Top 50 Australian independent film heroes
OK, we have the indie filmmakers themselves, struggling away with their visions, to realise them and then get them screened and appreciated somehow.
In the midst of all this, always, there exist those individuals separate to the filmmakers, who believe in "film culture" and work tirelessly to highlight the artists they believe are worthy.
Since indie film started in Australia, roughly in the mid-1950s, there have been various such "heroes", who have put focus on these indie artists.
They have done this in a number of ways - forming co-operatives, organising screenings, starting magazines, running radio shows, lobbying funding bodies, teaching at film schools.
I now offer a list of such people, in rough order of impact or importance, as even these people themselves deserve some recognition!
Apologies if I've missed anyone significant.
If so, please let me know.
This list was first compiled in March 2014, and has now been updated, in March 2020 (entries marked NEW).
Bill Mousoulis, March 2020
Top 50 Australian independent film heroes (1954 - 2020)
Arthur and Corinne Cantrill
1. Arthur and Corinne Cantrill
Founders and constant editors of the magazine Cantrills Filmnotes, which was active roughly from 1970 to 2000. This magazine gave every committed independent filmmaker in Australia the opportunity to write about their work, and the texts were always adorned with beautiful stills. The magazine now stands as an incredible archive.
2. Nigel Buesst
Mr. Independent Film of the '80s and '90s, with his production of the book "Filmmakers' Resource Book", his editing suites that welcomed indie filmmakers, and his directorship of the St.Kilda Film Festival (before it became all glitzy and silly).
3. Dirk de Bruyn
The ultimate filmmaker cum curator and spokesperson for indie/experimental film. In the '80s especially he would be organising screenings for the Fringe Network, and then involved with other groups (like MIMA) in the '90s and beyond.
Dirk de Bruyn
4. Albie Thoms and David Perry
Two of the main founders of the UBU Film Group in Sydney in the mid-'60s, which brought experimental film work to large groups of cinemagoers and also distribution of films on 16mm (this arm morphed into the Sydney Filmmakers' Cooperative in the early '70s).
5. Bill Mousoulis
Founder of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group in 1985, which lasted 15 years with many screenings and publications, and founder of the Melbourne Indie Film website in 2003. Active programmer of indie films currently.
6. Chris Luscri NEW
A youngster, on the scene since only 2010 or so, Luscri stands currently as Australian indie cinema's great hope for the future. Programmer (Unknown Pleasures / Artist Film Workshop), scholar and commentator, he has a great vision for all of Australian cinema.
7. Richard Wolstencroft
A controversial figure, Wolstencroft now has the runs on the board, no matter how you look at it. 20 years of running the Melbourne Underground Film Festival attests to that. And he's been proven right - the Melbourne International Film Festival continues, year after year, to ignore true Oz indie cinema.
editor Tina Kaufman
8. Tina Kaufman
Legendary editor of the Sydney film magazine Filmnews, which during the '80s especially would have a plethora of articles on indie films, including Super 8 ones.
9. Mike Retter NEW
The main driving force of indie cinema in Adelaide in the 2010s: programmer, YouTube publisher of interviews with indie filmmakers, zine editor, and great advocate of doing things the indie and iconoclastic way.
10. Adrian Martin
Mainly a film critic for cinema in a broader sense, Martin has always been a champion of indie film, from the very beginning of his writing work, in 1980, to the present day.
11. Steven Ball
In Australia (from England) for only 10 years or so, from 1988, but an important driving force of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group in the early '90s, and for experimental film in general (with his writings and programming) in the mid to late '90s.
12. John Cumming
Teacher at Rusden/Deakin who has always been a spokesperson for indie cinema (involving himself in conferences, etc.), and a filmmaker in his own right.
13. Martha Ansara / Margot Nash / Gillian Leahy
Three great Sydney figures who helped both the women's and indie film scenes of Sydney along in the '70s and '80s, and who are all still active today.
14. Graeme Cutts
Spoken of in reverential terms by many independent filmmakers such as Marcus Bergner, Anna Kannava, etc, he was like a guru in the late '70s / early '80s at Rusden.
15. John Flaus
Probably Australia's ultimate cinephile icon, Flaus always welcomed independent filmmakers onto his show on 3RRR called "Film Buff's Forecast" in the '80s and '90s.
16. John Cruthers
Producer in Sydney who in the '90s always looked to work with indie directors, helping them realise their projects. He produced the 1st features of Brian McKenzie, Anna Kannava, Ian Pringle.
17. Giorgio Mangiamele
Practically, Mangiamele didn't really do anything for the indie film scene of Australia when he was around, but that's only because there wasn't any indie film scene back then. He stands as an important figure because he was utterly alone (a migrant from Italy in the early '50s) when he was making his films in the '50s and '60s. An indie film icon.
18. Bert Deling
Active member of the Melbourne Uni Film Society in the '60s, he will forever stand as an icon of indie cinema for his incendiary feature Pure Shit in 1975.
19. Mark Titmarsh
One of the driving forces behind the Sydney Super 8 Film Group in the mid '80s (along with Michael Hutak, Gary Warner, Virginia Hilyard and others).
20. Peter Tammer
Involved with the Melbourne Filmmakers' Co-op in the early '70s, Peter went on to become an inspirational film school teacher at Swinburne/VCA in the '80s and '90s, always pushing the students to be brave and individual.
21. Philip Brophy
Mult-media artist extraordinnaire, Brophy has been a teacher, filmmaker, critic, and acutely been aware of the role of sound in film. He stands as an individual and the ultimate cyber-prince of Australian media culture.
22. Jon Hewitt
Advocate and maker of very low budget feature films in the '90s, Hewitt would always be trying to talk the funding bodies into funding films at lower levels than normal.
23. Jake Wilson
A film reviewer for The Age since the '00s, Wilson has always been interested in indie cinema, and, when he can, he gives space to it in his writings.
24. Amiel Courtin-Wilson NEW
Australia's one true art auteur / indie cinema icon currently, since 2010 or so, he is an inspiration to many younger indie filmmakers, working quietly behind-the-scenes to foster people and ideas, and unite crew members on indie films.
25. Sarah Johnson and Matthew Rees
Two of the main people at the forefront of the formation and running of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group in the mid to late '80s.
Organiser of The Back Door warehouse experimental film screenings in the late '00s, and the Australian International Experimental Film Festival in the '10s.
27. Chris Knowles
A great figure on the indie film scene in the '80s and '90s, starting the RMIT Super 8 Club in the early '80s (which morphed into the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group), and then spending time teaching in the '90s and '00s.
28. Peter Krausz NEW
Enthusiastic and knowledgable radio show host, who is always welcoming to indie filmmakers on his show, for over 20 years now.
29. Peter Tapp
Editor of the magazine Filmviews, which in the '80s and '90s would devote many pages to indie cinema, including reviewing Super 8 films. The magazine morphed into Metro.
30. Claire Dobbin and Sue Brooks
Two of the more sympathetic people within the Australian Film Commission in the '80s and '90s who would try to fund more independent type / experimental work.
31. Barrett Hodsdon
Academic who was always interested in indie cinema, in a deep research of it, as is evidenced by his book Straight Roads and Crossed Lines.
32. Tom Vogel
One of the new generation of indie film screening organisers, Vogel has been presenting nights of short films under the moniker "West Side Shorts" and the "Angry Film Festival", since mid '00s.
33. Paul Harris
Harris continued 3RRR's radio show "Film Buff's Forecast" when John Flaus left it, and continued to feature indie filmmakers, and he then also started directing the St.Kilda Film Festival in the '00s.
34. Tony Woods and Rad Rudd
Two of the members of the Moving Image Coalition (born from the ashes of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group) who would be active in setting screenings up, in early '00s.
35. Kriszta Doczy
At a time when no-one else is doing it, Doczy's company Artfilms is currently releasing many compilations of experimental films on DVD, an admirable endeavour.
36. Philippa Hawker
A film reviewer for The Age since the '90s, Hawker has occasionally given space to indie films and filmmakers in her columns and writings.
37. Ivan Malekin
One of the more recent generation of indie film screening organisers, Malekin ran the "Made in Melbourne" film festival, and monthly screenings of indie film shorts ("Short Cut"), from late '00s to mid '10s, roughly.
38. Stephen Goddard
Teacher at Deakin particularly interested in the video essay form, and taught film students how to look closely at their work and be responsible for it.
39. Scott Murray
Founders of the magazine Cinema Papers in the early '70s, Murray's editorship of the magazine in the late '80s / early '90s included many pieces on indie films.
40. Richard Tuohy
Director of Nano Lab, which processes Super 8, Tuohy has also presented films and workshops thru the group "Artist Film Workshop", who have been very active in the '10s.
41. Nicholas Godfrey NEW
Younger academic, based at Flinders University in Adelaide, he is a champion of indie film, and an important figure at the moment, writing on indie films, and encouraging the production students at Flinders.
42. Ken Berryman
Long-standing figure at the National Film & Sound Archive, a body that tries to preserve indie film work alongside the more mainstream work.
43. Anthony Frajman NEW
Young journalist, with FilmInk, but also elsewhere, who has actively been writing stories on indie filmmakers in the late '10s. A welcome addition to the scene currently.
44. Peter Mudie
Book publisher in Perth who must be applauded for publishing the sensational UBU book, and also Barrett Hodsdon's Straight Roads and Crossed Lines (a study of indie cinema).
45. Jim Stamatakos
The organiser of just the one night per year of short films, but "Electric Shorts" has been a great night each year since 2002, Stamatakos featuring only self-funded films.
46. David Heslin NEW
Millennial generation of indie film supporters, Heslin has been an enthusiastic supporter of the scene in the late 2010s, via his editorship at Senses of Cinema and Metro.
47. Gawain McLachlan
Organiser of the newsletter and messageboard "Filmnet" in the '90s and '00s, which many indie filmmakers relied on to cast and crew their productions.
48. Stefan Popescu
Filmmaker in Sydney who is the driving force behind the Sydney Underground Film Festival, active for about 15 years now.
49. Ivan Gaal NEW
Hungarian refugee in the late 1950s, Gaal became a prolific filmmaker of educational films, but was also involved with orgranisations such as the Melb Film Co-op, Metro Magazine, and ATOM, and encourages younger filmmakers to this day, with his presence at many screenings.
50. John Conomos
Sydney academic (and video artist) always interested in the endeavours of indie filmmakers (especially migrant ones).
A fiery observer and analyst of experimental film in the '80s and '90s, and also the organiser of indie film screenings under the banner of "Cine Bohemio" in the late '80s/early '90s.
Tireless advocate for all amateur gauges like 8mm, Super 8, 9.5mm, Bourke keeps the "Moving Image Coalition" (which sprung from the demise of the Melbourne Super 8 Film Group) flame going with various screenings and film services.
Researcher and writer interested in Australian independent cinema, has written on Giorgio Mangiamele and others, and also programmed indie films for the Melbourne Cinematheque and elsewhere in the '90s and '00s.
Gregory Pakis' Guerilla Film Night
One of the main people involved with Other Film, a Brisbane-based group devoted to experimental cinema.
Filmmaker in the '00s who is now in the '10s putting on his own film nights, of self-funded indie features, under the banner "Guerilla Film Night".
Co-curator of the Melbourne Cinematheque since the early 1990s (helmed since the mid-1970s by Michael Koller), he has regularly programmed some Oz indie film work for CTEQ over the past 15 years, and he has also written about many indie works . As co-editor of Senses of Cinema he also commissioned writings for CTEQ Annotations on Film and various special dossiers on Australian cinema (including a whole issue devoted to John Flaus)..
Maximilian Le Cain
An Irish film critic who deserves to be listed in here, as he has written some beautiful critiques of Oz indie filmmakers such as Bill Mousoulis and Saidin Salkic.
Fiona Villella / Rolando Caputo / Scott Murray
The online film journal Senses of Cinema, since its inception in 1999, has featured numerous pieces on Australian indie films. Villella, Caputo and Murray have been three of the editors over the years - there have been others too, like Adrian Danks and Michelle Carey, and David Heslin currently, who have helped feature indie work.
Dogmilk team NEW
Exciting group of young Melbourne filmmakers in late 2010s, active as programmers of Australian films at small venues.
David King NEW
Programmer of an experimental film program each year in the late '10s, featuring Australian works, and great supporter of indie cinema through the years, as a journalist.
Dick Dale NEW
Punky Adelaide programmer of a trash program each year in the '10s, featuring Australian works.
Jack Sargeant NEW
Adventurous programmer of indie films for the Revelation Film Festival, and spruiker for "transgressive cinema" through the years.
Melinda O'Connor NEW
Has run a film show on 3CR for over 20 years, and has always welcomed indie filmmakers onto the show.
Andrew F. Peirce / Matthew Eeles / David Griffiths NEW
Currently, they run, respectively, the Curb website, Cinema Australia website, and Heavy Cinema website, sometimes promoting Australian indie film.
Charlie Freedman NEW
Runs the Loop Bar in Melbourne city and sometimes programs indie films.
David Black NEW
Enthusiastic supporter of indie short films in the late 2010s, at screenings and on social media.
James Hewison NEW
The former MIFF director has spent a lot of time in recent years (and in the past) supporting and nurturing certain indie filmmakers and indie endeavours, beyond his official capacity in the various film positions he has held.
Bill Mousoulis, March 2014 and updated March 2020
RESPONSE FROM PETER HOWARD, MAY 2015 -
Just found your list on the internet, a wonderful trip down memory lane for me. I used to work at the Sydney Filmmakers Coop in the 70s. A few people I felt should be on the list include
Bruce Hodsdon - Barrett's brother who was there from the early days, particularly running the Sydney University Film Group who would put on movies no one else would ever consider showing and so helping future filmmakers to find inspiration. He went on to work at the National Library where he was responsible, among other things, for building up a wonderful collection of experimental films from all over the world and so made them available to be seen by Australian filmmakers.
Paul Winkler - Australia's most eminent and internationally successful experimental filmmaker (although I am out of touch with the contemporary scene). He came to Australia from East Germany in the 50s (I think, certainly no later than the mid 60s) and has been active since the Ubu Films era. A legend whose films are in a class of their own. The Museum of Modern Art promote his work in America and he also has distributers in Europe. He was once commissioned to make a film to open the Oberhausen Film Festival.
Tom Cowan - Outstanding cinematographer, active since the Ubu Films era, who has had a strong influence on the industry through his camera work which has inspired many and influenced the later work of many directors. Currently is a leading Imax cinematographer.
Aggy Read - Very active in the Ubu Films era along with Albie Thoms and David Perry and creater of 'Boobs-a-Lot', probably the first internationally highly successful experimental film.
Albie Thoms should also be noted for his work at the AFC where he cleaned up the Experimental Film Fund division, finding and saving much money and pushing filmmakers to finish their films. Albie was also the leading figure at the Sydney Filmmakers Coop throughout its history, a motivator, leader and inspiration to all who worked there. His film 'Bolero' remains a landmark work in the history of international experimental film.
Phil Noyce - Active from the Ubu Films era and went on to achieve Hollywood success. He was a filmmaker who pushed the cause of independent filmmaking in Australia and always was active in the promotion of his films and the causes they advanced.
John Hinde - Legendary film critic at the ABC who always supported local filmmakers in an era when the rest of the media ignored them. And one of the nicest people anyone could hope to meet.
Bob Ellis - Another critic who was always willing to support the local industry with great enthusiasm and went on to write a number of screenplays. This was an era when getting the local media to help support the local industry was very difficult, to quote one critic of the time who, when asked to come and view a film for review, responded, "my paper only wants me to review big American movies".
RESPONSE FROM MARTHA ANSARA, December 2018 -
There are two people I would like to include on this list -
Kit Guyatt - filmmaker, editor and director of many interesting films, including the infamous (and strangely profitable in Queensland) Phallic Forest with music by John Sangster and, infamous in another direction, President Johnsonís Visit. Also edited The Office Picnic by Tom Cowan. Kit was quite central within the independent scene around the early Sydney Filmmakers Coop/ Tammer/ et al. and also one of several directors of Or Forever Hold Your Peace (documenting the Vietnam Moratorium). More recently, he edited the FlausFilm by Pater Tammer. And Kit and John Flaus were proud anarchists together.
Sylvia Lawson (1932-2017) - was a journalist, scholar and champion of Australian Cinema, including through her work on the Sydney Film Festival in the 1950s, and within the agitation for a home-grown Australian Cinema in the 1960s. Respected and admired by Sydney filmmakers, she brought a critical eye to a wide range of Australian films. Typically, in 1972 Sylvia wrote about the Experimental Film Fund, "Ö.[itís] one of the best things we have. It embodies our communal recognition that film is something other and more than Love Story, that itís a pervasive, polymorphous, infinitely variegated form of late 20th century expression which can and should be within the grasp of many."
Bill Mousoulis, March 2014 and March 2020.
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