie Minogue as Erin, for a while.

The idea of my stories finding their way onto cinema screens was and remains a massive incentive to keep writing.

In recent years I’ve had enquiries from filmmakers about both Game as Ned and Five Parts Dead but nothing has eventuated so far. I’m not entirely surprised. A title character that doesn’t speak, and a tangled mystery with dual timelines, would present any director with significant creative challenges.

Maybe the next yarn will be the right one for translating to a screenplay.

I began this post thinking about book-to-film adaptations I watched over the Christmas period. I was VERY excited by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson collaborating on Tintin and dragged the kids to see the movie at the first possible opportunity.

I appreciated the opening homage to Tintin author Herge and the titbits left for Tintin buffs throughout the film. The action scenes were good fun and the 3D was decent. I walked away slightly saddened, though. I can’t say if that’s down to my favourite part of the Unicorn story being left for a sequel – or the magic not measuring up to the moment when my eyes first feasted on a Tintin graphic novel in a public library. To this Tintin fan, the books are still better.

I hadn’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret prior to seeing the film, so there was no chance of disappointment in the Scorsese adaptation. The book is now on my bedside table because Hugo, the film, was magnificent. (The Little Dragon, who says the book is, “the best I’ve read that isn’t part of a series”, tells me the film tied for honours.)

As a 3D spectacle Hugo is the only thing I’ve seen to rival or equal Avatar. As a story, it spoke to me on too many levels to mention. I adored it.

Coming out of the cinema, I heard a fellow patron say, “It clearly wasn’t a movie for children and the opening was oh so dull.” Part of me wanted to interject and explain that Hugo is based on an award-winning children’s book and my kids loved it and the opening scene was one of the most beautiful sequences you’ll ever see and… Why bother?

I held my tongue. The movie’s magic was and is still alive in me. I wasn’t going to let anyone spoil it.

Book signing in Bendigo

If you’re reading this and you’re anywhere near Central Victoria, or in the mood for a road trip, I’m heading up the Calder Highway to Dymocks in Bendigo to sign copies of Five Parts Dead on Saturday the 13th of November.

I lived in Bendigo for six years, aged 10 through 16. Big years, those. Important.

Maybe that’s why Bendigo still feels like home whenever I visit. I’ll never forget:

– Seeing the cathedral for the first time, whoa-ing at the size of it and loving the story that the priests dug up gold in their backyard, enabling them to them to fund completion of the spires.

– A little house in Golden Square with a carved sandstone lion rampant on the front wall. I think this property spells Arrival to me, as I spotted it at the end of an interminable drive from our previous home. To set the scene, we’re in a groaning Peugeot 504 chock-a-block with five of us, Thumper the rabbit and assorted toys my sister couldn’t be parted from. We were towing a trailer loaded with pot-plants and Thumper’s hutch. The removalists were late arriving in Yarram and even later departing. Dad drove through the night, stopping only once to caffeinate and I suspect he and I were the only ones who didn’t sleep. When I saw the house with the lion I knew I had an answer to, “Are we there yet?” Our new home was only minutes away. We tumbled out into a typically golden dawn, found mattresses and went to sleep.

– Seeing one of the teachers at school release the handbrake on his car and then, somehow, fall out of his vehicle. The car rolled down an embankment, across a road and crunched into the rear wall of our assembly hall. (No one was hurt.) My brother and I were about to walk home and witnessed this incident as if it were in slow motion, savouring every second. It was bloody brilliant. We dined out on that yarn for many a recess afterwards.

– Hiking camp at Mittagundi, via Girton, and discovering that my meagre sporting abilities didn’t really matter. In the wilderness, the person who can hit a ball the farthest isn’t necessarily going to flourish. If you’re determined and reasonably robust, that counts a lot more. That was a massive moment for a kid regularly picked last for school sport.

– Telling my parents that I was going for a ride on my bike and then roaming far and wide, exploring creeks, culverts, old mine tailings, apparently vacant buildings and whatever else caught my eye. Suburban kids rarely get to roam like that any more. They get their adventures within virtual universes where all the imagining has been done by coders and there are no grazed knees or climbing trees. Sad.

I digress. Thanks to the generosity of Harry at Dymocks Bendigo, you can swing by and say g’day to me at:

11am on Saturday, November 13 at 1-3 Mitchell St, Bendigo (Right near the famous fountain).

I’ll be signing books and feeling like I’m 16 again.