Robert Feeney Remembers

Robert Feeney was interviewed by Stuart Glover (for the National Film and Sound Archives) in May 2001. This extract from the interview was prepared by Bob Sitsky.

I was employed by Movietone at the time television started in Australia. I was shooting all types of stories and news. Soon after that we had to change our filming practices. As television stations showed all the major news stories and big events in their daily news bulletins, we concentrated on stories about floods, bush fires, rescue squads, aviation, etc

I was employed as a B Grade Cinecameraman. However, in the late 1950's I was doing mainly Grade A work, so applied for a salary increase at Movietone. This was denied. So I contacted Bert Nicholas, the ABC's Chief Cinecameraman to see if there were any jobs at Gore Hill. I spoke to him on a Friday, and he said can I start on the Monday! Well. I started two weeks later.

There were only five other cine-cameramen in the ABC at Gore Hill when I joined - George Hobbs, Gordon Lansdowne, Doug Hardy, Frank Parnell and Dennis Langford.
(Years later on the ABC employed 68 film camera people around Australia).

All the camera staff were issued with their own camera. However when we were required to use a camera with sound, we had to make special arrangements to get it issued to us.

The ABC producers all wanted experienced camera people. Well, the ABC staff were not all experienced, and that did cause a few problems in the early days. A lot of ABC TV people came from ABC Radio and they were not used to talking and seeing pictures. Originally people in our industry got their training in organisations like Cinesound and Movietone - that changed after TV started, and the ABC became a training ground.

The ABC was a different organisation to my previous employers. There was much more local politics. Our Chief - Bert Nicholas - had problems with the ABC bureaucracy. He was a very nice fellow.

I never missed shooting in 35mm after moving to the ABC. We could never afford it anyway. We used to buy 5 million feet of 16mm film stock a year; well that would be twelve and a half million feet of 35mm film!

I shot the first 4 Corners and the first Big Country episodes for the ABC. I only worked in News, Current Affairs and Documentaries. In those days every ABC Department used to make their own documentaries. It was great - we used to take about 3 weeks to complete those docos.

Bob Feeney joined the ABC in 1959. He worked in News, Current Affairs and in documentary making. His last years at the ABC were spent in training young television operators.

Note from Bob Sitsky:

In 1973 The Australian Cinematographers Society established the The Robert Feeney ACS Archive. It is a collection of books, magazines and even the odd piece of camera equipment that was purchased or donated to the Society.
It was an honour befitting the late Bob Feeney ACS, who started the archive and was renowned for collecting old books and historical memorabilia about anything to do with cinematography.


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