The man who brought Red Dog, Wolf Creek to our ears

Imagine the world of film with no sound.

The infamous shower scene in 1960 psychological horror film Psycho would be nowhere near as terrifying without that shrieking strings ensemble. Nor would a shark’s fin slicing through the water in Jaws be as daunting without that unnerving musical score.

Without sound, the emotion of films would simply not be.

To veteran South Australian sound designer, mixer, editor and location recordist James Currie, making and recording sounds for film, TV and documentaries has made up more than 40 years of his working life.

Throughout his career he’s helped bring the sounds of some of Australia’s all-time classics to our ears including The Tracker, Wolf Creek, Ten Canoes, Red Dog, and Charlie’s Country. James also worked on the soon-to-be released Hotel Mumbai, shot in Adelaide.

James Currie established his sound career in the early days of the SA Film Corp. Photo by Myles Quist.

“Sound – in the case of horror movies – introduces the audience to a sense or foreboding or fear,” James says. “It’s the bottom end of the music, the high strings. It’s like the shower scene in the famous Hitchcock movie (Psycho). What drives that? The strings. It’s terrifying.”

Currently living in Carrickalinga with wife Olga, James is about to start working on a new film being shot in Adelaide this month featuring Australian actors Jacki Weaver and Jack Thompson, and Oscar-nominated US actor James Cromwell, mostly known for playing the farmer in Babe. The film, Never Too Late, is about four Vietnam veterans who once escaped from a POW camp but are now tasked with breaking out of their nursing home.

The comedy drama is the latest in James Currie’s line of work which has taken him to many corners of the world and has been celebrated at film festivals and awards nights internationally.

James was born in Whyalla in 1947, his father a fitter and turner who one day decided to move the Currie family to Adelaide. Upon leaving school, James thought about being a teacher, meeting with principal of Wattle Park Teacher’s College, beloved children’s author, Colin Thiele, who advised him that his creative and musical pursuits would suffer under the mountain of marking and other school obligations.

James Currie with Aboriginal elder and actor Peter Mingululu on the set of ‘Charlie’s Country’ in 2013.

Teacher’s college was not to be, so in the late ‘60s James attended the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide, the flute being his principal instrument.

A few years in, he transferred to Flinders University’s film school where he completed a degree with first class honours.
With experience gained at the conservatorium, James knew how to operate tape recorders and had a natural talent and undeniable ear for sound.

The final examiners for his honours degree were department heads at the newly established South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC).

“They said, ‘we need you to come to the film corp to be our film mixer,’ but I knew nothing about it,” James says. “They said, ‘don’t worry, you’ll learn’. In those days you flew by the seat of your pants, and that was how I spent 11 years as a film mixer for the SAFC.”

During this time, James worked on documentaries and says documentary filmmaking gave him the skills needed to eventually transfer into feature film sound.

He progressed to working with prolific Dutch-Australian filmmakers Paul Cox and Rolf de Heer on films including Bad Boy Bubby (de Heer), The Tracker (de Heer), Ten Canoes (de Heer), Dr Plonk, which was interestingly a silent film (de Heer), Charlie’s Country (de Heer), and Force of Destiny (Cox).

James Currie filming in China with SA producer/director Mario Andreacchio.

“Rolf de Heer and Paul Cox, their expectations of a sound person were that you’re involved in the script and go right through to the festival,” James says. “With Rolf, I go off and fiddle with the sound, so it starts with the script right through to when the film is released at film festivals at Venice, Toronto, Cannes, wherever.”

While James has travelled to many corners of SA, the country, and the globe to capture dialogue and sounds on film sets, much of his work is also carried out in a Foley theatre. Foley is the reproduction of sound effects to enhance the vision in the film. Sounds can be as simple as the everyday clicking of high heels and clopping of horse hooves.

“When you shoot a horror movie, you’re getting the bits and pieces of effects and dialogue, all the other stuff is made up,” James says.

“One of the areas where you can make things up specifically and in separation is in a Foley theatre where you’re running a film and you make a sound to go with the picture – that’s part of the sound design.”

James says the oldest trick in the book is clapping coconut shells together to recreate the sound of horse hooves, while horror films such as Wolf Creek use chicken bones to recreate the sound of bones snapping, and knives slicing through melons for other violent motions.

James Currie, top left, on set with sound team Josh Williams and Mike Bakaloff. Photo by Matt Nettheim.

Over the years James has won a swag of national and international film industry awards for his sound work and attended a number of renowned film festivals across the globe.

His most memorable project is film Ten Canoes followed by The Tracker, shot in Arkaroola in the northern Flinders Ranges.

Ten Canoes was a character-building experience beyond anything I’d ever experienced before or since,” James says. “It was a foreign environment, psychically demanding, different language, diverse culture, intense tropical heat. Living in tents next to a crocodile infested idyllic looking river. At dawn and dusk every bug armed with primeval teeth rose in waves searching for food and feasted upon the slow-moving film crew.”

After building an established and continuing career, James says has a “general admiration” for what SA has to offer and admires the efforts of the SAFC to remain relevant in a forever evolving creative industry.

Industry in focus: Creative Industries

Throughout the month of March, the state’s creative industries will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is home to a thriving ecosystem of creative businesses and specialists who are delivering world-class works VFX, TV and film production, app development and the VR space. Read more creative industries stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Global impacts of SA’s creative industries

With our culture of collaboration, supportive start-up environment, and technology infrastructure, South Australia is home to world-leading businesses and top talents working on creative projects seen worldwide.

Creative agency KOJO, VFX studios Resin and Rising Sun, and virtual reality studio Jumpgate VR are just a few examples of SA-based businesses having global impacts and servicing the world of storytelling, film and TV, VFX and VR right here in Adelaide.

Throughout the month of March, Brand South Australia will explore the state’s creative industries as part of the successful I Choose SA campaign, discovering key industry leaders and businesses just like those above who are contributing to our economy and pushing our burgeoning creative industries forward.

Here at Brand SA News we’ll bring you the stories of creative technology businesses and industry leaders who have chosen SA as a base, are able to deliver projects for global clients, and are excelling in their fields.

First off, we’ll bring you the story of a film and TV industry veteran, experienced sound editor and designer, James Currie, who has built a 40-year career and brought you the sounds of Red Dog, The Tracker, and Wolf Creek, among a long list of other classic Aussie films.

We’ll also bring you an update on one of the most anticipated creative industry developments, the establishment of global entertainment giant Technicolor’s SA venture, Mill Film, set to create a dynamic pool of new talent and works on leading productions. The $26 million VFX studio will be located at the Myer Centre in Adelaide’s CBD and is expected to create up to 500 specialist jobs in the long term. Its focus will be on film VFX for major studios and streaming services.

We’ll introduce you to three I Choose SA ambassadors working in creative industries. They are talented South Australians who will share their experiences, explain why they choose SA and why Adelaide is the best place for them to pursue their careers. The first is duo Grant Lovering and Lincoln Wogan from film and TV VFX studio Resin, whose recent works include delivering VFX for the 2019 re-imagination of Storm Boy, a beloved tale first told through the 1964 Colin Thiele novel.

Our second I Choose SA ambassador is Anton Andreacchio who is behind Jumpgate VR and sister company Convergen and has worked on VR programs for the AFL and what is believed to be a world-first VR symphony with the Adelaide orchestra back in 2015.

Throughout our exploration of SA’s creative industries it will become clear why the state is home to the burgeoning sector. Already we know that our technology infrastructure, such as the Australian-first GigCity Network is providing businesses and specialists with affordable one gigabit connections with speeds up to 10 gigabits per second. It’s making the city a great place for creative enterprises in the software, app development, VFX, VR space to achieve their works efficiently and competitively.

Our geographic location is also advantageous, as we’re ideally located to service markets such as South East Asia, China, India and Japan, all of which are growing technology markets.

Keen to learn more? Brand South Australia is hosting an industry briefing on creative industries on Wednesday, March 6, at MOD. Guests will hear from the Minister for Industry and Skills, David Pisoni, founder and managing director of Convergen and Jumpgate VR, Anton Andreacchio, and VFX supervisor at Resin, Grant Lovering. For more info and to book tickets click here.

Industry in focus: Creative Industries

Throughout the month of March, the state’s creative industries will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is home to a thriving ecosystem of creative businesses and specialists who are delivering world-class works VFX, TV and film production, app development and the VR space. Read more creative industries stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SA film industry attracts record spend in screen production

South Australia’s film industry continues to reach new heights, with the state achieving a record share of national screen production expenditure in 2017/18.

With a number of big feature films shot in SA in the past 12 months, including the remake of the Australian Coorong classic Storm Boy, SA reached a new record of screen production and PDV (post production, digital and visual effects) spend at $82 million.

According to Screen Australia’s National Drama Report, the state made up 10% of national screen production expenditure in 2017/18, and recorded its third consecutive year of growth.

SA and WA were the only states in Australia to have achieved an increase, with our state’s national expenditure share increasing from 3% to 10% in 12 months.

The National Drama Report measures the health of Australia’s screen industry by looking at the production of local and foreign feature films, TV dramas, online programs and PDV.

Matchbox Pictures opened its SA office in 2018 and filmed season three of Channel Seven’s crime drama Wanted. Pictured is producer Kirsty Stark, an I Choose SA ambassador.

SA has been the location of choice for a number of films in the past financial year, including Storm Boy, I Am Mother, Top End Wedding, and The Flip Side.

TV productions include Pine Gap (ABC/Netflix), Wanted season 3 (Channel Seven), and If Time Flows Back, one of only four Chinese titles shot in Australia in 2017/18.

Half the national expenditure in SA in 2017/18 came from PDV work on titles such as Animals, Hotel Mumbai, The Nightingale, Storm Boy and foreign features Tomb Raider (US/UK), X Men: Dark Pheonix (US) and Animal World (China).

Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni says these recent results demonstrate the state’s thriving local screen sector and is a testament to the work being done to ensure SA is a competitive and attractive production destination.

“This includes developing the infrastructure to support a growing industry, the continued development of the state’s capacity to support multiple productions concurrently, and creating opportunities for skills development,” Mr Pisoni says.

South Australian Film Corporation CEO Courtney Gibson says a combination of strategies including rebates and grants, studios and locations, SA’s world-class PDV companies and the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund, were positioning the state to capture even more national and international spend in the future.

Interested to know what other famous films have been shot in SA? Read ‘SA the star of Australian cinema’ here.

Header photo features Rebecca Gibney, left, and Geraldine Hakewill in ‘Wanted’.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Meet the SA producer leading our TV and filmmaking initiatives

Film and TV producer Kirsty Stark has never felt the need to leave South Australia in order to pursue a successful career in filmmaking.

The 34-year-old, who heads Matchbox Pictures’ SA office, cut her teeth on the sets of SA-based feature films, learning from world-class directors and cinematographers taking advantage of the state’s picturesque scenery.

“Being in SA is what gave me the opportunity to build my career because I got the chance to work on feature films, learn from people, and get experience on set,” Kirsty says.

“There seems to be a lot of really interesting projects coming out of SA that are unique compared to what you would see in Sydney and Melbourne, which seems to be more standard.

“In SA we’re able to create projects that have a bit more of a unique voice.”

Matchbox Pictures is filming Channel 7 hit crime drama Wanted at SA Film Corporation’s Adelaide Studios, as well as in Murray Bridge and the Flinders Ranges.

Lead actors Rebecca Gibney and Geraldine Hakewill are in SA for the project that will eventually flicker on TV screens in living rooms across the country.

Matchbox Pictures’ development producer and I Choose SA ambassador Kirsty Stark.

Kirsty is fulfilling her role as Matchbox’s development producer and she’s on the lookout for local writers and directors to develop their concepts for the screen.

“My role is to look for concepts from SA writers or directors and to develop them, so they can turn it into a production that we can hopefully film here in SA,” she says.

“We’re open to anything that’s scripted content – so not documentaries or reality TV.

“They can just get in touch with me and we can have a meeting or they can send through documents if they’ve already started on their idea.

“It’s a shame to see people go interstate to pursue those opportunities, so I’d love to build the industry here in SA.”

Kirsty’s climb to the producer’s chair began with her completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Screen Production, before tackling an Honours degree at Flinders University.

She then set out for the film industry, assisting camera departments on set of a number of Aussie dramas being shot in SA, including Beautiful Kate, Oranges and Sunshine, Lucky Country, and the notorious biographical crime horror film Snowtown.

“I loved all of my camera assisting experiences, part of it was being able to travel so much to different parts of SA and seeing so many unique locations,” Kirsty says.

“I was starting to build projects and have a bit more creative control over things, and through that my friend Vivyan Madigan and I started Epic Films.

“We were both camera people and wanted to shoot on 16mm film, but realised the only way we’d have the opportunity to do that was to do it ourselves.”

Through Epic Films Kirsty produced the company’s first major project, a post-apocalyptic series Wastelander Panda, which was ABC iview’s first drama series commissioned in Australia.

Epic Films is also behind ABC iview comedy Goober, kids show First Day and documentary series Unboxed.

As an individual, Kirsty also produced the film A Month of Sundays starring Anthony LaPaglia and John Clarke.

While the larger states of Australia may be seen as the entertainment meccas of Australia, Kirsty says it is possible to make a career in film and TV in SA.

Matchbox Pictures hasn’t been the only film and production company with its sights set on SA, as Screentime Australia and Technicolor are also establishing a presence here.

“It feels like it’s set to take off here. There will be many exciting things coming out of SA,” Kirsty says.

“We’re all supporting each other instead of feeling like we need to compete … we’re just doing what we need to do and creating an industry for ourselves.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Adelaide’s live music scene on show for Jam LIVE

From street art splashed across Hindley Street’s Jive to the Bert Newton shrine in Waymouth Street’s Grace Emily, Adelaide is home to quirky live music institutions that have stood the test of time.

This weekend, venues which have helped shaped the city’s live music scene will feature in a new local music TV show that gives viewers a front-row experience of live performances from across Adelaide.

Channel Nine Adelaide’s Jam LIVE will introduce new artists and showcase old favourites in a celebration of live music in Adelaide, a UNESCO City of Music.

Jive might be quiet and colourful during the day, but at night its walls vibrate with the boom as live gigs unfold before scores of music lovers. Photo: Jive Facebook.

Jam LIVE features venues such as The Gov, Grace Emily, Wheatsheaf Hotel and Jive, all of which are renowned for hosting live gigs, supporting established and upcoming musicians and adding culture to the city’s nightlife.

Radio personality Shanelle Franklin will host the show, which will air live performances by SA seven-piece rock outfit West Thebarton, as well as interstate favourites San Cisco, Dean Lewis, Josh Cashman and Boo Seeka.

“It (Jam LIVE) is designed to get people excited about live music and back into supporting local artists, touring artists, and the venues and festivals who put these artists on,” Shanelle says.

Jam LIVE host Shanelle Franklin.

“There are some great music programs which show video clips, but we are here to bring you the live performance, which is something completely different to what is currently on TV.

“We aim to showcase live music, be a fly on the wall, and capture magic for the viewer.”

Jam LIVE hits screens this Saturday (June 23) at 4.30pm on Channel Nine Adelaide and 9Now.

Visit I Choose SA to find out how you can support our state by choosing South Australian businesses, products and services.

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Outback opal hunters put Coober Pedy on the world stage

Larrikin hobby miners Justin Lang and Daniel Becker are 30m below ground in an abandoned mine shaft and if it weren’t for their head torches they’d be in total darkness.

The two mates are 870km from their homes in the small Adelaide Hills town of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, but are under the spell of the opal, the queen of gemstones.

They say their playground – the deep, narrow and dusty mine shafts in Coober Pedy – is no place for those fearful of spiders, scorpions or centipedes.

Nor is it a place for those lacking the patience required to withstand ‘opal fever’, something Justin and Daniel say they have been infected with beyond return.

“When you find something, it’s pure excitement, there are screams, swear words, all sorts,” says Daniel.

“But then there’s the big question of ‘is there more?’ and you just keep digging.

“You hope you hit the jackpot, which can be a little jackpot but also a lifechanging jackpot worth a million dollars.”

Justin Lang, left, and Daniel Becker appear on TV series ‘Outback Opal Hunters’.

This year, the highs and lows of Justin and Daniel’s opal mining hobby have made it onto TV screens worldwide.

In 2017 they spent nine months filming for a Discovery Channel TV series, Outback Opal Hunters, which has not only been broadcast around Australia but also across Europe, South Africa and Asia.

The pair say plans are also afoot for it to show on 7mate in several months’ time.

The show, which is currently filming season two, follows mining crews around Australian mining towns in the pursuit of finding a fortune.

Justin and Daniel – who were labelled ‘The Rookies’ on the show – had a goal of finding $100,000 worth of opal – and they did it.

Since appearing on the series, the pair have received much media attention, including stints on national television, including the ABC’s News Breakfast and Channel 9’s The Today Show.

They’ve also used the show to promote Coober Pedy, a place they believe is “underrated” and “not always embraced”.

“We want more people to come to Coober Pedy because it’s such a unique place, anyone can have a crack at opal mining and potentially find a million dollars,” Daniel says.

“You need to do your research and safety is always first, but anyone can do it and that’s uniquely South Australian.

“Cooper Pedy is the biggest opal field and has produced the largest quantity of opal in the world.”

The Hahndorf hobby miners’ careers differ greatly to their underground adventures.

Daniel owns the Aboriginal Art Gallery in Hahndorf’s main street while next door is Justin’s German Village Shop where he handcrafts cuckoo clocks and grandfather clocks.

The pair met about seven years ago as they live next door to each other and quickly bonded over a shared curiosity in fossicking for gold in the Adelaide Hills.

Before long they tried their luck with finding gemstones in Australia’s opal capital, travelling regularly to Coober Pedy in hope of spotting that flicker of colour among the dull sandstone.

They say they’d often be mining for a whole week and find nothing, then boom! Opal.

“When it appears, it’s amazing. It’s this beautiful, colourful stone sitting in the boring sandstone and you know you’re onto something,” says Justin, whose great-grandfather was an opal miner in the APY Lands community of Mintabie.

Justin spent the first year of his life in Coober Pedy as his family had lived there since the 1980s and owned the town’s caravan park before moving to Adelaide.

“I’m not a spiritual person at all, but I feel spiritually connected to that place in a really weird way,” he says.

“Hahndorf is the polar opposite to Coober Pedy, they’re almost 1000km apart but I love both of them.”

Daniel, left, and Justin spent nine months filming the TV series in Coober Pedy and snippets in their hometown of Hahndorf.

Daniel, on the other hand, is originally from Germany, moving to Australia in the late ‘90s to finish studies in anthropology.

During their trips to Coober Pedy, Justin and Daniel became good friends with John Dunstan, a veteran miner of over 50 years who in 2003 discovered the Rainbow Virgin Opal valued at more than $1m.

One day John told the pair that the Discovery Channel was snooping around town.

“Johnny said, ‘no one in Coober Pedy wants to be on camera but do you boys want to do it?’” Daniel says.

“We looked at each other and thought, ‘that sounds interesting’.”

The adventures on Outback Opal Hunters are fair dinkum, the pair say.

“Some people say it’s staged and it’s not real, but that’s ridiculous,” Daniel says.

“When we pull out real opal out of the wall, that’s what it is, it’s happening for real.”

Justin says opal mining – and even noodling (sifting through disposed dirt) – is anyone’s chance at finding a million bucks.

“It’s one big adventure,” he says.

“It’s one of the last places for a free man to try his luck at finding a million dollars.”

The next series of Outback Opal Hunters is expected to air in 2019.

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