MARY CALLAGHAN (1955-2016)
Mary grew up in Wollongong, NSW, and revealed an early interest in film making whilst at high school, alongside a natural artistic talent which flourished in the shadow of her elder brother Michael (1953 - 2011). The latter went on to become a master print maker and artist of renown, famous for his work with Redback Graphix. Mary pursued a career in film, though on many occasions their professional and artistic paths overlapped, usually to the benefit of both. For her Higher School Certificate examination in 1972, Mary produced an 8 minute long film on 8mm - Bird Power - which was fully costumed by her and shot in Bombo Quarry, near Kiama. This was years before the idea of using that locality was taken up by the ABC's Aunty Jack team in their famous open sequence to the television series. Mary's film featured family and friends, including her brother Michael Callaghan and friend Philip Batty, wearing brightly coloured and ornate bird costumes in the quarry as they carry out a series of movements and gestures, amidst the volcanic rock and pools of fluorescent green water. ...
Mary Callaghan received her first grant from John Flaus and the Experimental Film Fund whilst a student at Swinburne. This was used to produce the short film Image Plus. It was shown during 1975 in the Silver Palace heritage cinema at St. Kilda, as part of the Women's International Film Festival. Her poster "It's hard to change your lifestyle overnight" 1975-6 was associated with the film. Mary was on the Victorian organising collective for this important festival held during the first International Women's Year. The same collective went on to produce Lip - A Magazine of the Visual Arts (1976-1983) for which Mary contributed graphic and textual works, including the cover for the 1977 edition and the "Blood is blood is blood" insert poster. ...
Mary finished film school at the end of 1976. The following year she worked briefly in the public service and taught film for a term at the Preston Institute, whilst the regular lecturer was on leave. She was also involved in production of the film True Love Never Dies. At the end of 1977 Mary left Victoria and returned to her family in Wollongong. During 1978 she undertook a 6 week traineeship with Brian Kavanagh, editor of the Australian film The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. Mary worked as a trainee editor with him on the 1979 feature The Odd Angry Shot, and was sponsored in this by the Women's Film Fund. The Fund also put $10,000 towards the production of her next project, Greetings from Wollongong. In 1978 Mary also worked for a brief period with Film Australia and in the Drama Department at the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), and was involved in Doled Out, a 23 minute film produced by the Unemployed People of Leichhardt production company, with the support of the Commonwealth Unemployment Service, the New South Wales Department of Youth and Community Services and Leichhardt City Council. Following completion of this work, in 1979 Mary returned to Wollongong to begin development work on Greetings from Wollongong. The genesis of Greetings, and Mary's decision not to pursue documentary but instead move into 'docodrama' or 'dramatised documentary' as she labels it, is outlined in Charles Merewether's article 'A Slap in the Face: living it out in a dying city' which was published in the trade newspaper Film News during November 1982, at the time of Greetings' release. Merewether's article is a major assessment of the film and also contains an interview with the director. ...
Greetings from Wollongong was written and directed by Mary Callaghan, as was her first feature - Tender Hooks - released in 1989. Mary began working on Greetings from Wollongong in earnest during 1979. Substantive shooting took place during 1981 and it was release the following year. In developing her film, Mary sought the assistance of her brother Michael, specifically in areas of art direction and fundraising. During 1979 Michael moved from Sydney to Griffith University, Brisbane, to set up a screen printing course. Prior to this he had been heavily involved in the Earthworks Poster Collective at the Tin Sheds, University of Sydney. Mary had worked with him and others there on occasion during 1978-9 on posters such as Hot Crusifixon Dance 1979. Earthworks imploded during 1979, at the same time as Michael Callaghan headed north to Queensland. The first poster Michael Callaghan produced to help raise funds for his sister's film and her company Steel City Pictures was the now famous 'Q. If the unemployed are dole bludgers, What the fuck are the idle rich?'. ...
Greetings from Wollongong was met with critical acclaim, gaining awards and screening at the Melbourne and Sydney Film Festivals and the Australian Film Industry presentations. Many thought the dialogue by the non-professional actors used was ad lib, though, as Mary remembers, "I wrote every word with room to move for actors as long as true to meaning" of the film. Following the release and promotional campaign for Greetings, Mary Callaghan began writing and developing new scripts and treatments. This culminated in her direction of the Australian feature film Tender Hooks, released in 1989.
- edited from a long essay by Michael organ about Mary Callaghan's life and work at steelcitypictures.blogspot.com.au/
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