A Brief History of Metro

A spread from Film Appreciation Newsletter vol. 2, no. 7

This excerpt has been reprinted from Metro’s 100th issue (Summer 1995) with minor adjustments. In memory of Wayne Levy (1944–2003).

Little did a small group of educators / film enthusiasts sitting around drinking coffee in Ed Schefferle’s office at the State Film Centre in 1963 imagine that the Association of Teachers of Film Appreciation (ATFA) quarterly newsletter we were planning would still be published and read thirty years down the track.

A roneoed publication of eighteen pages was surreptitiously printed and distributed by Schefferle as a ‘semi-official’ SFC pub­lication. The newsletter was mostly written and edited by John Murray from Coburg Teachers’ College […]

I was a student teacher at Mercer House Teachers’ College. Being deaf in one ear, I couldn’t get a studentship to Coburg Teachers’ College and one of my lecturers at Mercer House, Lesley Cunningham, introduced me to Ed and John.

I think I was the first student-teacher to join ATFA. Cunningham was a frustrated filmmaker. The only person I knew at that time to have her own 16mm H16 Bolex movie camera. She had the person­ality to inspire study of film in her students. I remember that, being a poor student from the wrong side of the Yarra, at a private teachers’ college, and all my earned money going towards fees, Lesley actually paid ATFA my first $1.25 student joining fee. The membership fees were $2.50 for individuals and $5 for schools and libraries.

The first few newsletters were distributed to about thirty interested persons in July 1963. We were ecstatic when by 1964 the mem­bership had grown to around fifty members and the budget for the quarterly newsletter was $30. Postage and envelopes were ‘fiddled’ through the State Film Centre by Ed.

The Film Appreciation Newsletter contained such ­interesting articles as ‘Cinema Technique: The Shot’; ‘What’s Happening on Television’, a discussion of Naked City, The Defenders and Dr Kildare. The newsletter finished off with a few film ‘appraisals’. An incredible contrast to the recent articles in Metro like ‘The Age of Innocence: A Bloodless Feast’ (M97); ‘Scorsese’s Constraints of Desire’ (M97); and ‘Recent Thrillers: Postmodern Play and Anti-Feminism’ (M97).

I suppose Ed had garnered the covers from the State Printing Office; perhaps it was used as a cover for some of Henry Bolte’s reports to Parliament. Anyway as we got these coloured covers ‘free’ we used them. Another cover, a photograph of a dead Bonnie, from actual photographs of Bonnie & Clyde, appeared and we used this for three issues, and another cover which I always thought of as our ‘Easter Bunny’ cover was used for a further two issues.

During the 1970s subscriptions picked up as film studies began to expand in schools and universities, and with a publishing grant from the Film and Television Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, through the efforts of Dawn Brown, the newsletter went to a series of black-and-white covers, and later single-colour covers.

When it was merely stapled down the spine my wife Marilyn and I saved ATFA money by collating it ourselves, with pages spread around the lounge-room. This probably explains many doubled up pages and the odd missing page in early editions of the newsletter. Sorry!

It was not until the 1980s and 90s with a membership of over 2000 and with publishing grants from the Australian Film Commission and Film Victoria that the superb graphic colour covers began to appear around No. 90 and beyond. With the artistic endeavours of the present designer and editors of Metro, using desktop publishing techniques, it has become as professional as any film and media magazine on the market.

Back around 1974 it was Dawn who suggested a name change from ATFA to ATFAV, the Association of Teachers of Film and Video […] However, I was horrified when Dawn went on to suggest that our magazine be renamed Metro. A quite heated discussion ensued and being a member of the old guard I argued that the ATFA ‘newsletter’ had gained a place in schools and was read by teachers and students and that a name change would throw everybody into confusion. I remember being outvoted about twelve to one. How wrong I was!

Dawn argued that the name Metro had connotations with the ‘Paris Metro’ (is this a movie theatre?), ‘metra’ (womb), ‘metropolis’ (mother city – Dawn was certainly a feminist ahead of her time!), ‘metronome’ (a device to mark time) and good old MGM. What this had to do with us in film studies here in Australia I never quite worked out! However, in hindsight, I do agree now, Dawn’s idea of the name change was a stroke of genius.

Metro has developed further than I think any of that first committee ever envisaged. Its stature has kept pace with the times with articles from filmmakers and academics making it required reading by all of us teachers who work in schools, TAFEs and universities and those filmmakers who have put pen to paper and given time for interviews and discussion about their work.

At one stage, I published an index for the newsletter from No. 1 to No. 32. Being the proud owner of a full set of Metros it is fascinating to leaf through them noting the people who have written articles and essays for the magazine over the past thirty years. Sitting here contemplating this collector’s delight, I reckon I might just index the remaining numbers in my retirement! There is a wealth of terrific information amassed here in my Metros and the mere act of caressing such a bibliophile’s collection is a delight!

Metro predates Cinema Papers, which recently published its hundredth issue, and we are very well served by both magazines, but I think at times Metro might consider some of the old style of article about how to look at such and such film or how to use it in the classroom, or hints for teachers and students in film and video production. Metro must not forget its beginnings! I wish to congratulate Peter Tapp and the present committee on the superb presentation of the publication we receive today. I hope I’m around for Metro 200 to add to my beloved magazine collection.