July 19, 2011
Based in what was once an old munitions factory, the South Australian Film Corporation is preparing to leave its home of almost three decades to venture into the new Adelaide Studios. For SAFC CEO Richard Harris, the move will be like saying good bye to a much-loved and trusted old car.
“We had some drinks about a month ago to say farewell, and there was very much a sense of a building which has an amazing, shared history with a lot of the film industry here, but a very clear sense that it is time to move on,” Richard said, surrounded by cardboard boxes and memorabilia.
Staff of the SAFC have been busily archiving and packing the goods of the old warehouse for the past few weeks, readying to make the final move on Friday.
“I used an analogy recently where I said it was a little like driving your old, much-loved car … knowing that when you leave it, it goes with lots of memories of how many times you have bashed it around the bush, but knowing that it is time for an upgrade.”
The dents and bashes of what became known as The Film Factory reveal the rich history of how a building that was originally nothing more than an industrial factory was transformed into a nursery for some of the country’s best acting and production personnel.
From its original base in Norwood in the 70s, the SAFC moved into the Hendon factory in the early 80s, with Hendon Studios officially opened in 1984.
Thanks to the Federal Government’s 10BA investment scheme, work soon flowed in for the Corporation, making the studios one of the most sought after resources in the country.
“At the time here it was a huge development.”
The adjoining back lot, which has since been converted into a bus depot, was used to create period sets for the local productions of Playing Beattie Bow and Time Guardians.
The Corporation quickly evolved to embrace both film and television productions, with its success on the 1985 version of Robbery Under Arms starring Sam Neil, enabling the construction of sound recording facilities.
It later transgressed away from producing projects, preferring to offer support facilities and a base for those who wished to make films and television shows in the area.
“The great thing we have been able to do is to have both a production facility, but also there have been times when we have had three or four films actually just using our production rooms and production offices.”
Only recently the studios were host to the crews of Beautiful Kate, The Boys are Back and Road Train all utilising space within the building.
“I literally walked down the corridor and had Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Bryan Brown and a couple of other people bumping into each other … feeling like, for a moment we were the centre of the film making universe in Australia.”
To an extent the studio was, until the creation of other much larger operations on the eastern coast.
In a touching coincidence, Rolf de Heer, an Adelaide-based writer, director and producer who found his big break with the SAFC, was the last person to utilise the Hendon Studio stages for the new film The King is Dead.
“He’s also going to be using our new mixing facility in our new studios.
“He’ll pretty much be the first one in to do that,” Richard said.
Remnants and memorabilia of the SAFC are scattered around the building, with the likes of Breaker Morant and Storm Boy original posters perched in odd places, awaiting removal.
SAFC will make the final moves in to the new $43 million Adelaide Studios at Glenside on Friday.
“I’m not sure how we are going to cope,” Richard said with a laugh.
“I’m not sure we are going to want to take the plastic off the new car seats.”
The new studios will boast two state-of-the-art soundstages, a Dolby Premier mixing studio, 96-seat screening theatre and production facilities.
“It is going to be something amazing.”
Adelaide Studios are expected to be fully operational by August of this year.