A book about a film
by David Leigh
It was an email to a lady in Tasmania that changed my life forever. I was part of a newly formed film production company of four ex screen academy students, in Perth Western Australia. I had never been to Tasmania although I understood it to be a place of pristine cool climate rain forests and extreme beauty. I was horrified as the story unfolded, in subsequent emails, of a regime of corrupt men actively destroying the island for profit.
When I heard the part about a pulp mill and wood chipping the forests I felt I was entering a time warp; surely this happened twenty years ago and was a disaster, is this person for real? I fell into the trap of believing what I now know to be propagandist rhetoric, about greenies and tree huggers. When she telephoned me one evening and said I could see her at the front of the march, ahead of 10,000 people and walking between then Greens leader Peg Putt and TV celebrity Gardener Peter Cundall, I asked where. She said it was on the evening news, all channels. With a 2-hour time difference I was able to channel surf and found... Absolutely nothing.
The next morning I worked my way through all the media websites and eventually found that only Tasmanian TV and newspapers carried the story. It was a march through the streets of thousands of people, against a proposed pulp mill. The accounts varied from a few hundred to around 5,000 people. I did a head count on the photograph in
the Mercury and made it well over 6,000 and the march went around a corner. I telephoned the lady and asked if her offer to stay was still current, packed a bag and caught the earliest flight. I figured if that march had taken place in any city or town on earth it would have graced the screens of TV land globally. Obviously somebody had gone to a lot of trouble and expense to keep this from mainland Australia
and the world.
The film was shot under difficult, often dangerous conditions. We, as a film crew, were followed and photographed. The interviews were compelling and spoke of criminal corruption at the highest levels of state governance. We were warned to watch our backs. After 3 weeks, we returned to Perth and looked at the footage. It was short of many of the vital story elements. I returned with Jon, our DOP and spent 3 more weeks filming and interviewing.
The filming proved stressful, both financially and emotionally and split the production company apart. I decided to go it alone. No government funding body would touch it and it was ineligible for tax relief, making philanthropist funding an unattractive option. I found philanthropists among the caring people of Tasmania and sympathetic souls in Perth. I borrowed equipment and was supported by the Tasmanian community, especially the lady who brought me the story. Finally, after three long years and much evolution of the story thread, it was finished.
I fell in love with Tasmania and the lady who brought me the story. I stayed.