MILESAGO - Profiles
Film and television producer
Born New Zealand, 1918
New Zealand-born Roger Mirams was a pioneer of the Antipodean film and TV industry. He developed his love of film while he was still at school. Aged just 13, he produced his first film When The Gangsters Came To Christchurch, which gained a screening at the local cinema. With this experience under his belt, the ambitious Mirams formed his own film distribution company, Action Pictures New Zealand, at 20 years of age.
At the outbreak of World War II Roger joined the NZ Army, where he served as a War Correspondent/Cameraman with the New Zealand Division in Italy and in the Middle East. At the end of the war, he filmed a documentary in Japan on the war crimes trials. After the war, Roger joined the New Zealand National Film Unit as a Director/Cameraman and later became the Movietone News representative for New Zealand.
In 1948, digruntled by the NZNFU's conservative political agenda, Mirams and a colleague, writer-director Alun Falconer founded their own independent company, The Pacific Film Unit. The company’s staple product was short sponsored documentary films such The Story of a Store (1949), made for Hays Department Store. In 1950 writer-director John O’Shea joined, Alun Falconer left to pursue a career in China, and the company changed its name to Pacific Film Productions Ltd.
In 1952 Mirams and O'Shea co-produced and co-directed the groundbreaking feature Broken Barrier, the story of an interracial love affair between a Pakeha journalist and a young Maori woman. It was the first of only three feature films made in New Zealand between 1940 and 1970, all of which were made by Pacific and directed by O'Shea.
Roger came to Australia to work on the coverage of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne and scored a coup when he was able to secure the exclusive film rights for the event, becoming the official Olympic cameraman, and he was responsible for much of the footage that was shot there.
Settling in Melbourne after the Games in 1957, Roger established an Australian subsidiary of Pacific Films in Melbourne, in partnership with Chris Stewart (who later became CEO of the Bank of Melbourne) and expat. NZ sound recordist Jim Davies. Pacific's first Australian series was a WWII docudrama The Coastwatchers in 1959, followed by the pioneering children's TV series The Adventures Of The Terrible Ten which also launched the career of one of Australia’s best-known and most successful young actors of the 60s and 70s, Gary Gray. That was followed by a sequel, The Ten Again, then a new series The Magic Boomerang and a feature film, Funny Things Happen Down Under (with a young Olivia Newton-John).
In 1966 Mirams formed Roger Mirams Productions, which produced more successful TV series -- The Adventures Of The Seaspray, The Adventurers and Woodbinda: Animal Doctor. In 1971 he produced 42 one-hour episodes of the successful wartime espionage series Spyforce, which launched the careers of actors Peter Sumner and Jack Thompson. This series also featured the screen debut of screen star Russell Crowe. Young Russ's parents were working as caterers on the series (Russell's mother Jocelyn is Roger's goddaughter) and when the director of one episode needed some child extras, Russell and his brother Terry were drafted in.
Mirams continued to make top-quality, imaginative children’s adventure series into the 21st century, many of which were sold successfully overseas. The company also produced Silent Number, the telemovie The Spiral Bureau, the children"s adventure series The Lost Islands (produced in association with Channel 10 for Paramount World Distribution) and the telemovie The Haunting of Howie Dowker.
In 1977 Mirams joined The Grundy Organisation to produce the first of many fine series and telemovies -- The Scalp Merchant, Runaway Island, Secret Valley, the mini-series Professor Poopsnagle's Steam Zeppelin, the adventure movies-of-the-week The Phantom Horsemen, Pirates Island and The Rogue Stallion and the children's adventure series, Mission Top Secret and Search for Treasure Island.
In 2002 Mirams realised a 30-year-old ambition with his production of the children's series The Fate of The Artful Dodger, based on the character from Dickens' Oliver Twist . It was, sadly, his last project.
Roger Mirams died in Sydney on 26 February 2004, aged 85. He was a true pioneer of and a great ambassador for the Australian and New Zealand film and TV industries. He leaves behind a great body of work, which has been shown throughout the world. He will be fondly remembered by the many grateful actors, directors, writers, musicians, technicians who benefitted from the opportunities he created, and by generations of viewers who grew up watching and loving the programs he made with such flair and enthusiasm.
NEW ZEALAND PRODUCTIONS:
Broken Barrier (1952) feature film, N.Z.
AUSTRALIAN TV PRODUCTIONS: (to 1975)
The Adventures Of The Terrible Ten (1960)
The Ten Again (1962)
Adventure Unlimited (1963)
The Magic Boomerang (1965)
Adventures Of The Seaspray (1967)
The Adventurers (1968)
Woobinda: Animal Doctor (1968)
The Lost Islands (1975)
|REFERENCES / LINKS|
Acknowledgements and thanks to Geoff Brown, Executive Director, Screen Producers Association of Australia, and to the Australian Soundtracks site.
TV Chronicles - Australian TV
TV Eye - Spyforce
TV Eye – Gary Gray interview
Australian Television Information Archive - The Lost Islands
"A Perfect Passion" - The Cinema of John O'Shea
Crowe Takes Flight