Jack Singe Recalls His Early Days at Gore Hill

Jack Singe was interviewed by Graham Shirley (from the National Film and Sound Archives) in May 2006. This extract from the interview was prepared by Bob Sitsky.

 

In 1956 I came home and my wife says "a chap by the name of Duckmanton rang today, he is from the ABC and he wants to talk to you". So I rang him the next day. He told me that my name was referred to him, and that I may be suitable person to take on one of the jobs in television.

"What's television" I asked? He said it's putting programs into homes. "Can you come in and have a talk with us?" So I went to have a talk with him, and it was very fruitful. He gave me a duty statement to read - it was a position called Supervisor Production Facilities at Gore Hill. The job was to set up and look after design, graphics, wardrobe, make-up, hairdressing, staging workshops and production studios operations. It was a bloody complex brief!

So I started to work at Gore Hill. The main studios were not ready. So we had a meeting and decided to build a small studio in the Arcon shed. It was 6 meters by 8 meters and had timber frame canite walls with hessian and a small grid for fixed lighting. There was also a small control room.

There was no air conditioning. In the telecine area they had a fan blowing to keep the temperature down. There was no water in the building so people who wanted their make-up removed had to walk outside the building and use a builder's tap.

I was involved in appointing the staff in Production Facilities. I encouraged the people I knew in the theatre world to come over into television. I got Don Shepherd over from Tivoli, and he became property master. Val Windon became Senior Stage Hand - his main job was the setting up and the striking of sets. Stan Woolveridge came over from films to become Staging Supervisor. He worked with Jim Hall, who was the Federal Supervisor. Jim relied on advice from Stan.

We used the OB van for the official opening night. That was done in a radio music studio in Kings Cross. Michael Charlton was the presenter. I noticed that Prime Minister Menzies was dropping off during the ceremony. The official party all had very comfortable chairs. They gave me a TV set so that my wife could watch all the proceedings from home. It was a great achievement to have been able to produce a play "The Twelve Pound Look" during the opening night.

Once a producer got appointed for a show he got together with a designer. They set up all the parameters for the production. The Designer would do the sketches, and then after agreement was reached do the workshop drawings. They would then confer with the props people and others like wardrobe. That's how productions got under way. It was the job of the Workshop Supervisor to analyse the man-hour costs.

The busiest time of my life was working at Gore Hill. We had many productions going through at the same time - maybe 6 or 7 productions going through the workshop. The crew started work at 6am. In 1962 the pressure on me became too great in Gore Hill, so I got a job in Brisbane. Instead of 100 staff I then had 30 people working for me. It was the same job but at a lower grade. At one stage I came back to Sydney for nearly one year to act in my old position.

Jack Singe started his career in the mid 1930s with JC Williamson as a multi-purpose apprentice. He worked in the theatre business until he came over into television. He joined the ABC in 1956 at Gore Hill, and resigned from the ABC in 1982 in Brisbane. He then established a private company that provided advice to live theatre organisations - the company ran for 20 years.

 

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