In 1964 Carol Raye became the first female television executive in Australia when she created The Mavis Bramston Show which boldly tackled subjects such as sexuality, politics, religion, women's rights add racism. Nothing was sacred.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH STEPHAN WELLINK
How and why did you become a documentary filmmaker?
I worked on scientific research projects for many years with no plans to become a filmmaker. However, I had a keen interest in films and the history of Hollywood, which were encouraged by my father. His favourite actor was Rod Taylor (The Time Machine and The Birds) and when Dad passed away, I had a need to write something that reflected the many wonderful hours we spent watching films on television or at the cinema. So, I wrote about Rod Taylor and put the document in a drawer where it remained for many years. In 2012, a chance meeting with documentary filmmaker Robert de Young changed my life. Robert also had an
interest in Hollywood history and when I tested my thesis on Rod Taylor with him, we agreed it would make for an interesting documentary feature. Together, we made “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches,” which was released in 2016. Since then, I have worked on documentaries about comedian and auteur Jerry Lewis, the Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel and The Mavis Bramston Show. My most recent documentary is “The Sculpture”.
What makes a good documentary?
The documentaries I enjoy the most:
- are well-researched and accurate;
- are engaging and deliver an experience to remember;
- provide interpretation and analysis of the subject matter;
- set the context by exploring the prevailing social and cultural conditions;
- have high production values.
Why did you make "Pushing the Boundaries" and what were the key challenges you faced making the film?
In late 2014, I was in a conversation with Barry Creyton, one of the principal cast members of The Mavis Bramston Show. Barry mentioned it was the 50th anniversary of the premiere of that pioneering satirical program on Australian television and he lamented the fact that nothing was planned to mark the occasion. I thought there might be an opportunity to celebrate all that MAVIS was by making a documentary. I knew the show had been controversial. However, until I started my research, I did not realise the extent to which the show broke new ground and pushed boundaries as each week it delivered witty and clever satirical skits on the
church, royalty, politics, indigenous rights, sexuality, and women’s rights. Nothing was sacred. Mavis Bramston held up a mirror and for the first time, Australians saw who and what they were. As for the challenges: the usual – access to finance and securing quality archival material.
What's next for you? What projects are you currently working on?
The next project will be about the life and times of Ida Lupino, a leading actress in Hollywood during the 1940s who became an auteur. Ida was the second woman to be elected to the Directors Guild in the US. Other projects in development or production include a film on Tommy Tycho who was Australia’s greatest musician from the 1960s to the early 2000s and two scripted features, adapted from novels.