Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Brian Kavanagh
b. August 13, 1935. Kew, Melbourne.

BIOGRAPHY:   It’s 1945, Brian Kavanagh is ten years old. He’s seen two pantomimes at the Tivoli Théâtre, countless Saturday Matinees at the Circle Cinema, Preston and MGM glamour at the Planet Cninema…and he wanted to make films.

How? By buying a 9.5mm camera and projector, a larger frame tha 8mm, film processed in France, already he’s international. Viewed every film possible from the luxury of Metro Collins Street to the flea house Lyceum. Then European films at the Savoy Theatre Russell Street where cautious distributors would bring in a lavender print (an inter pos to create a neg for B&W) and screen that rather than pay for other prints. Devoured from cover to cover A Grammar of the Film An Analysis of Film Technique by: Raymond Spottiswoode. 

Luck took him to Herschells Films and Laboratory in Agnes Street, Jolimont, from mixing chemicals, tea boy, projectionist, assistant camera, assistant editor, dogs body.


Luck again with a holiday trip to Sydney and offered a job as Editor at Artransa Studios on Animal Parade, and Patrick O’Hagen Sings, both titles being self-explanatory.

Luck persevered when he joined Pacific Films and Roger Mirams editing his children’s TV series The Terrible Ten and with some direction.

.Brian Kavanagh Editing in the 1960s.

Luck continued in London editing at Stanley Schofield Films, Old Bond Street (!) on documentaries.

Tempting fate, he worked with Fred Schepisi at Cinesound Melbourne, which became The Film House.

Going freelance his editing led to various documentaries, short films, and eventually to feature films. In between he produced and directed a number of films.

He directed three feature films:

A CITY’S CHILD (1971, 80 mins)
(1981, 90 mins)
DEPARTURE  (1986, 90 mins)

In the 1990s the industry was changing both technically and creatively and new blood was emerging as it should. I had a number of projects I could not raise interest in but was happy to work with Murray Fahey on his no budget films, which I enjoyed. With some idle time I wrote a mystery novel as a one off. With a good reaction to it, a sequel followed which eventually turned into a series of eight books with a ninth as a work in progress, Belinda Lawrence Mysteries, in the mystery sub genre I preferred. The introduction to book selling and distribution was a learning curve.


A City's Child


It became apparent early on to me that Editing held the secret to the success of a film. The cutting room was where all the elements came together.

For today’s filmmakers it might seems strange that film distribution was ever difficult; streaming, downloading, DVDs provide endless outlets for viewers to see one’s work. But nothing really equates to viewing a film in a cinema with all the ambiance created by a million screenings of a million films.

A CITY’S CHILD (1971 80 mins) is my most personal film. The film was first off the rank after Liberal PM John Gorton decided the industry needed some support. The Experimental Film Fund was the first to receive funding and $6000 of that went towards production of A CITY’S CHILD.

It’s conception and realisation I’ll leave for another time, but I take you back to 1971; the film had completed and went on to screen at various film festivals around the world. That is also another story for another time; I’m dealing now with a year or so later when John Fraser, who at that time was with Greater Union a film distributor in Australia.

John, who supported and believed in Australian films, fought valiantly to have GU screen the film and eventually won, but it was a hollow victory.

.Brian Kavanagh shooting A City's Child

GU, not wanting the film, decided to claim it as invalid under the quality clause of the New South Wales Film Quota Act .

"The quality clause" was a vague term that permitted GU to decline distribution based on supposed lack of quality in production, story, or any element of filmmaking or audience interest. GU met their Australian Quota with newsreels and at that time preferred to only distribute American productions, probably at the behest of their Hollywood masters who didn't want any competition at the box office.

The Film Quota Act, full title the New South Wales Cinematograph Films (Australian Quota) Act was an act of legislation passed in September 1935 that came into force on 1 January 1936. Under the Act it was compulsory that in the first year of operation 5 per cent, of the films distributed in New South Wales must be Australian productions, the percentage to increase yearly for five years when it becomes 15 per cent.”

This despite being produced in Melbourne with an all Australian cast and crew, with Federal Government Investment (it was not initially a grant). Media reports on this forced GU to relinquish their claim and reluctantly they agreed to distribute the film. After a very limited release in suburban cinemas, the film was withdrawn. My eternal thanks to John Fraser for his efforts (he also helped Brian Trenchard Smith with the release of The Man from Hong Kong).

To achieve the cinema release, the Australian Film Development Fund allotted $5000 towards costs for the blowup from 16mm to 35mm; ColourFilm deferred payment of $5000 for lab work. The total $10,000 I personally paid back. I also personally funded the 16mm prints and freight to the various international film festivals, which then required a physical print. There was no Government funding for this.

.Double Deal at Cannes in 1981

I suppose if A CITY’S CHILD  were to be made today it may obtain distribution through the Art House cinemas, and I can understand the business heads at GU at the time not wishing to take the film, which they probably believed to be noncommercial, but their claim it was not Australian as a devious way to not screen local product, revealed who their masters were at the time. “Hooray For Hollywood”.

A CITY’S CHILD was invited into the Creme de la Crème section at the London Film Festival 1971 and screened at Edinburgh, Montreal, Auckland and Adelaide winning Best Film. Monica Maughan won AFI (AACTA) Best Actor 1971.

I was very influenced by English and European filmmakers and had a preference for small intimate dramas. A CITY’S CHILD is a film of its time and the changing social conditions in particular for women. The central character is a woman trapped in attitudes that were becoming outdated. Likewise DOUBLE DEAL (1981, 90 mins), although pitched as a melodrama, is the abuse of a woman out of her suburban background into a world of cynics, exploitation, manipulation. DEPARTURE (1986, 90 mins) has elements of family harmony split by political beliefs and ethical acceptance of past wrongs.

Brian Kavanagh, April 2024.




TWO DAYS TO ZERO (TV EPISODE 1962) see Vimeo below


A CITY’S CHILD (feature 1971) Watch online

ONCE UPON A TWILIGHT (short 1975) Watch online

DOUBLE DEAL (feature 1981) Watch online

DEPARTURE (feature 1986) see Vimeo below


STACEY’S GYM (Two pilot eps 1973)

MAYBE THIS TIME (feature 1980) Watch online


THE TERRIBLE TEN (TV series 1960-63)

SILO 15 (TV film 1969)


SPYFORCE (6 eps TV series 1971/72)

LIBIDO (The Priest) 1973


LONG WEEKEND (feature 1978)


ODD ANGRY SHOT (feature 1979)

GOING SANE (feature 1987)

FROG DREAMING (feature1986)

GET AWAY, GET AWAY (feature 1993)

VOYAGE INTO FEAR (feature 1993)

SEX IS A FOUR LETTER WORD (feature 1995)

DAGS (feature 1998)

Two Days to Zero (1962, 23 mins)
Departure (1986, 90 mins)


Notes by Brian Kavanagh:


Because of limited distribution, A CITY’S CHILD received few notices from reviewers, but these were inclined to be favourable, as in The Sydney Morning Herald 9th June 1972 (writer unknown) after the film's screening at the Sydney Film Festival:

"The best and most mature of the Australian features is A City's Child produced and directed by Brian Kavanagh. Set in a middle class suburb of Melbourne, the film, written by Don Battye, treats the loneliness of a thirtyish spinster who, following the death of her carping, invalid mother, builds a world of fantasy out of solitude and frustration. Too often the director appears uncertain of what to do next with a resultant loss of dramatic tension and is prone to that all-Australian failing, the hammer-heavy delineation of obvious symbolism. But on the whole Kavanagh achieves an admirable blend of narrative elements and layman's sociology. The subtle, knowing performance of Monica Maughan as the central character is a further asset. Miss Maughan constructs a cautious portrait of internal pain, of a woman alive but incapable of living."

London Film Festival: Eric Shorter, London Daily Telegraph, December 1st:

"And Brian Kavanagh's intense view of a lonely spinster in Sydney, finding kinky consolation in the collection of dolls,,A City's Child, creates an errie atmosphere which remained with me long after most of the festival's other films had been and gone."

And this notice by Ken Quinnell in Nation magazine on 22nd January 1972:

"There can be no mistaking Brian Kavanagh's exceptional talent as a director. Throughout, the precision of his camera placements, the flow of movement within the frame, and the exacting performances serve perfectly the underlying ambiguity of events and produce a masterpiece in miniature."


Also of interest, A CITY'S CHILD is analysed in Caroline M. Pascoe's PHD thesis SCREENING MOTHERS: Representations of motherhood in Australian films from 1900 to 1988 (see pages 16-18 of this PDF).

For the film DOUBLE DEAL, see the IMDB reviews.

© Brian Kavanagh, April 2024.

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Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis