When you think about your favourite movies do any of these ring a bell: Rainman; Dead Poets Society; Gorillas in the Mist; The Firm; Lorenzo’s Oil; The American President; The Talented Mr Ripley; Cold Mountain; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Tourist; Ghosts of Mississippi; Children of a Lesser God; or even BMX Bandits? How about The English Patient? Would you believe that a boy from Warwick was the Cinematographer on all of these films, even winning an Oscar for the latter? In fact, he has received 52 nominations and 37 awards for various projects over the past 35 years.
His name is John Seale and without a doubt, one of the most talked about NIFF experiences last year was the “Evening with John Seale”. This year, John returns as the founding patron of NIFF and he will be revisitingThe English Patient, the film that earned him a 1996 Academy Award.
“I’m very excited and privileged to be asked to be the founding patron,” says John “NIFF 2016 was so enjoyable to see the enthusiasm for the festival, but also for the desire to increase the awareness of the filmmaking process to audiences.
The award-winning cinematographer moved to Sydney at an early age however returned to Queensland aged 18 to work as a jackaroo on his uncle’s sheep station.
“I loved the job, however after a long drought there was a deluge and my uncle lost 3000 head of sheep overnight when they got bogged in the black soil and we couldn’t pull them out,” he said. “As much as I loved the life and the hard work it broke my heart losing all those sheep and I knew I couldn’t stay.
“I’d taken a little movie camera with me to record what I was doing on the property to show my family back in Sydney and I looked at what I was recording and I thought that I’d like to travel the world with a little camera and film things,” says John.
There were no film schools around in those early days so the budding cameraman ended up at the ABC working with what he describes as ‘garrulous ex World War II combat cameramen’.
“Not only did I learn to shoot film, I also learned to drink,” he said. “Ending up in Hollywood was accidental.”
John’s first big break was thanks to Australian director Peter Weir who asked him to go to America to work onWitness with Harrison Ford.
“I was nervous,” John recalls. “The Americans had their own way of making movies which was tried and traditional, however we didn’t have the same training, so when it came to lighting and shooting a scene we just pushed forward with a fair amount of guess work.
“We worked fast and proved to the studios that we could work economically and as a result our reputation grew for producing quality work that came in under budget.”
Simply being nominated for an Oscar the first time in 1985 for Witness was a thrill for the boy from Warwick.
“In the early days when I was nominated for Witness, because it was the first time that I was nominated, that was far more exciting than actually winning the Oscar eleven years later forThe English Patient,” he said.
Event: John will present and participate in a Q&A session in "John Seale Revisits The English Patient" on Saturday 28 October.
Local filmmaker Tasha Lawton of big FILM COMPANY has always had an interest in media and a passion for storytelling, entering NIFF’s short film competition in 2016 withMuse Day Tuesday and this year joining Arnold Kopf’s team of curators and taking on the Filmmaker Liaison role.
Tasha understands what it’s like to have your short film screened at a film festival and this role also satisfies her interest in what other filmmakers are doing.
“NIFF generates a high degree of respect for people who work with film,” said Tasha. “It takes film and filmmakers seriously and those that participate are treated well by Arnold and his curating team give filmmakers credibility for their craft,” she says.
“Filmmaking is unique, with its requirements for self-motivation, persistence, self-belief,” she said. “It can be such a whimsical thing where you express yourself creatively and it’s also a vulnerable place.
“When a short film maker stands at the back of a theatre during the screening of one of their films it can be a little uncomfortable however when the audience applauds, there’s no better feeling,” says Tasha.
Her current documentary has taken her to India and Nepal where she is working on a feature film about periods and menstruation.
“I’m looking at how women deal with them within their traditions and cultures compared to western society, plus there’s an educational project running parallel to the film,” Tasha says. “I’m interested in the real people, making it in the everyday. Life is extraordinary and it’s also pretty ordinary.”
The Noosa International Film Festival runs from Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 October and will feature 60 films from 31 countries competing in thirteen prize categories. The Festival will again offer three key streams: World Cinema presenting new release feature length films; an international short film competition; and Inside Cinema with special guests.
For the complete program visit www.niff.com.au.