Film is not a domesticated medium
Acclaimed Australian producer Al Clark speaks to Mumbrella’s sister title Encore after receiving the AACTA Raymond Longford Award, acknowledging his 30-year service in the Australian film industry. His catalogue of films includes The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Chopper and 1984.
What was it like watching the tributes at the awards? Was it quite emotional?
At certain moments, unexpectedly so. The great thing about emotions is that they can’t be legislated. They can only be felt, and they arose at improbable moments, but pleasurably so.
Don McAlpine, last year’s Raymond Longford recipient, is turning 80 next year and shows no signs of slowing down. Are you much the same?
I’m not going to take to my bed with my award. I have a film planned with a writer/director with whom I haven’t worked with before, and another with a director that I have worked with before – twice in fact. So I’m just walking the tightrope between newness and familiarity.
Do you have a general feeling about the state of the industry at the moment?
Not really. By the time you’ve made a film, the business has changed. It takes a long time to devise and put together a movie and make it. It’s a long haul and an expensive one. So that’s why I just find the whole of idea of trying to ‘read’ everything all the time kind of pointless. I came into the business as a producer and as a lover of films rather than as a bloke who was looking for a profession.
You mention being a lover of films and Encore understands you have quite an extensive DVD collection. How many DVDs do you actually have?
I honestly haven’t counted them. I’m too busy watching to count. I watch at least one a day, often starting at midnight. I like to feed my appetite and I have a very big appetite for films, have done since early childhood.
What is the key to having a lasting career in this industry?
I like clarity, simplicity and conciseness of thought. I don’t like to go around in circles. If you don’t give things your absolute attention and you don’t give them your conviction, energy and commitment, they won’t happen.
It’s difficult to talk about producing films; it’s so much about instinct and being attracted to certain subjects and people.
Making a film, especially between the key collaborators, is a very intense and complex relationship. I’m a constant in the equation but I’m also very much aware that on some films my job is to intervene and on others it’s actually just to witness things happening, to keep the wheels rolling.
How do you balance your work and personal life as you are navigating a career in this industry?
I have only shot perhaps 15 to 20 minutes of a film where I lived in Sydney.
Everything else that I’ve done in Australia has been shot somewhere else. Film is not a domesticated medium. You may as well be on a military exercise, in terms of the makeability of a film. If you get to go home and have a mug of cocoa, it takes the urgency out of it. It takes your concentration away.
So where is your next military exercise going to take you?
One of them will certainly take me to Melbourne and the other one, ironically, may be the first entire film that I’ve produced in Sydney.
How do you think you’ll go shooting in Sydney?
I don’t know. I’ll let you know once it’s happened. I seem to be attracted to going away and coming back with a film. It will probably be shot in a suburb quite far from where I live, so I’ll still get that feeling.
This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.