The research for Quinn’s Post had an important by-product. Later in 2004 the film-maker Wain Fimeri approached the Memorial, seeking an historical consultant to work on his film Revealing Gallipoli. Having almost finished a book on the subject, with recent experience of field work on the peninsula, I was happy to oblige. I knew Wain’s work through his Pozieres, which I had reviewed (positively) for Wartime, and I was soon very impressed with the material I was reading as he sent me draft scripts.
Of course I made all sorts of comments and criticisms, but I was impressed with Wain’s desire to tell a Gallipoli story that transcended the Australian. I also realised that he had imbibed, reflected upon and synthesised a vast amount of reading to create a script that, even if I quibbled with aspects, did justice to the subject. Soon Wain invited me to audition for the part of the Australian presenter. The audition took us to the car park of Film Australia in Lindfield (just up the street from Charles Bean’s marital home in Eton Road), where I pretended to be pointing out the landscape from Plugges Plateau (or wherever). My improvised gabbling must have worked because I got the job and the War Memorial got a handsome fee for my services. (Though I also got a very fine waterproof jacket which I still use.)
I often think that Wain must later have wished that he had asked us to do something different in the audition, because once we got to Gallipoli – actually within minutes of the first sequence, at about 7.30 a.m. on a wintry December day at Anzac Cove – it became terrifyingly clear that Wain actually didn’t want improvisation at all. He had written a script and he wanted us three presenters – me, Keith Jeffrey from Ireland and Savas SSSS from Turkey – to mouth it. The script that I had idly looked through ‘to get an idea of what Wain wanted’ was actually very closely and carefully scripted, and Wain expected us to say it his way and to walk and gesture exactly as he had envisaged it back in Melbourne.
While this was something of a psychic shock – as was his desire to put the lens of the camera (operated by the wonderful Jaems Grant) about six inches from our noses – it was of course quite within Wain’s right as writer and director to do this, and we obligingly knuckled down to a punishing regime of twelve-hour shoots and frantic learning of lines. As the weeks wore on we (that is, me and Keith, the amateurs) became more comfortable with memorising lines and even walking and talking simultaneously, and soon some sequences were done in under ten takes. (This became important later in the shoot when in London the producer, a Cockney barrow boy made good called Tony Wright, issued us all with fake media passes and we did sequences in the courtyard of the Horse Guards without any permission at all. Because we had the drill down pat by this time Keith and I did a couple of complicated you-walk-there-and-say-this-then-he-walks-there-and says-that takes before a civil servant in a suit and plummy voice roared out of the office and chased us away. But by then we had it.
To read more about the process of making Revealing Gallipioli, see my essay ‘Revealing Revealing Gallipoli’, which was published in 2011.
I was interviewed for Tolga Ornek’s Gallipoli, but my interviews were all cut. Whether this was because I had ‘flu that day, or (as I was told) because of the length of the film, or . . . I never found out truth.
Monash the Forgotten Anzac
In Their Footsteps
Charles Bean’s Great War