Part 1: Wrapping it up with a Bow – The 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe

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Winners at the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe, Monday 28 January. Photo: Belinda Rolland

The statuettes have been presented, the winners have been toasted and the laurels have been sent out to each winning production. While the 2nd AACTA Awards may be fast receding behind us, there’s now the task of looking through all the wonderful photos and priceless video footage from the two Sydney events, and making sure they’re labelled and saved for posterity – and shared with screen industry and audience members alike.

In this, the first part of our AACTA Awards wrap, we shine the spotlight on the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe and held in Sydney at The Star Event Centre on Monday 28 January.

The luncheon was hosted by the ever-entertaining Adam Elliot, who memorably appeared in one segment dressed as a gold-clad human statuette. Other presenters included Diana Glenn, Jane Harber and Jimi Bani as well as acclaimed actors Damon Herriman, Daniel Henshall and Felicity Price. Also taking to the stage were The Sapphires stars Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.

A highlight of the luncheon was the special presentation of the Raymond Longford Award to Producer, Al Clark.

The 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe also recognised the talent and innovation of artists and craftspeople working across television, documentary, short fiction film, short animation and feature film categories.  Here’s a quick rundown, with clips from our YouTube Channel:

DOCUMENTARY

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
Storm Surfers 3D. Ellenor Cox, Marcus Gillezeau.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY UNDER ONE HOUR
Then The Wind Changed. Jeni McMahon, Celeste Geer. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Go Back To Where You Came From. Rick McPhee, Ivan O’Mahoney. SBS

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION IN A DOCUMENTARY
Fighting Fear. Macario De Souza. FOXTEL  Movie Network

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY IN A DOCUMENTARY
Fighting Fear. Tim Bonython, Chris Bryan, Macario De Souza, Lee Kelly. FOXTEL – Movie Network

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING IN A DOCUMENTARY
Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta – Episode 1. Sam Wilson. SBS

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND IN A DOCUMENTARY
Dr Sarmast’s Music School. Dale Cornelius, Livia Ruzic, Keith Thomas. ABC1

 

SHORT FILM

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT ANIMATION
The Hunter. Marieka Walsh

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FICTION FILM
Julian. Robert Jago, Matthew Moore.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY IN A SHORT FILM
Transmission. Zak Hilditch.

TELEVISION

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION SERIES
Agony Aunts. Adam Zwar, Nicole Minchin. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION COMEDY SERIES
Lowdown – Season 2. Nicole Minchin, Amanda Brotchie, Adam Zwar. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TELEVISION COMEDY
Patrick Brammall. A Moody Christmas. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CHILDREN’S TELEVISION SERIES
The Adventures Of Figaro Pho. Dan Fill, Frank Verheggen, David Webster. ABC3

 

FEATURE FILM

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Sapphires. Warwick Thornton.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING
The Sapphires. Dany Cooper ASE.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND
The Sapphires. Andrew Plain, Bry Jones, Pete Smith, Ben Osmo, John Simpson.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Not Suitable For Children. Matteo Zingales, Jono Ma.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Sapphires. Melinda Doring.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Sapphires. Tess Schofield.

A gallery of gorgeous photos of winners from the luncheon can be found here on Facebook or on our Instagram account, but for a taste, here’s a gallery of selected shots from the event:

For full details of the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe, see the AACTA website here.

Coming next: Part 2: Wrapping it up with a Bow: The 2nd AACTA Awards Ceremony.

AACTA Member Profile | Andy Nehl: journalist, television producer, writer and director

Andy Nehl has worked across film, television and radio, and his wealth of knowledge and passion for exploring topical political and cultural issues makes him an unstoppable media force.

Hungry Beast Producer Andy Nehl and reporter/presenter Monique Schafter at the 2010 AFI awards.

Nehl grew up in rural NSW and Queensland and lives in the bustling inner-western suburbs of Sydney. He is one of the producers behind The Chaser, Hungry Beast and Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure, and led the team that transitioned Triple J from a state-based radio network to a national one in the late 1980s and early 90s. He has also co-written and directed two documentaries, Media Rules and Buried Country. Nehl’s work has been nominated three times for an AFI Award and he won in 2006  for The Chaser’s War on Everything (Best Television Comedy Series, shared with Mark FitzGerald and Julian Morrow), and 2009 for Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure (Best Television Comedy Series, shared with Nathan Earl and Craig Melville).

Nehl is currently busy producing (and sometimes appearing onscreen as an extra!) in comedy news series The Hamster Wheel (Wednesdays, 9.05pm, ABC1). In this interview, he delves into his past to reveal some secrets of the trade and gives us some juicy insight into The Chaser’s APEC summit media stunt that stopped the nation in 2007. Nehl is a strong advocate for honesty and passion when working in collaboration, and believes that having a genuine curiosity and strong work ethic are pivotal to making it in the industry. With the recent development of highly sophisticated digital platforms and the ease and speed of downloadable content, Nehl is intrigued to see what the future holds for television and media consumption in general. He is unafraid of change, and is a recently self-confessed Twitter fiend.

Andy Nehl is one of our longstanding AFI and now AACTA members within the Producers chapter. We are proud to have film and television makers of this calibre as a part of the new Australian Academy. In coming months, we look forward to sharing more of these profiles as we turn the Member Spotlight onto more performers and practitioners – both those working at home and abroad. (You can check out our previous AACTA Member Profiles here.)

L-R: Mark FitzGerald, Julian Morrow, Andy Nehl, Chas Licciardello. With the 2006 AFI Award for Best Television Comedy Series for THE CHASER’S WAR ON EVERYTHING.

 AFI | AACTA: Where were you born, and where do you live now?

Andy Nehl:  I was born in St George, Queensland, about 500kms west of Brisbane, and now live in the inner-west suburbs of Sydney.

Is there a significant memory from your childhood that still resonates strongly with you today?

There’s a lot. As far as memories relating to film and television go, two television programs I saw as a kid in the sixties had a big and lasting impact on me. One was the Mavis Bramston Show on Channel 7, a satirical comedy program that had a lot of fun with topical issues in Australian society at the time. The other was the ABC’s ground breaking and sometimes irreverent current affairs program, This Day Tonight. Both those programs inspired me and opened my eyes to the importance of understanding and questioning what’s happening in the world, and the potential for humour to communicate ideas. I think they certainly contributed to me becoming a journalist and wanting to work on the one hand across current affairs and documentaries, and on the other hand, satirical comedies or entertainment programs.

You originally started working in radio. Why and how did you make the transition to Film and Television? 

I started making Super 8 films when I was in year 8 in high school. At university, I made a few short 16mm films and also had a casual job as a camera operator/production assistant for the University of NSW’s audio-visual unit, so I was into film and TV well before I started working in radio. I also studied filmmaking at UTS. I made the transition into paid employment in television, because I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time – working as a current affairs journalist at Triple J when ABC TV was looking for reporters for a show called Beatbox in the mid-’80s.

Triple J Manager, Andy Nehl and presenter, Tracey Hutchison at the launch of Triple J Melbourne in October 1989.

You’ve worked extensively with ABC TV to produce a number of highly successful satirical series that examine the state of our cultural, economic and political landscape, including: CNNN, The Chaser Decides, The Chaser’s War On Everything, Yes We CANberra, Hungry Beast and The Hamster WheelIs it important for you in your work to have the opportunity to publicly explore, comment on and critique current socio-political ideas, issues and events?

Yes it is. I have always been focused on exploring social, cultural and political issues whether it’s via comedy TV shows, current affairs or serious documentaries. I have been fortunate to work on many of these kinds of programs over the years with great teams of people.

We vividly recall the day when the Chaser team fooled security at the 2007 APEC summit and drove straight through to the red zone in a fake motorcade, a stunt that drew 2.24 million viewers and became the most-watched comedy show ever to be screened on ABC TV. This could have been a publicity nightmare, but instead garnered the respect and attention of the nation. How did you go about managing this precarious but powerful piece of television?

The Chaser’s APEC stunt involved an incredibly large amount of planning to mitigate the potential risks involved. In a worst case scenario, we didn’t want any of team to get shot by an overly zealous sniper when Chas, dressed as Osama Bin Laden, stepped out of the motorcade. We had very serious briefings for everyone working on that stunt and we ensured that all the appropriate precautions were taken. The NSW Police expected that the Chaser team would try something during APEC and we confirmed with them that we probably would, without saying what, when or where, but stressing that whatever we did, we wouldn’t breach any laws. On the day, I had the direct number of the NSW Police Minister’s media adviser up on my mobile phone, ready to dial as soon as the stunt happened, to let police know that it was only the Chaser, and not a security threat. We originally expected to be stopped at the first Green Zone gate and as well as four small cameras with the motorcade, had another five cameras set up around the Green Zone gate.  We were taken by surprise when the police waived us through and we rolled on past where a Red Zone gate had been the day before. We didn’t end up with a publicity nightmare thanks to the high level of planning involved and the professionalism and appropriate actions of all staff who watched as the stunt unfolded. The subsequent fallout, after people were arrested, was also well-managed by the Chaser Team and the ABC’s editorial executives, legal department and publicity department – everyone working together to explain the reality of what had actually happened.

What are the most important elements for you in creating thought-provoking but entertaining television?

Good creative ideas, good research, good writing, good cinematography, good sound, good editing, good planning and preparation, assembling a production team of the best people you can, being prepared to take risks, being dedicated to excellence and making the best possible program you can, a mountain of hard work, and having fun while you do it. Whatever the genre, whether it’s a comedy, satire, documentary, drama or current affairs – being aware of your audience and providing them with some truth or insight into what’s going on in the world or the nature of humanity.

Honesty cuts through and engages audiences, whether it’s honesty of talent in an interview or honesty in a performance.

What does a typical working day entail for you?

That varies depending on the day. Yesterday, a show record day for The Hamster Wheel involved the following: script read through; meetings with the Chaser team; viewing edits of segments; supervising the formatting of final scripts; the preparation of logs for over 70 video inserts; reading 80 emails and writing 10; making a lot of phone calls and posting a few tweets promoting the show; heading to wardrobe and make up and then on to the set for a quick shoot as an extra in a sketch; informing the graphics team and editors of any last minute changes; discussing legal and editorial issues with our ABC executive producer and lawyers; being in the studio control room for rehearsals and the recording of the show, live to tape – which happens three hours before it goes to air; spending the final couple of hours in an online edit suite as we do a quick trim of the show and get the finished program into a tape machine, five minutes before it’s broadcast. After that it’s sit down with a laptop to monitor the stream of Twitter comments about the show, for half an hour as it goes to air. One of the fun bonuses of working on shows like The Hamster Wheel  is getting to play occasional cameo roles in sketches.

Promo image for satirical news comedy show THE HAMSTER WHEEL.

Can you describe the collaborative creative process?

The collaborative process has varied on different programs and documentaries I have worked on. With The Hamster Wheel as with other Chaser shows, the five Chaser members: Chris, Craig, Julian, Chas and Andrew are the key creative team who write and collectively refine the scripts for The Hamster Wheel. Those scripts draw on the work of a team of researchers and loggers who scour the media, finding appropriate material. When scripts are completed they go through a legal and editorial approval process with the ABC and then our crack production team swings into action, organising shoots, producing graphics and editing segments. Given it’s a topical weekly show, production is very fast-paced and we work flat out to get items finished on time. It’s a massive collaborative effort, with everyone involved contributing to the show.

The fact that you need to collaborate with large numbers of people to make films and television programs is what I love most about working in the industry.

It’s a joy to work on shows like The Hamster Wheel where the team functions like a well-oiled machine, all working together towards a common goal, where every one gives their all, inputting to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Andy Nehl playing a funky preacher in a Hungry Beast sketch 2011.

Over the last ten years, have you noticed a significant shift in the way that television is produced? How has the internet, and in particular the ease and prevalence of downloading content, impacted the viewership and the broadcasting of free-to-air television?

The main change in the way television is being produced over the past ten years is that (while there are exceptions) in general, production budgets have come down in ‘real terms’. The workload has increased and more corners need to be cut in order to produce programs within the budgets that are available from broadcasters.

…in general, production budgets have come down in ‘real terms’. The workload has increased and more corners need to be cut in order to produce programs within the budgets that are available from broadcasters.

The Internet and downloading have had a significant impact on free-to-air television audiences, as has the growth of FOXTEL and the new free-to-air digital channels. The result is that audiences for TV programs across all networks are down. But the Internet, mobile, social media and the multiplatform/multiscreen environment have also provided great new opportunities for engaging with audiences, evolving new forms of programming and promoting programs. The industry is in a state flux as we have entered the era of downloading and IPTV. Business models are changing and no one is sure where things will end up. Look at the current difficulties being experienced by Channel Nine and Network Ten. It is a challenging but very exciting time to be in television.

You also co-wrote and directed the documentary Buried Country (2000). What was the inspiration behind this project? 

My friend Clinton Walker had been researching a book on the hidden history of Aboriginal country music for a few years and I came on board to help turn it into a doco.  The inspiration was the music. Australia has had decades of great country music performed by talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists for over 70 years. While the Indigenous community was always aware of this, the majority of the non-Indigenous Australian population was not. Buried Country was a great opportunity to document and bring to the world’s attention this significant part of Australia’s musical heritage. I had been a fan of Aboriginal musicians such as Jimmy Little, Roger Knox, the Warumpi Band and Archie Roach for many years so I was keen to become involved when Clinton asked me.

Director Andy Nehl, singer Herbie Laughton, DOP Warwick Thornton and sound recordist Leo Sullivan filming Buried Country south of Alice Springs in 1999.

How did this experience differ to working in television? Was this project more a labour of love?

Making a long-form documentary is obviously different to producing a weekly turnaround TV program full of short segments. The productions schedule is very different with longer blocks of pre-production, shooting and post-production. The team is much smaller, and the long-form narrative structure requires a different approach. But the need for planning and the creative collaboration of the whole team is the same. Is any documentary not a labour of love? Buried Country was funded by Film Australia and SBS Independent with a reasonable budget, considering the travel and music and archive licensing involved, but it still didn’t cover the vast majority of development or research involved, which both Clinton and I were happy to undertake due to our love of the music.

What are some of the ways that you have refined your skills and changed your working methods over the course of your career?

I have continually developed and refined my skills throughout my career and have learnt from different people I have worked with. The arrival of digital, multiplatform technologies and social media has changed the way I work and changed they way we all work. When I first worked for ABC TV in the mid-1980s social media like Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. They weren’t even a twinkle in some programmer’s eye. These days I’m on Twitter every day. Twitter has been my main source of news since I joined it four years ago. It is a great tool for researching ideas, marketing your programs and interacting with your audience.

Lawrence Leung’s CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.

What have been some of the biggest hurdles you’ve faced during your career? And what have been the highlights?

The biggest hurdle in my career was probably turning Triple J from a Sydney station into a national radio network when I was manager of it in the late ’80s and early ’90s. A very tough job, but also a career highlight, as Triple J successfully launched in capital cities around Australia. Career highlights in film and TV would be the docos Buried Country and Media Rules, and working on TV shows that pushed the boundaries such Beatbox, Blah Blah Blah, Hungry BeastLawrence Leung and The Chaser shows of the last decade.

Over the years you’ve been nominated three times and twice won an AFI Award for your work on Hungry Beast, The Chaser’s War on Everything and Lawrence Leung’s Choose Your Own Adventure. You also won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Hawaiian International Film Festival for Buried Country. How does it feel to receive such widespread recognition for your craft?

It’s great to receive recognition for your work, but as always that recognition really belongs to the whole team, because the success of those programs is due to the creative input and collaboration of everyone involved.

The Chaser team celebrating their AFI Award win in 2006. Andy Nehl at centre.

Can you name three mentors or people who have inspired and nurtured your creativity over the years?

Yes: Mark FitzGerald, producer and director at ABC TV over many years; Marius Webb, one of the founders of Triple J radio; and Stephen Stockwell, Professor with the School of Humanities, Griffith University.

What advice would you give upcoming television and filmmakers wanting to break into the industry?

Do whatever you can to develop your skills. Do short film courses, uni media courses, research and write scripts, volunteer on other people’s films and community TV programs, undertake work experience attachments on productions that interest you, attend industry events and watch lots of film and TV.  Cheap video cameras and editing software means it’s easy to get together with friends and make short films. The more you do this, the more you will develop your screen story telling skills.

Be determined and persistent, and be a decent human being – the film and TV industry in Australia is very small, and no one wants to work with prima donnas.

The more practical experience you have, the more employable you will be. Be prepared to give a 110% and willingly work long hours with good humour.

What is your all-time favourite Australian film or television series? Why?

This is the hardest of the all these questions to answer because there are just way too many Australian films and TV series that I really like. Being forced to choose one, I’ll pick my favourite Australian movie of this year, which is The Sapphires. Why? It is a great uplifting story, with great performances, great music, great editing, great directing, and such beautiful and stunning cinematography from Warwick Thornton. And on top of all that, it has exposed the general public to a positive and inspiring story about the contribution of Aboriginal peoples to Australian culture.  The Sapphires is a triumph for Goalpost Pictures and all the team who made it.

Thanks for your time Andy, and we look forward to seeing what you do next!

The Hamster Wheel is currently screening on Wednesdays, ABC1 at 9.05pm.

To read other AACTA Member Profiles, click here.

By Lia McCrae-Moore & Rochelle Siemienowicz

Why I Adore… Tony Martin

On July 18th a very special anniversary came and went – special, that is, to virtually no one but a small, insular group of super-fans (some might say nerds) with an interest in an influential but ageing gem of Australian TV.

It was the 20th anniversary of July 18th, 1992, the Saturday night on which The Late Show first aired live on the ABC, a cause for celebration, reflection and appreciation for a show still well-remembered by its fans long after it finished playing on television.

For me, the anniversary was an opportunity to reflect on not just the show, which I discovered relatively late in life, but one of its writer/performers in particular: the incomparable Tony Martin, who is entering his fourth decade entertaining and influencing Australians with his singular blend of high- and low-brow comedy in stand-up, television, radio, literature, feature film, and now even web video.

Tony Martin posing with a list of radio executives who will still take his calls.

I could go on all day about his legendary radio show Get This or his two books, but for this remembrance I want to focus on two of his most high-profile credits: The Late Show, through which most Australians first became familiar with him, and his 2003 “low budget cop movie”, Bad Eggs.

On that date back in 1992 I was seven years old, and though my older brothers would religiously watch The Late Show it never occurred to me to join them and find out exactly what they were on about when they would discuss such strange concepts as “Bargearse” or “Pissweak World” (which they compared, with some accuracy, to the eastern suburbs institution and source of much of my childhood disappointment, Wobbies World – home of the world’s slowest monorail).

A lot of the humour would have gone way over my head, of course, but now as a 27-year-old who believes Tony Martin to be Australia’s greatest comedy writer, I can’t help but think that if only I’d stayed up on just one Saturday night in 1992, I could have enjoyed two decades of Martin’s work as he was creating it rather than attempting to go back and piece it together after the fact – a task made possible (but not easy) with the aid of YouTube and an active culture of fans recording his work.

“Influential” is certainly an understatement when used to describe The Late Show and the team responsible for it. The D-Generation were a new breed of young, irreverent and disrespectful Australian comedians and theatre performers who assembled, Thunderbirds-style, in the 1980s and with acts like the Doug Anthony All Stars ushered in the demise of the relatively safe, prosaic Australian comedy that was dominant through the 1970s and (with a few exceptions) had scarcely developed since the end of World War II.

The Late Show, by contrast, was anything but safe. Absurdism, topical satire, slapstick, political humour and fart jokes would sit side-by-side, the show blending sharply-edited, high-quality pre-recorded sketches with live, in-studio pieces which could, and often would, go entirely off the rails and cause at least one performer to corpse (a delightful term derived from the theatre meaning to break character, such as to laugh during a scene).

While his quick wit, experience with stand-up comedy and rapport with Mick Molloy saw him introduce each episode and act as a sort of M.C. between sketches, the pre-recorded skits are where Martin’s talents really shone.

Apart from maybe Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant there are few writers in the world more willing than Tony Martin to actively hide their own jokes in a scene.

Sketches gave Martin an avenue to showcase his ability to work in a range of styles and with a range of topics, equally brilliant whether expressed as short, single-idea sketches or elaborate, high-concept sequences stretching over 10 minutes. He would often throw oblique references to art or pop culture into his work which, while not significant enough to spoil a sketch if you didn’t understand the reference, would make it that much funnier if you did.

One of my favourite examples of this is in “The Last Aussie Auteur”, a spoof of one or more stereotypically tawdry Australian film producers of the 1970s and 80s, personified by Warren Perso:

Hidden in the background of the sketch, barely catching seconds of visibility, hang posters for two of Perso’s films: Evil Angels 2: Lindy’s Revenge (tagline: “DINGOS BEWARE, SHE’S BACK – AND SHE’S MAD AS HELL!”), and Wuthering Heights Down Under.

These jokes aren’t central to the sketch in any way, but the fact that Martin surreptitiously placed these two posters into Perso’s office for those who happen to notice them (and understand the comment they make on the Australian film industry’s colourful history), says a lot about how much work he puts into a joke regardless of how many people would be expected to see or even understand it.

For most people those two jokes would fly entirely under the radar, but for someone that does catch them, that feeling of being “in on the joke” improves the scene immensely. Apart from maybe Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant there are few writers in the world more willing to actively hide their own jokes in a scene, forcing people to work hard to get maximum enjoyment out of their work.

Tony Martin… Canberra: Martin as Peter Harvey on The Late Show.

Above all else The Late Show was unpredictable – a quality appreciable even when viewing it for the first time many years after it first aired, as I had to do.

It was made in an era before entrenched home video, never meant to be viewed 20 years later, and certainly not viewed for the first time 20 years later. But it’s a testament to the strength of the show’s writing and the chemistry of its performers that – save for a few references to relics of the 90s like Tanya Blanco – it’s as relatable, hilarious and daring today as it must have been at the time.

The fact that a sizeable portion of Australia’s comedic output over the last 20 years has come from this single group of a dozen or so comedy performers is a testament to both their enduring talent and the risk-averse attitudes that Australian content commissioners have had towards comedy in the years since The Late Show went off the air.

After the show ended, most of its performers and writers split into two major camps, with one (Tom Gleisner, Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Jane Kennedy) forming Working Dog Productions and the other, Tony Martin and Mick Molloy, moving into commercial radio and eventually writing and/or directing films of their own.

Bad Eggs remains a film I desperately defend to my film-snob friends for one reason and one reason only: it’s funny.

While I did spend all of my high school years incessantly quoting The Castle with my small cadre of outcast friends – an easy shorthand by which the school’s female population could discount us as potential suitors – it is Martin’s Bad Eggs to which I continually return and which, if pressed, I would name as my favourite Australian comedy.

Note that I say it’s “my favourite” and not “the best” – an important distinction because, while it is a surprisingly effective comedy-thriller given its budget, on a technical level it clearly doesn’t have the production values of, say, The Dish or Kenny, which are positively slick compared to the slightly rough-around-the-edges Bad Eggs.

Victoria Police entry requirements were a little lax in the early 21st century.

Budgetary constraints are evident from the very first scene, where a long and presumably expensive tracking shot follows a car – its driver passed out from an apparent suicide attempt – rolling down a street and through a busy shopping centre. This impressive extended shot is undone almost immediately when the car crashes into a fountain and what is obviously a plastic mannequin flies through the windshield into a conveniently placed convertible.

The scene is ludicrously over-the-top, but then again, this is a film set in a world in which someone of Mick Molloy’s physique could make it as a “top cop”, so gritty David Simon-esque realism doesn’t seem to have been Martin’s goal.

But what it lacks in budget it certainly makes up for in its alchemical combination of hilarious visual humour; endlessly quotable dialogue; understated, laconic lead performances (especially from Bob Franklin); inventive set pieces (including one of the least-exciting security camera hacks in all of cinema); and a raft of irresistable cameos drawn from Martin’s long career in entertainment.

The result is a film which is justifiably panned for many legitimate reasons (with David Stratton giving it a particularly bad review on The Movie Show), but will remain a film I desperately defend to my film-snob friends for one reason and one reason only: it’s funny.

And that’s what I love about Tony Martin more than anything else: his absolute commitment to “the funny”, deliberately less focused on any factor which doesn’t directly make the sketch or scene more effective comedically.

The shame is that, despite his past successes in a range of creative media, the only time we get to see much of Martin on television these days is when he turns up on a light entertainment panel show, over which he has no control.

He has dipped his toes into the world of online content in collaboration with Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler, but I hope he finds his way to creating more film or television brilliance in the future, if only so that future generations aren’t forced to delve into decades of history or the bowels of the internet to discover the treasure trove that is his body of work.

The 20th anniversary of The Late Show has given me a chance to reflect on how much enjoyment Tony Martin has given me and many like me over his career, and it’s hard to think of anyone who has contributed more to Australian comedy over the past three decades than he has.

It’s a well-worn cliché to note that many of Australia’s favourite film and television performers are, in fact, not Australian, but do any of us really appreciate just how well we’ve done at the expense of our pacific neighbour?

For every Taika Waititi – who has stayed in New Zealand to make two of the sweetest and funniest films of the past 10 years (Eagle vs Shark and Boy) – there’s a handful of John Clarkes, Sam Neills or Jane Campions who crossed the Tasman and saw their adoptive country champion their successes and disavow their failures, as we Australians tend to do.

For me, even accounting for what others describe as “failures”, the New Zealander who has given Australia more successes than any other is Mr. Tony Martin.

Tony Martin can be found on Twitter at @mrtonymartin or on repeats of Spicks and Specks. Scarcely Relevant, an e-book collection of his columns for The Scriveners Fancy is available from Tony Martin Things for $6.00. I particularly recommend “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Laserdisc Player”, a reminiscence about an ancient device, and “Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy”, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Further Late Show clips that movie fans may enjoy:

About Bradley Dixon: Bradley J. Dixon is a web developer, writer and film lover who has been AFI | AACTA’s web coordinator since early 2012. You can find more of his film writings at his blog Cinema Quest or follow him on Twitter at @bradleyjdixon.

Read Previous ‘Why I Adore’ Posts:

Paul Anthony Nelson (the ‘Why I Adore’ godfather and founder) introduces the concept, and rhapsodises about Mad Max. AFI Membership Administrator Lia McCrae-Moore revisits the lyrical beauty of One Night the Moon and Clem Bastow reminisces about a childhood spent watching the television show Round the Twist. Or you can read Anthony Morris flirting with disaster in his adoration of Romper Stomper, Annie Stevens going bridal with Muriel’s Wedding, or Popzilla bowing down before the altar of literary screen adaptations. More recently, Lia McCrae-Moore showers affection on SBS’s high-octane police thriller, East West 101, Rochelle Simienowicz delves deeply into the ground-breaking television series, Love My Way, and Simon Elschlepp discovers a fondness for stylish and audacious futuristic noir, Dark City. Thomas Caldwell rhapsodises about Richard Lowenstein’s anarchic and playful 1986 film Dogs in Space, John Bailey remembers a strange fascination with Big Brother Up Late, Hila Shachar explains why Cate Shortland’s Somersault moves her so, and James Madden explains how Lantana won him over. Briony Kidd explains why she loves to be horrified by the Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock, Glenn Dunks reveals himself to be a Kidmaniac in his celebration of Nicole Kidman, and  David Evan Giles explains how Bliss changed his view of Australia. Most recently, British film critic and sportswriter Scott Jordan Harris defends Aussie soap opera Neighbours.

Contribute: We’re currently looking for more ‘Why I Adore’ articles devoted to Australian film and television. Send a one paragraph summary to editor[at] afi.org.au and we’ll get back to you with more details.

AFI Quick Quiz: Tim Ferguson

Tim Ferguson’s website is called The Cheeky Monkey and it’s a fittting title for this widely acclaimed comedian, writer and producer. With his impudent grin he’s imediately recognisable – whether you remember him from comedy trio Doug Anthony Allstars (DAAS – with Paul McDermott and Richard Fidler) or from his Logie-winning television show Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. Or perhaps you saw him prancing around in bondage underwear as Franknfurter in the record-breaking Sydney production of The Rocky Horror Show. Then again, there was also that stint as a political candidate for the seat of Kooyong in Melbourne…

A writer of opinion pieces for various newspapers, Tim wrote the bestselling political satire Left, Right and Centre  and the comedy manual The Cheeky Monkey – Writing Narrative Comedy. He currently lectures in comedy screenwriting at the RMIT University School of Media & Communications in Melbourne, and from the looks of his responses to our quiz, he still enjoys having a dig at the other side of politics.

Here are Tim Ferguson’s answers to the AFI Quick Quiz.*

The AFI Quick Quiz:

 

 

Q. What is your favorite word?‘Fecund’.

Q. What is your least favourite word? ‘Conservative’.

Q. What turns you on? Seeing a joke I’ve written work.

Q. What turns you off? Suicidal smack junkie Social Realism films. The Social Realism genre is proof the writer had no ideas worth inventing.

Q. What sound or noise do you love? The lamentation of my enemy’s women.

Q. What sound or noise do you hate? The bells, the bells, the bells…

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Obviously my true calling is Liturgical Interpretive Dance. Or Accountancy.

Q. What profession would you not like to do? Nappy-changer for the Young Liberals – they’d take it for granted.

Q. The last film or DVD you watched? Two & A Half Men. It is genius. Seriously. Deal with it.

Q. The film that changed you and why? Star Wars. It proved to me that one teenager can make a difference if he can move things with his mind.

Q. Your guilty television pleasure? I never feel guilty about watching television.

Q. Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is… all the free time it allows me.

Q. Three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you?

  • Marc Gracie (Producer of Shock Jock/The Craic).
  • Peter Abbott (Producer of Big Brother/Top Gear Australia).
  • John Hooker (Author of Jacob’s Season/The Bush Soldiers).

To find out more about Tim Ferguson, visit his website The Cheeky Monkey.

*The AFI Quick Quiz is a version of the Bernard Pivot Questionnaire. Bernard Pivot is a journalist, interviewer and host of French cultural television programs. He developed a list of questions based on Proust’s famous questionnaire. This then formed the basis of James Lipton’s questions to actors on American cable television program Inside the Actors Studio. Now the AFI has its own version. We hope you enjoy it!

Check out other Quick Quiz respondents. They’ve included:

Frank Lotito | Kestie Morassi | Melissa Bergland | Lincoln Younes | Maeve Dermody and Leon Ford