Friday 6 July 2012

Interview with Amanda Duthie

Amanda Duthie has been Director and CEO of the Adelaide Film Festival since February 2012. Prior to that, she had spent most of her working life in television. 
    Amanda began her career at SBS, where she was executive producer and series producer from 1991 to 1999. She was senior project manager with the NSW Film & Television Office, before joining the ABC as commissioning editor and executive producer of arts and entertainment in 2003. She was promoted to Head of Content - Arts, Entertainment and Comedy in 2007.
    In 2009 she was famously made the scapegoat when an episode of The Chaser's War on Everything backfired in spectacular fashion, and she was relieved of responsibility for Comedy (the Arts equivalent of sacking the coach when a football team has been behaving irresponsibly).
    After Amanda shared some of her vision for the Film Festival at an AWG-sponsored evening last March, I approached her with a few questions.

* Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born in Scotland and traveled a lot through Australia with my family throughout childhood. This gave me an opportunity to learn how to be the new girl, get on in different communities, and fall in love with Australia in off-the-beaten-tracks places.

* Where did you go to school?

Country NSW, Hobart, and correspondence school. This was correspondence pre-internet and not via radio, so it required great motivation. Much to my regret, I neglected the sciences because these are best learned in a working school environment, but I read well beyond my age and I reckon a book can be your best friend and teacher.

* Was there anything in your childhood that might have suggested you would end up running a Film Festival?

I loved immersing myself in other worlds, through books, but this was also the case through film. I liked to escape a lot as a child and so drama and local radio and going to the movies as often as possible were the perfect vehicle for this.

* When did you first take an interest in TV/films?

I can’t remember when I wasn’t. Earliest memories include going to the Drive In in my PJs and lying down in the back of the station wagon to fall asleep while mum and dad watched something like The Poseidon Adventure
    I can clearly remember that feeling of wonder coming out of a matinee screening and you are still in the world of the film, but you realise that the world has trundled along outside the darkened cinema and it reinforces that lovely, floaty out-of-body experience. Like a good book, a good film makes you wish it would never end.
    There is good TV and escapist TV, and it is divine when these come together. I remember the opening title sequence for Callan and thinking it was so different from anything else on TV. Or the toe-squeezing delight of Kenny Everett, or The Goodies, or a Saturday afternoon Carry On movie. Or the privilege of seeing the New York production of Sweeney Todd on TV, or the first time I watched Brideshead Revisited.

Carry On Up the Khyber (1968)
I distinctly remember going to see 2001 A Space Odyssey when I was in Primary School. It was playing at the School Hall. I didn’t understand it but I knew how potent it was. And I fell in love with Hitchcock and was caught up in his cinematic shock and awe.

* What was your first job in television?

1 inch tape
I was the 1 inch tape girl in the SBS Tape Library. It was a temp job, but I fell in love with TV production and worked my way through the ranks at SBS production to producer level. As a city girl with no family or mortgage at the time, I worked a lot. I did a lot of unpaid gigs to get as much experience as I possibly could. SBS at the time was a truly dynamic work environment. The production budgets were always challenging and so we learned to make do with what we had. I was immersed in a diverse collection of stories (cinema and TV offerings), given the remit of SBS programming. The Movie Show with Margaret and David introduced me to that broader range of movies beyond Hollywood. Working on programs such as Eat Carpet released me into the world of experimental filmmaking and the first works of major film-makers. 

* Who had the biggest influence on you in your early days as a producer?

The ethics and ethos of working at SBS informed so much of my early career and I would hope that I have carried that with me into all the other jobs. The collaborative spirit and desire to experiment, the challenges and pleasures of working with independent filmmakers on audacious work (and learning from all of them) was a great gift.

* What are three things you wish someone had told you about television production when you were starting out?
  • Don’t forget to have fun in the momentit is very hard to conjure up the pleasures of production and reward yourself when you are on holiday. Revel in it now.
  • Take responsibility and remember you can learn from your mistakes. Also you are part of a teamrespect the creative process and your collaborators.
  • It is not a scienceyou are putting on a show, creating entertainment. Some will love it, some will hate it, which are both better than an indifferent audience.
Danger 5
* You only took control of the Adelaide Film Festival in February 2012. Have you had a day yet when you wondered if you'd made the right decision?

I haven’t had a moment's doubt and I don’t expect to. This gig is a privilege and I want to tend it with the same love and respect it has had throughout its short but brilliant life.

* The next Adelaide Film Festival isn't due until October 2013, so it might be too early to ask this, but... What plans do you have for writers at the Film Festival?

Yes it is a bit early as at the moment. I am keen to hear ideas and suggestions from local filmmakers and organisations. The AWG is in the midst of celebrating a big anniversary and it is essential that our industry and events acknowledge the remarkable body of Australian writers.

* Are you planning to incorporate anything like Ivan Reitman's Live Reads?

They are great events but the advantage of being in L.A. is that you have amazing talent living round the corner, who you can call on to make this event special. There is skype and other clever connective technology that makes all sorts of live events possible. 

The Ivan Reitman Live Read of The Apartment (1960)

* Do you intend screening many short films?

It wouldn’t be a film festival without showcasing the incredible range of shorts we make in Australia, as well as featuring key international short films.

* Adelaide is proudly the home of web series such as
Italian Spiderman, Danger 5, and Wastelander Panda. Do you have any plans for a Webseries Festival, à la the LA Web Fest?

Adelaide is the home of a range of original work, with a distinctive take on story and style and platform. I am keen to explore opportunities for more work like this. Absolutely.

* What one book would you recommend to a young wannabe filmmaker in Adelaide?

Not one, but ten... Okay, more like twenty... There's nothing like stories from the front to inspire, goad and warn. Also, read as many screenplays as you possibly can.

* What are your ten favourite movies of all time?

This is a tough one and I have gone sideways in my response to list directors whose work is astounding. This list was inspired by the recent outcry regarding the lack of women directors at Cannes. I would love to hear feedback or further suggestions from your readers. In no particular order:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Blog! The pictures are a story in themselves and brought back personal memories.