MILESAGO - People

Tim Burstall


Tim Burstall
was born on April 20, 1929 in England and his family migrated to Australia when he was 8.

His first film was a black-and-white short, THE PRIZE, which won an award at the Venice Film Festival in 1960. It is the story of a boy who wins a goat in a fairground competition, then has it stolen from him, and it included Burstall's two young sons in acting roles.

Between 1960 and 1965, Burstall and his company Eltham Films made a series of independent documentaries highlighting the work of contemporary Australian artists including Sydney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, John Brack, Albert Tucker and Clifton Pugh. These proved influential in the formation of his views on Australian cultural identity.

In 1962-63 Burstall worked for the ABC, where he directed the children's puppet series, SEBASTIAN THE FOX.

In 1965 he made two films for the Commonwealth Film Unit -- the documentary PAINTING PEOPLE, an overview of the work of some of the artists he had surveyed in his earlier documentaries, and the children's films NULLARBOR HIDEOUT. He also collaborated on the Eltham FIlms production THE MAGIC TRUMPET, an animated feature co-directed with Dusan Marek..

On the 30th of July 1967 the La Mama theatre opened in Carlton, Melbourne. The theatre was the brainchild of Tim's then wife Betty Burstall and was modelled on the "off off Broadway" theatre of the same name in New York. Betty and Tim had just returned from a trip to the U.S. and wanted to re-create "the vibrancy and immediacy of the small theatres there".

"This event, this opening of an alternative theatre, marked the beginning of a small cultural revolution that would inspire the re-birth of a national theatre and provide a pool of people that would imbue Australia's national film with narratives, directors, writers, actors and producers.

Within a climate in which traditional, European theatre flourished and where the production of Australian plays was near non-existent and moreover financially dangerous, La Mama's non profit organisation allowed experimental Australian works a space for airing. Indeed the first play performed at La Mama was a work by the then new Australian writer Jack Hibberd, entitled Three Old Friends.

The production of Australian works at La Mama soon became an unprecedented staple of output. Within the first two years of its life 25 new Australian plays had premiered within its walls La Mama had from the beginning also fostered new works from composers, poets, and filmmakers."
- William Head

In 1969 Tim directed his first feature, 2000 WEEKS, starring Jeanie Drynan and Mark McManus. The film was panned on its release, and the poor critical reception affected Burstall strongly. It's clear that the failure of 2000 WEEKS, combined with his close contact with APG, were instrumental in changing his views on film-making, and led to the making of STORK and ALVIN PURPLE.

Between 2000 WEEKS and STORK, Burstall briefly returned to documentary for the making of the surf film GETTING BACK TO NOTHING (1970).

His next feature, STORK, was an adaptation of one of David Williamson's first plays, The Coming Of Stork, which had premiered at La Mama in 1970. The film featured most of the La Mama/APG ensemble including Bruce Spence, for whom the title role had been written.

ALVIN PURPLE continued the trend of so-called "ocker" films that were deliberately pitched at the mainstream popular market. It was a huge commercial success and was also very significant in the revival of the local industry, being the first major feature to include significant backing from a local theatrical.

FILMOGRAPHY


THE PRIZE (1960)

NED KELLY: AUSTRALIAN PAINTINGS BY SIDNEY NOLAN (1960)

THE DANCE OF THE ANGELS: CERAMIC SCULPTURES BY JOHN PERCEVAL (1961)

THE GOLD DIGGERS BALLAD: THE WATER COLOURS OF S.T. GILL (1961)

ON THREE MOON CREEK: AUSTRALIAN PAINTINGS BY GIL JAMIESON (1963)

THE PIONEERS: AUSTRALIAN PAINTINGS BY FREDERICK MCCUBBIN (1963)

THE CRUCIFIXION: BAS RELIEFS IN SILVER BY MATCHAM SKIPPER (1963)

SYDNEY BLUES (PAINTINGS BY ROBERT DICKERSON) (1969)

SCULPTURE AUSTRALIA '69 (1969)

2000 WEEKS (1969)

GETTING BACK TO NOTHING (1970)

STORK (1971)

ALVIN PURPLE (1973)

ALVIN RIDES AGAIN (1974)

PETERSEN (1974)