ABC TV at Gore Hill in the Fifties
The Men Behind the News on Channel 2
KEITH FRASER was brought up in the cattle country of Far North Queensland. Soon after leaving school, he tossed aside stockwhip and saddle in order to become educated sufficiently to fail a law course at Queensland University.
Turning to journalism, he received his early training on provincial newspapers, and later entered the advertising industry. A decision to take another look at gum trees and bunyips led him to serve for a time as a mounted police trooper at the remote police post of Turn Off Lagoons, on the Queensland Northern Territory border.
Subsequently he went to China and South East Asia, and was attached to the British Forces at the time of the "Sino-Japanese Incident". During World War II he served with Intelligence.
Keith joined the ABC News Service in Brisbane in 1946. He has also worked in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart News Rooms, and has been reporter, sub-editor, news editor and foreign correspondent.
In 1956 he was awarded an Imperial Relations Trust Scholarship and went to Great Britain and the Continent to study Television. After training in the BBCs Producers School, and working at Lime Grove and Alexandra Palace, he was sent by the Commission to Canada and the U.S.A. Followed his return to Australia to help organise the TV News Service.
Keith is now securely at anchor with one wife, Maurene, two sons, Andrew and Roderick, and one daughter, Katrina Margaret.
In the way of hobbies he collects original paintings and First Editions.
Bill, a Sydney trained journalist, started his travels with five years overseas in the RAAF. He was back only a few months before becoming a post-war correspondent to cover the Allied Occupation of Japan for a group of evening newspapers.
He made a tour of the Solomons and the New Hebrides during the next few years and then, early in 1949, he went to Singapore as AAP-Reuter correspondent in the region. For the next three years Bill covered assignments from Cocos Island to Korea, travelling widely through Indonesia, Malaya, Thailand and Indo-China. He took with him a 16 mm. camera with which he shot news film for NBC Television, New York.
Bill was next based in Canberra. He covered the first meeting of the ANZUS Council in Honolulu, and Britains first atomic explosion on the Monte Bellos, off Western Australia.
Harvard University was his next "post". He studied Far Eastern affairs there for a year on a Nieman Fellowship. This was followed by two years in New York as desk editor for Australian Associated Press.
NBC Television opened their studio doors to Bill, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Also, he took a course at Columbia University on television programming, directing and production.
He joined the ABC in New York, and returned to Australia to relinquish the doubtful distinction of being the foreign correspondent with the most children with him.
IVAN CHAPMAN spent his school-days at Werris Creek and Tamworth, and studied medicine for a time at the University of Sydney. But any ambition he had to become a doctor was, he says, put happily to rest by the events of September, 1939. The ensuing years took him from the Sydney University Regiment to the 21 Machinegun Battalion, and long sea voyages to Britain, the Middle East and Greece. Then came long treks and train trips to various places of confinement in Occupied Europe.
After the war he turned to journalism, and 10 years ago obtained an ABC cadetship at Newcastle.
Even in Newcastle he had vague but nagging ideas about Television. This prompted him in 1949 to go to London, where he was a sub-editor in the ABC News Room for three years before joining the BBC. Then, television at long last, when he had the good fortune to be one of the original team of BBC Journalists who put TV News on the air in Britain for the first time. After seven years away, the lure of Australia and Television News with the ABC.
Ivans wife, Moira, is a Sydneysider; Alison, aged two, is a Londoner. They like Britain and Europe as much as he does, but agree that Australia takes the cake when summer comes around.
SYD MOUNSEY has been in the news game for over 10 years. He joined the ABC in Brisbane early in 1952 not a day too soon, either, as a Brisbane restaurant specialising in watery soup and the then News Editor in Queensland, Keith Fraser, can testify. For Syd had left the "substance" of the Mackay Daily Mercury for the "shadow" of free-lance journalism a tough field. Before that he had worked for various dailies in Queensland and Victoria. His first assignment for the ABC was to begin a "news service" for the people of the Outback at 4QL Longreach. A year later he was mecifully returned to Brisbane, where he put in 12 months before promotion to Sydney and the national subs job.
Syd attended the ABCs first TV workshop in Sydney and later the workshop conducted by American authority Rudy Bretz. His job in TV News is that of "line-up" sub-editor. As such hes responsible for the news content of the programme, and its overall make-up.
Syd married Jean Palmer (Brisbane News-room); as a RADIO-ACTIVE of the time put it, "after their honeymoon at Calowindra". They have a son, Simon.
JOHN CREW was born in Walthamstow, London, and lived there until 1944. He was educated (up till the age of 14) at a school named after the towns only illustrious son William Morris; and started work as a copy boy on the London Evening Standard. When the German V2 campaign began he escaped the dangers of wartime London by retiring to the Royal Navy. After being discharged in England he applied to migrate, but had to wait two years for a passage. In that time he worked as a tunnel miner, factory hand, clerk and helped to print parish magazines.
On arrival in Australia nearly seven years ago, he began work cutting timber on the Lamington Plateau, and later graduated to a timber mill at Glebe. After twelve months in these occupations he began a career in journalism by joining the Dubbo Liberal as a first year cadet. He completed the cadetship with the ABC in Newcastle, and there followed two and a half years in Darwin. Then a trip back to England to see something of BBC television and the folks at home, and he returned to marry and join the TV news service.
His hobbies include fishing and trying to dodge work in the garden. His job in TV is scriptwriter.
RADIO-ACTIVE, April 15, 1957 Pages 6 and 7
Neil Edwards got his first job in the Picture Industry at the age of 16; and, except for six years during the War, he has been in the business ever since.
Prior to the war, he spent five years in the commercial cinema as a projectionist and another five years with the Victorian State Electricity Commission. During the later period he was engaged on a visual education project, involving a series of lecture demonstrations in schools.
When war came Neil joined the A.I.F. and was attached to the Corps of Signals, where he specialised mainly in long range point-to-point radio. He served in the Middle East, the Pacific, and Japan.
After the war, he started the State Film Centre in Victoria a non-theatrical film distributing agency operated by the State Government and was its chief executive officer for ten years. During that time he was appointed to the Australian National Film Board as representative of the non-commercial film distributing interests in the six States.
Neil came to the ABC as Chief Film Officer in January last.
Douglas Hardy It was only natural that a boy who got time off from school to play boy parts in early Australian films should have got into the movie business as soon as possible. So it was that Douglas Hardy joined Cinesound as soon as he left school, with his school boy experience as "Bluey" in the Steele Rudd films still fresh in his mind. But it was the production side of film work, and the hurly burly of studio filming that attracted Doug, and camera work began with an exacting "apprenticeship" under Monte Luke.
It was with camera that the smallest soldier in the A.I.F. Doug is 5 ft. set off for the warwith the 9th Division. Doug is an official A.I.F. cameraman, was one of the first to land in re-captured Borneo. In the Middle East, he was the only cameraman to "shoot" the fighting in Halfaya Pass and the first film of Australian graves at Tobruk came from his camera.
Demobilisation saw Doug launch Southern Cross Films Pty. Ltd. And the production of a long line of films for release in Australia and overseas. But he wasnt content to send only film overseas. He went overseas himself, and lists among past employers J.Arthur Rank and the BBC. He covered the Royal Tour of Australia for the BBC, D. of I., and Pathe.
One of Dougs films won him a British Empire award, and is still playing after 12 years. But he is very reticent about all this, and about his new-found work with the ABC in Television.
Margaret Cardin is London born, of French parents. She was educated at a convent in England and finishing school in France.
After a stage career, Margaret took up film work at "Kay" Film Laboratories, and later did free-lance editing in most studios in England. Her first feature was Edge of the World, for Michael Powell. She worked with many well-known film personalities in England, including Carol Reed, Thorald Dickinson, Paul Rotha, John Taylor, Sydney Box, Havelock Allan, Ronnie Neane Wallis, Joe Rock, David Leane, Alfred Hitchcock and Herbert Wilcox. In 1939 she was with the BBC as a TV film editor at Alexandra Palace.
During the war years Margaret was at the BBC as a film librarian. She was seconded for one year to the Dutch Government, Stratton House, to edit the propaganda film Glorious Colours, in English and Dutch.
Margaret left the BBC in 1945 and commenced the "Cardin Film Service" working for the BBC, I.C.I. and Shell.
In 1951 she came to Australia, with no intention of staying, but was soon editing Captain Thunderbolt, and assisting John Heyer on Back of Beyond. She also did post-synchronising for Pagewood, as well as optical work, and many short films.
Margaret came to ABC-TV on September 17, 1956.
Antony (Tony) Gell spent some years in the Motion Picture Industry with Hoyts and Greater Union Theatres in Melbourne. He visited the United Kingdom and Canada for experience, working in a number of theatres in those countries. Returning to Australia, he was fortunate enough to work with Doc Sternberg in editing the historical film record of the "Australian Army at War". He has also worked with Audio Film Productions, Melbourne.
His sporting interests are confined to golf all 19 holes.
Fred Combs was born in Bunbury, WA in 1915, and was educated at Perth Boys School. He joined the Building Trade as an apprentice plasterer, and after completing five years commenced business on his own behalf. After 13 years he left the Golden West for the Eastern States, to carry on for a further ten years.
From an early age Fred has been a keen cameraman, taking an active interest in all types of photography. With the advent of TV came the opportunity of making a profession of his hobby by joining the ABC as a Cinecameraman.
His wife, Trixie, a WA girl, in spite of the tribulations of being a cameramans wife has not only tolerated but encouraged the doubtful arrangement of kitchen-cum-dark-room, lounge-cum-editing room, etc.
Hobby, - Taking photos for a change.
Derrick Edmund Timmins was born in West Hartpool, England, on August 10, 1921, and went to school at Croydon and Ipswich. He served 6 and a half years with the British Army during World War II.
Derrick joined the film industry as projectionist with British Paramount News, graduated to sound recording, thence to cutting. He then joined Associated British Pathe as Assistant Editor of news-reels, and later went to the documentary unit as Editor.
Derrick left Pathe and came to Australia in December, 1950. He went first to Toorooka, N.S.W., where for six months he worked in a butter factory. Then he moved to Brisbane, where he was a salesman in various retail stores for a year.
His next job was with the Department of Supply at the Weapons Research Establishmant at Salisbury, South Australia, making documentary films and trial films of research work undertaken by this Department. He left the Department in November, 1956, to join the ABC Film Staff as a Film Editor.
Derrick married an English girl, Patricia Elizabeth, at Putney, London, on August 10, 1946. They have two children a girl, Lesley Veronica, born at Wimbledon nine years ago, and a boy, Anthony David, born at Salisbury, whos aged four.
RADIO-ACTIVE, June 17, 1957 Pages 4,5 and 16
Sydney Police Launch "Nemisis", on a Harbour Patrol, caught by the camera during a recent OB on Channel 2
RADIO-ACTIVE, July 1957 Page 2
Zero minus five at "Phoenix Too Frequent", on ABN 2
Top L Light Check
Bottom R Booth Check
Bottom L Line Check
Bottom R Stand by to go!
RADIO-ACTIVE, August 1957 Page 2
Notes on Playwriting for TV by George F. Kerr
Mr. Kerr, a former television script editor with the BBC and with two commercial TV companies, ATV and ABC in London, has spent the last eight years in writing and adapting plays. He is now writing several half-hour crime plays under the title "KILLER IN CLOSE-UP", the first of which was produced by the ABC on September 4.
Script Editors spend half their time explaining to writers the kind of play that has been found in the U.S. and U.K. peculiarly suitable for TV production, and in dissuading them from attempting the unsuitable. Their recommendations are based on a handful of elementary rules.
What then is suitable for television? What are the special conditions of television production? What is television?
Television is not a new art-form, a new medium. It is simply a new technical means of transmission. The thing transmitted as far as drama is concerned is still a play, and the ancient dramatic rules remain unchanged. The dramatic essence is still telling a story, through dialogue and action, of characters in conflict with each other or with circumstance. Television is contemporary, realistic, factual, literal, ephemeral. This tends to dictate the choice of subject. The audience that is waiting to view the play is not a mob gathered together for that purpose; it is a sullen domestic group of two, perhaps three people, their listless eyes a mere five feet away from the lips of the actor. But they are curiously alert, far smarter than a theatre or cinema audience. The old stage precept Tell em what youre going to do, do it, then tell em youve done it is splendid advice for stage writing; its murder on TV. If, in a stage play, the grandfather clock is a significant prop because hidden in it is a loaded revolver, the Author throughout Act I will have been busy planting that clock five or six times. It will strike. It will be fast. Mother will think of selling it At the Act I interval the audience will know that something, perhaps the crazy nephew, is likely to emerge from that clock in Act II. On television the clock can be established by a quick cut to it on the line Are we going to be late? and by this cut established, solidly, for the rest of the play. It is not that the TV audience is really brighter than other audiences. But it is given its information more directly, more vividly, and all the time the camera is selecting what it is to be permitted to see.
So much for generalities. Let us now consider the practical aspects of television scripting. Although it is a relatively young industry, television has had a progeny, some of them little monsters. A producer finding himself with an unexpected success, rather than attribute this to the story and the way it has been told by the playwright, is more likely to remember what he did with his cameras shooting through mirrors from the feet up, mixing instead of cutting, or superimposing the credits in chi-chi lettering. The observant student of television drama in this country and in England and America will be familiar with some of the experiments that have failed, others that have succeeded.
Writers and producers through the post-war years of television have certainly had their failures, but these should have taught the writers of today some invaluable lessons. Let us try to recall some of these. Let us start, heretically, by suggesting that sound is as important on television as vision, very often more important. The words matter most of course, for they tell the story, but effects and music can give a play roots in place, in a way that grainy telecine inserts or film shots cannot.
If five people are on the screen at once, two of them are likely to be getting in the way. If twenty-0five people are in the cast of a TV play, its probably a sound radio script. It follows that if a play subject is talked about by a cast of seven and dramatically illustrated by three main characters, it is right for size at least.
The single domestic viewer (and his tired neighbour) will be interested in a story within his or his neighbours experience. His television set is not there to recapture phoney history nor to lead him tip-toeing down the garden path of fantasy. Costume in a TV play is acceptable if it is worn by a bus-conductor, a judge, a soldier, or a cop. Period, for TV purposes, is anything before last night. Plot, on TV, doesnt mean Guy Fawkes; it means who knocked the old lady down at the crossing and drove on?
These are dogmatic statements, and every writer is free to challenge them if he wishes. But the young writer should go cautiously. He should first establish in his own mind and for his private satisfaction what the theme of his play is to be. He should then pick a subject that is contemporary and immediately recognisable to the majority of his viewers. Let it be shop-lifting or hit-and-run or the non-union man cut dead by his mates or the Melbourne doctors refusal to have his own child vaccinated against polio. This situation-story will run throughout the play, but running alongside it, inter-threaded, there might well be an emotional sub-story, so that (as we subsequently find) the wife who knocked down a pedestrian and drove on, happened to be on her way to meet a man friend. But for the accident, the husband wouldnt have known, but now (You may recognise Waiting for Gillian. It is not difficult to make a similar story skeleton for Deep Blue Sea or Journeys End or Asmodee or Black Chiffon).
The story counts. The way it is written will dictate the way it is shot. Writers and producers have learned this by trail and error. The good producers can be trusted to do good and faithful work on a new play. And let us make no mistake about it, the producers, however foolish some of their earlier fumblings may have seemed, are now, as a body, far more highly skilled in their own craft than are the television writers in theirs.
Writers, for some obscure reason, have been curiously contemptuous of TV. A mere handful perhaps twenty in England, fifty in the States have persevered, studying their own and their colleagues work, striving to improve. But, in fairness to Australian writers, let it be added that a TV playwright in England can live comfortably by writing plays. U.K. prices are five times the current Australian rates. In fact, the professional writer in this country can only think of Australian TV as a secondary market. When writers are offered a living wage here, from that date Australian TV can begin to look ahead. But not until then.
In what form should the apprentice-writer submit his script? Certainly not in the form of a shooting script. Dont clutter up a good story with pseudo-technical directions. Dons add stage directions for the actors benefit. If the line is You filthy swine, Marmaduke!, dont bother to add to that in brackets (ANGRILY) or (HISSING THE WORDS THROUGH BLANCHED LIPS). Leave such decorations to the producer or actor.
There is a simple punctuation of TV which should be known to the writer. This leaves the commas to the discretion of the producer, but makes it clear to him where to put the full stop and when to start a new paragraph. A cut is the equivalent of a full stop at the end of a sentence. A dissolve or mix indicates the beginning of a new paragraph. A fade out generally suggests the end of one chapter and the start of the next. A breakdown is a fair cow!
When the play is written, submit it. Trust the actors and the producer. Keep away from all rehearsals except the first read-through, and watch the plays first TV production in solitude, your fingers crossed against technical break-down or actors camera-hogging. And think about your next play.
A word of advice about that next play; the only worthwhile advice there is: Tell a good story, and tell it well dramatically.
Planning a telecast from a Sydney wool store. From L. - Bridgland Brown's Store Manager; Producer Fred Widdows (Rural Officer); Script Asst. Prue Bavin; Commentator Bryan todd (Rural Officer); Jack Christopher, O.B. Tech. Producer; Ronay. O.B. Planning Officer.
RADIO-ACTIVE, September 16, 1957 Pages 4 and 5
The new TV transmission mast at Gore Hill, Sydney. Alongside is the temporary mast which did service for many months. (Inset) A worm's eye view of the big mast.
RADIO-ACTIVE, October 1957 Page 2
THE WHIRL OF A SCRIPT GIRL
By RUTH PAGE (Script Asst., H.O.)
When Grandmother began her campaign for equality, Im sure she thought she was doing the right thing. When she stormed the ramparts of Commerce, Law and Medicine, Im sure she thought she had won a great victory for her daughters and grand-daughters.
From a tiny world of her home she had visions of being independent, of working in an office. To her this was an exciting prospect. So, as we all know, she set about making her dream a reality. And she won.
You and I had no trouble at all in becoming typists and secretaries. It was almost expected of us. We took our lot for granted but we were not content.
As we sat at our typewriters we dreamed (in this modern age) of being script girls in television. We saw monitors and cameras, lights and talent and stopwatches and producers and shooting scripts, and studios and galleries. We saw ourselves as vital cogs in the fascinating wheel of production; and like grandmother in a relative way we stormed the ramparts.
But perhaps my natural romanticism is creeping through. There is really nothing romantic about this business. I t only in those vague thoughts of a typist that any romance exists. This you learn the first day.
That first day starts with, "These are the forms we have to issue". And there staring you in the face are white forms, blue forms, yellow forms, all neatly numbered, and all of which dont mean a thing. That exciting world of the studio and the gallery seems suddenly far, far away. But there is no time for dreaming. The nemisis (you come to know it as nemisis) rings, and a voice usually male says something vague about not having TV 8 or TV 11 or 5, or some number, and could he have it? So it starts.
You tell your producer, who tells you in no uncertain terms to tell him (that is, the voice) that hes waiting on a writer or an artist or news, or any one (you come to learn) of a thousand things which exists for the producer, but dont seem to for the voice. But you ring the voice, who tells you to tell the producer - - -. At the end of the first day youre not quite certain what the difference between a typist and a script girl really is. But dont worry; this goes on for weeks.
By the time TV 8 or 11 or 5 or blue or pink forms mean something, all thought of that exciting studio and gallery, and being a vital cog in the crazy wheel of production has completely and finally disappeared. Now all thought, all will is brought to bear on such things as "I hope he doesnt change his mind again". "I hope that man-invented thing doesnt jangle again". "I hope he doesnt call another night rehearsal!" While theres life theres hope.
And then, suddenly, to-day is production day. You find yourself in the studio. And somehow, in those first few minutes all the forms and the telephones and the changes and the voices and the rehearsals have been worth it. But, wait for it. The man to whom you have been for the most part sweetness itself, and who in return has been approximately human, if a little eratic, has turned suddenly into a not-so-far-from-erupting volcano. He is full of such questions as "Why didnt we do so and so?" And somehow the "we" doesnt include him. It is now that you hope youve done everything, and that the volcano doesnt erupt at you. The chances are that it wont, but, girls, thats a chance you take.
Then its all over, and the big day to-day is yesterday, and a voice is saying something about TV 8 or 11 or 5, or pink or green forms not being in, and youre back where you started. Not quite, because your producer who was yesterday a volcano is a benign breeze who breezed in early, and breezed out again to relax after yesterdays show.
You sit for a minute to think about that studio and gallery which youve seen, and you realise that you didnt feel quite what you thought youd feel anyway youre not quite sure what you did feel ah well TV 8 and 11 and 5 and yellow and white, and voices and nemesis such is the price of progress.
RADIO-ACTIVE, October 15, 1957 Page 4
Recollected in Tranquility
A little over eleven months ago we were in the midst of a maelstrom of activity. Our Television Service was at last in operation; the Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference was in progress; and the Olympic Games were about to begin. One of our visitors at that time was John Green, Controller of Talks Sound, and a member of the BBC Delegation to the Broadcasting Conference. When the excitement was all over, and John Green was back in London, he recorded his impressions of the triple occasion for ARIEL, the BBC staff magazine. We reprint portion of his article here; for, though the matter of it belongs now to history, there are passages of history which are always worth recalling.
ABC Television Service
Our first official occasion in Sydney came on Monday, November 5, when the ABC opened their television service. After the ceremony, which we watched, our hosts gave a dinner in celebration, at which Sir Richard Boyer took the chair. Mr. Menzies was the principal guest and made an excellent speech. The following day the Conference naturally could not start, because nothing in Australia can until after Melbourne Cup Day. The life of the whole continent slows down to a hush that pervades the streets and offices until 3 oclock when the crescendo of the race reader culminates in a catharsis of emotion as the name of yet another horse passes into the annals of the Turf. Anyone who wished to attend the Cup had special facilities provided for the 500-mile flight to Melbourne. Some of us stayed behind in Sydney, but I understand that this was where D.G. missed the first, and as far as I could gather only, trick of the tour. Entering the Australia Hotel lift in the early morning with another grey-hatted visitor, he accompanied him affably on the plane to Melbourne; nor was he disconcerted until the homeward journey, when he found the same gentleman carrying a bulky parcel which proved to be the Melbourne Cup itself. We can only imagine that this unusual avoidance of the only possible topic of conversation with the winning owner was missed because D.G. was still thinking about the fourteen-day rule.
For the most part our Sydney fortnight involved a lot of hard work by day and even harder work at official receptions at lunchtime and at night. However, our relaxation even at this period was not overlooked. On one weekend the delegates had revealed to them the full extent of Sydneys northern beaches, and a wood-chopping demonstration was especially staged in the Blue Mountains. Wood-chopping might be described in the Australian dictionary as "a residual Bush exercise formerly important for the pioneers, and now mostly favoured by the general manager of the ABC". The crowning events of the Sydney session were the launch trip round Our Harbour and the conference delegates dinner to our hosts of the ABC.
RADIO-ACTIVE, October 15, 1957 Page 10