SBS Film

23 Jun 2009 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM



THE red desert stretched out to meet an endless horizon…” based on Author Interview (AI) with Kotcheff. Jones and Kotcheff collaborated on the following description appearing in the screenplay dated December (Revised) 1969: …”The sunlight is hard, remorseless. The horizon itself is lost in a shimmering haze…we pan slowly around almost 360 degrees of endless red desert...” This shot was for the opening of the film, establishing the one school-room town of Tiboonda. The location was Kinalung pumping station outside of Broken Hill. It's possible to see willy-willy's in the sequence used in the film. Kotcheff says that his trips outback before the shoot made him take an almost documentary approach.

We had been on the road for what seemed like forever,” Kotcheff remembers… This entire episode based on an AI with Ted Kotcheff. The pub that Kotcheff is describing was at Quondong, now closed, then thirty miles out of Broken Hill.

One guy shook my hand so hard I screamed!…” AI with Kotcheff.

The 60s was not as liberated and free as one expects,” AI with Evan Jones.

Grant finds himself listening to a lecture about society's sexual hypocrisy, delivered by Doc Tydon,” See p. 70 of Wake in Fright by Kenneth Cook, Penguin, 1983.

Out of hours he was very nice but during shooting he kept himself apart, he wasn't comfortable around people…”AI with Monica Dawkins. A number of crew members suggested that Bond deliberately set himself apart to best adapt to a role that required a certain amount of social alienation. Certainly, he is remembered as quite a jolly and socially robust figure by many. He died in 1995.

It was always part of the plan to fill the role of Janette in Australia, but casting had stalled.”
Casting of Sylvia Kay based on AI's with Tony Buckley, Howard Rubie and Ted Kotcheff.
Jeanie Drynan had already appeared in Tim Burstall's 2000 Weeks early in 1969; Margaret Throsby became a major figure in Australian broadcasting. In June 2009 Throsby interviewed Kotcheff about the film and its restoration on ABC radio.

Rubie, a cheerful and kindly man…” Howard Rubie, like a significant number of Wake in Fright's crew was a veteran of newsreels. In 1978 Philip Noyce directed Newsfront, a film about the rivalry between two Australian newsreel companies, written by Noyce and Bob Ellis and was closely based on the adventures of Rubie, who also worked with the latter on early drafts of the screenplay.

The atmosphere on the sets had to be 'hot and shadowy and true', AI with Brian West. At the time there were very different shooting styles between US, which is to say, Hollywood studio work and British studio work, explains John McLean, camera operator on Wake in Fright. “In the US the technique was to 'bash the light in',” he says. This was because it would produce a technically good image, even if it were not 'true to life'. For the scene in the film when Grant is awoken by a tiny beam of light that seems to bore a hole in his forehead, gaffer Tony Tegg, collaborating with West, McLean and focus puller Peter Hannon devised a rig that could focus a slender beam of light into a mirror that could then be bounced back to focus on Gary Bond's brow.

Willoughby did nothing to hide his anxiety, even from journalists,” see article, 'Back to Work, Thirstily, on the film set by Denis O'Brien, The Bulletin, January 24, 1970. Includes quotes from Rafferty and references to his history and industry status.

This outback city sits on the richest lode of zinc, silver and lead in the world,” see Behind the Barrier by Bob Bottom, Gareth Powell Assoc., 1969, pages, 1-23 Written after Bottom, a Broken Hill born and bred journalist, had defied the BIC the book offers an invaluable insight to the work, cultural, social and political life in Broken Hill in the period just before the Wake in Fright company arrived to shoot the film. Bottom recounts the distinctive peculiarities of Broken Hill such as the fact that at the time married women were not permitted to work (a way to ensure young, eligible women of marrying age remain in the town); that immigrants and Indigenous people were discouraged from partaking in town life; only those born in Broken Hill could get work in the mines; when policemen first begin to work in the city they are told what laws they can and cannot enforce, a way of protecting the 'outside of hours' drinking habits of the town and the local 2 UP school, which was located at the rear of 413 Argent St, Broken Hill; at the time Bottom published his book the Two-Up school not been raided by police since 1947. Bottom also mentions several other points worthy of note here; the fact that Broken Hill's development was central to Australia's evolution as an industrial nation (and therefore a source of pride for its citizens) and that there had only been two murders in the city since 1953. Still, the suicide rate in the city remained reputedly the highest in the world for many years. These two last facts about Broken Hill made their way into both the novel and the film. Bottom sums up the place as it was in 1969: “It is a working man's utopia; and stands like an oasis in a thirsty red desert.” see, page 5.

One journalist from Sydney who visited the unit found Broken Hill roguish but with signs of sophistication,” see 'Where dust and flies play star roles' by Jane Perlez, The Australian, Saturday, 14 March, 1970. Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal was a novel, first published in 1968 that had been dubbed 'pornographic' by pundits for its satirical look at sexual mores and The Marijuana Papers was a “drug manifesto” published in 1966 with contributions from Timothy Leary.

After that, most of the crew don't remember much trouble between the cast and crew of Wake in Fright and the locals at all.” Based on interviews with Monica Dawkins, Peter Hannon, Ted Kotcheff, Brian West, Howard Rubie, Tony Tegg and John McLean.

BRIAN DAVIES – friend of Ken Cook
MARGARET GEE – publisher
JACQUI KENT – widow of Ken Cook
PETER THOMPSON – worked with Cook at his film company Patrician Films in the mid 1960s.
BRIAN WEST – Director of Photography
PETER HANNAN – Focus Puller
JOHN McCLEAN – Camera Operator
TONY TEGG – Gaffer
HOWARD RUBIE – First Assistant Director
JIM McELROY - Second Assistant Director
MONICA DAWKINS – Makeup Artist
ROBERT HYNARD – Hair stylist
FRED PETER – Broken Hill Notable Rotary member and extra on the film
PETER TONKIN – Broken Hill Archivist and resident