The Future of Filmmaking: Seizing back control of the Six Pillars of Cinema

*I first published this post for SPAA (Screen Producers Association Australia) on 23/10/2009.

After attending the forum ‘OZ Films vs OZ Audiences’ put together by Metro Screen last night and moderated by Andrew Urban at the Chauvel Cinema I came away despondent that the same people are having the same conversations about the same problems in the Australian Film industry and in most cases we are asking the wrong questions and spending too much time discussing the problems and not enough time addressing realistic & feasible solutions.

As a marketer who lives, breathes and dies around my skills and ability to understand Joe Average consumer and in this case the average moviegoer, I get totally fed up and angry at the pretentious and elitist attitude actively demonstrated by some filmmakers and commentators towards the intelligence and tastes of the average person who pays to see movies. It’s their money and they’ll choose what they like & don’t like! If Australian films were really that good AND in tune with what people want to spend their money on AND we got the marketing right then we would have more Australian films seen by more Australians. But, generally speaking we aren’t making films which appeal and resonate with Australian audiences and if filmmakers and commentators keep deciding to blame consumers and consumer tastes instead of looking at what we are making then sadly our industry will never change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Vietnam Vets Return To Base To help Preschoolers

A refurbished kindergarten has sprouted on the site where Australasian troops were headquartered for the 10 years of the Vietnam War, following a three year campaign of diplomacy and fundraising by veterans.

Nui Dat Kindergarten
Nui Dat Kindergarten, South Vietnam

The new facility will accommodate 50 pre-school children and includes extensions and renovations to the original class rooms built in 2002 for the rural community at Nui Dat by the Australia Vietnam Volunteers Resource Group (AVVRG).

The Group, made up of ex-soldiers and people from the business sector, generated $55,000 in donations to complete the project – including $5,600 raised by Year 10 students from Epping Boys’ High School.

Construction of a new long day care centre, kitchen, dining and activity rooms, washrooms and staff rooms was completed earlier this month and will be officially opened by Australia’s Consulate-General to Vietnam on 19 October.

The AVVRG assistance works grew out of the Australian war mission and have continued ever since as part of the “healing” process for many soldiers.

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Long Tan Veteran Morrie Stanley Has Passed Away at Aged 79

Battle of Long Tan veteran Major Morrie Stanley (RTD), MBE has passed away peacefully at his home in Campbells Bay, New Zealand. Morrie is survived by his wife Alva and his two sons.

Morrie Stanley was the Forward (Artillery) Observer Officer (FOO) from 161 Field Battery, 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery attached to D Company, 6RAR during the Battle of Long Tan.

Morrie Stanley’s full biography can be downloaded here (PDF).

Long Tan Veteran Major Morrie Stanley, MBE

For more than three and a half hours, in the pouring rain amid the shattered trees of a rubber plantation called Long Tan, Morrie Stanley radioed in more than 61 artillery fire missions and corrections in support of the 108 besieged soldiers of D Company 6RAR. Unable to see through the rain and murk exactly where the 3,500+ rounds of high explosive were falling, working entirely by radio communication with the forward platoons and the artillery units back at Nui Dat, from a folded map held in his hand, constantly wiping off the mud and running rainwater, this New Zealand officer was calling in every ounce of his experience and training. His M16 rifle lay unattended next to him in the water despite the repeated reminders of his radio operator, fellow New Zealander Willy Walker to keep it in his hand.

Many, including the Long Tan veterans and military historians credit the skill, professionalism and gallantry of Morrie Stanley in keeping much of the enemy at bay whilst the front lines soldiers fought off the foremost attacking waves of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. At critical points during the battle Morrie was directing artillery to within 50 metres of the Australian front line positions.

Sky News TV story about Morrie’s passing (17 Sep 2010)

The Artillery being controlled and directed by Morrie in support of D Company during the battle comprised eighteen 105mm L1A1 howitzers from 161 Field Battery (New Zealand), 103 Field Battery (Australia), 105 Field Battery (Australia) and six 155mm M109 self-propelled howitzers from 2/35th Howitzer Battalion (US Army).

In May 2010, Morrie Stanley along with his former radio operator at Long Tan, fellow New Zealander Willy Walker, were presented with the Australian Unit Citation for Gallantry (UCG) at a surprise service in New Zealand attended by his former Long Tan comrades Harry Smith, Bob Buick and Dave Sabben. In an unprecedented move, both the Australian Government and New Zealand governments fast tracked the offer from Australia of the Australian UCG to Morrie and Willy and within a few hours of receiving the offer, the New Zealand Prime Minister approved it in time for the surprise presentation on Saturday 29th May 2010. See TVNZ media coverage of the event below:

Snub to Governor General’s Medal Ceremony Offer to Long Tan Veterans

Governor General Quentin Bryce
Australian Governor General Quentin Bryce

A ceremony proposed by the Australian Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, to present a gallantry citation 44 years after the bloody Battle of Long Tan has been stalled by red tape to the distress of a distinguished Vietnam War commander.

Retired Lt Colonel Harry Smith praised the Governor-General for her sincere offer to host the ceremony for surviving soldiers from the conflict and Next of Kin (NOK) on 17 August – the Day before Long Tan Day – but said the Army had “failed to respect the offer.”

“The logistics of the event, including the transportation to and from Canberra, were down to Defence, and they simply didn’t follow through. Simply failed to honour the GG’s wishes. Absolutely appalling!”

The office of the Governor-General contacted Smith a month ago with the offer to hold an event at Yarralumla for surviving soldiers of the battle and family members of those who died in the conflict in 1966 or have passed away since.

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Facts and Figures About the Battle of Long Tan

**N.B. I’ve created a new BATTLE OF LONG TAN website with a lot more information and resources, please check it out!

As part of the work behind this project, I undertook more than 2 years of extensive research in order to ensure accuracy of our “The Battle of Long Tan” documentary and the upcoming “Long Tan” feature film. To help us inform the media about the facts and figures surrounding the battle we developed a simple .PDF document with all the information.

Click on this link to download The Battle of Long Tan Fact Sheet (.pdf document).

Here is just a sample of some of the Facts & Figures:

Total Australian and enemy casualties as a result of the Battle of Long Tan –

  • 18 killed (17 from D Coy, 6RAR and 1 from 3Trp, 1APC Squadron)
  • 24 wounded
A wounded Corporal Buddy Lea in hospital
A wounded Corporal Buddy Lea from, 10 Platoon, D Company in hospital shortly after the battle. He was shot twice while helping the injured Sgt Paddy Todd back to the D Company aid post.

NVA and VC

  • 245- 800 killed (245 bodies officially counted on the battlefield but many more bodies were found over two weeks after the battle and VC tactics were to remove the dead so no accurate counts could be made.)
  • More than 1,000 wounded (Identified from captured documents)
  • 2 wounded NVA soldiers were captured on the battlefield
  • 1 wounded VC soldier was captured on the battlefield
Total number of forces opposing each other on the battlefield at Long Tan –

Australia & New Zealand
  • 105 soldiers from D Coy, 6RAR, Australian Army
  • 3 man New Zealand Forward Artillery Observation party, 161 Bty RNZA
Total 108 men

NVA and VC
  • 2,000 soldiers from 275 Viet Cong Main Force Regiment (effectively an NVA Regiment as the unit was formed in North Vietnam)
  • 500 soldiers from an unidentified North Vietnamese Army Battalion, probably from 33rd NVA Regiment
  • 550 soldiers from D445 Viet Cong Provincial Mobile Battalion (local force VC)
A total of approximately 3,000 troops faced off against D Coy, 6RAR. But it is estimated that only around 2,500 directly took part in the battle.

Australian, New Zealand and American Supporting Units
  • 103 Battery, Royal Australian Artillery (6 x 105mm L5 pack howitzers)
  • 105 Battery, Royal Australian Artillery (6 x 105mm L5 pack howitzers)
  • 161 Battery, 16 Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery (6 x 105mm L5 pack howitzers)
  • A Battery, 2/35th Howitzer Battalion, US Army (6 x 155mm M109 Self-propelled howitzers)
  • 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (8 x Bell UH-1B Iroquois ‘Huey’ choppers)
  • Unidentified  United States Medical Company (Air Ambulance) – 1 x UH-1B Huey participated in the night airlift of wounded Australians from the edge of Long Tan alongside 9 Squadron, RAAF)
  • 3 Troop, 1 Armoured Personnel Squadron, Australian Army (7 x M113 APC’s)
  • B Company, 6RAR (32 soldiers – 48 had returned to Nui Dat for R&R on 17 August – arrived during last 10 minutes of the battle)
  • A Company, 6RAR (108 soldiers – arrived on the APC’s as the battle ended)
  • United States Marine Corps, Marine Attack Squadron 542 (VMA-542) – 2 x F-4 Phantoms provided an airstrike in support of D Coy, 6RAR

Ramping up Development on our Long Tan Movie

We are ramping up development of the ‘Long Tan’ movie with a view to having a completed film released in late 2011 or at the latest for ANZAC day 2012.

This is not to say that we haven’t been doing anything for the past 6 years having produced the critically acclaimed and award winning ‘Battle of Long Tan’ documentary and all the publicity around the 40th Anniversary back in August 2006 and of course much more behind the scenes!

Battle of Long Tan documentary
On set on our award winning Battle of Long Tan documentary.

We now feel the time is right and that we’ve established enough of a basic foundation of awareness across the media and film industry about the story to now move things forward more aggresively.

We are currently pulling together the development, production and marketing plans along with timelines covering the next 17-21 months.

Most of what we do over the next 7 months will be behind the scenes from a financing and development point of view but we will be releasing key information on a regular basis as we move forward.

When I begin to feel impatient I remind myself of the nine year development timeline for the award winning Australian film, ‘Shine’ in which Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar for best actor and the film went on to take more than $100m at the box office and DVD. As they say, “Patience is a virtue”.

Onwards and upwards, Martin Walsh – Producer.

A chance to walk the Long Tan battlefield with a Long Tan veteran

Members of the RAR Association need no introduction to the Battle of Long Tan. After all, it’s a Battle Honour on their Colours and its anniversary was selected as Australia’s Vietnam Veterans’ Day. And over the years, one of the key resources in describing and explaining the battle has been Dave Sabben, the former platoon commander of 12 Platoon, Delta Company, 6RAR, at the battle.

Dave has been interviewed for all the documentaries and books on the subject including the official Military History of Australia’s involvement in South East Asia, “To Long Tan”, and the recent highly acclaimed and award winning documentary screened on The History Channel, The Battle of Long Tan narrated by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation). He has even written his own “faction” book, Through Enemy Eyes, which takes the perspective of the NVA commander in Phuoc Tuy Province when the ANZACs arrived. It explains why there was a need to wipe out the Nui Dat base and the steps taken to achieve that aim. (The book demolishes the so-called ambush theory proposed by some in the late 1980s.)

If you’ve seen the animated Powerpoint presentation on Long Tan, that’s Dave’s work too, and if you haven’t seen it, then it’s available for free download from his website.

You’d wonder what else he could do in an effort to inform interested Australians about the battle. Well, last year a new idea came from an unlikely source – the Australia Vietnam Volunteers Resource Group (AVVRG).

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Battle of Long Tan Documentary – Artillery Behind the Scenes

Here is some video I filmed behind the scenes while we shot footage of Artillery firing in New Zealand for my Battle of Long Tan documentary with the 16th Field Regiment, Royal New Zealand Artillery on the 23rd June 2006 at the Linton Army base.

It was actually minus 3 degrees Celsius this day and Palmerston North had the worst snow storm in living memory the day before we scheduled to film these scenes. These amazing gunners actually did the scene recreations for the entire day in the freezing cold with cold water being poured over them from an Army fire truck!

Capt. Morrie Stanley who was the Forward Artillery Observer during the Battle of Long Tan was there with us while we filmed which really spurred on the NZ gunners!

The Artillery piece is a M101A1 105mm L1A1 Howitzer and it was firing blanks.

Just imagine that 18 of these artillery guns were each firing 6-8 rounds per minute for more than 5 hours non stop in a lightning monsoon storm in support of D Company 5km’s away in the heat of the battle!

Movie Marketing Magic: Top Hollywood Digital Marketers Coming to Sydney

I was very honoured to be approached by SPAA* to create and lead a session on Reaching Your Audience in this era of Digital & Social Media Marketing for the 2009 SPAA Conference in Sydney between 17-20 November. I am now happy to announce that I have secured two awesome new media / digital marketers from Hollywood to help me:

  • Gordon Paddison** – Principal, Stradella Road & former Executive Vice President New Media, New Line Pictures (District 9, Lord of The Rings trilogy, Snakes on a Plane, Austin Powers and many more & Variety’s Integrated Marketer of the Year” Award in 2005)
  • Stephanie Bohn** – Director of Worldwide Marketing, Digital Distribution Warner Bros (The Dark Knight, Sex and the City, Hangover, Harry Potter and many more)

*SPAA – Screen Producers Association Australia

**Detailed bio’s outlined below.

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Nui Dat Kindergarten Vietnam Charity Dinner

There is a great 100% volunteer organisation called the Australian Vietnam Veterans Reconstruction Group (AVVRG) holding an upcoming charity dinner in Sydney at Parliament House on Friday 14th August 2009 to raise money for building a Kindergarten in Nui Dat, South Vietnam.

Guests of honour will be:

Dave Sabben MG – Commander of 12 Platoon during the Battle of Long Tan

Patricia Amphlett OAM (Little Pattie) – singer who was 17 years old at the time of the Battle of Long Tan performing on stage at the Australian base in Nui Dat as the battle began some 4 km’s away

Col Joye AM – another singer who was performing alongside Little Pattie at Nui Dat as the Battle of Long Tan began.

I urge anybody interested in supporting our veterans and the very kind and hospitable people of Nui Dat in Vietnam (this is where the Australian Task Force was based during the Vietnam War) to attend.

Details are:

Date: Friday 14th August 2009

Address: NSW Parliamentary Dining Room, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney

Time: 7.00pm

Dress: Lounge suit, medals

Cost: $100 per person or $900.00 per table

More details and bookings here.