Impressions on Festival of Student Films, Oakleigh Technical School

Historical image of Oakleigh Technical School [Rose Stereograph Co. photographers, c. 1920–1954, public domain]

As a teacher of film perhaps the most enlightening aspect of the Festival was what it revealed about the interests and fantasies of school children. Many of the films dealt with the subjects of alcoholics, drug addicts and violence of some sort. The realism of some of these films prompts me to replace the word ‘fantasy’ with ‘experience’, but the films were less concerned with human tragedy than with action and gore. Presumably the experience is second hand through the media of television.

Another popular subject was a sort of melodrama-comedy where the actor cavorts around rescuing maidens or capturing crooks (usually thieves), or being captured by the baddies. Here graveyards and coffins figured frequently – a curious fascination that was a cross between disrespect and awe.

Our programme began with Hell’s Bells, a nine minute trip (the narcotic type). The scene, the zoo, offered all sorts of absurd and quizzical shapes when shot from a number of angles and stretched and twisted. Brunswick High School filmed it and faced up to some interesting technical problems. Technically the films were adventurous and various. Moreland High School in The Great Paper Race use paper model cars pulled with string. During the race they collided and met with all the disasters of the race track. An imaginative and colourful idea. Oakleigh Technical School had a similar idea in their Moon or Bust. Using coloured paper cut outs they travelled to the moon. Exactly how they moved the paper I am not sure, perhaps with a magnet. It seemed quite an intricate process which was very cleverly handled. The Naughty Detective, a slapstick criminal hunt, is certainly a fine achievement since it was made privately by a Fourth Form student from C.B.C. St. Kilda. Again it was not restricted to one technique. There is a short sequence when a detective enters a house where, in a background of blackness, skeleton creatures ride horses.

One of the hardest tasks of student film makers is to convince the audience of a serious emotion. Seaford Carrum High School’s Yesterday made a very creative attempt at this. Memorable shots that dwelt on details of hands, hair and sand established the atmosphere. This was the only film we saw that was romantic (i.e. wistful…) in its treatment. Collingwood Technical School showed promise with their half film made by Form 1 students. Significant use had been made of surrounds, the cyclone fence and awesome entrance, to convey a feeling of confinement. The new boy watches on while the others play around him. Melbourne Grammar’s contribution Transmogrification developed from a similar theme where one is isolated from the group. This was adventurous and complex in the development of its theme which led to interesting technical challenges. Although often very technically competent and emotionally convincing at times the film seemed fragmentary and lacked a real purpose for me.

Of course the Monash Teachers College films were handled with the confidence of professionals. Boots was a witty sketch, well constructed and unified. The liquid title set the animated boots into motion. Again I am unsure how this was done. Counterpoint which took us for a bloody journey through the abattoirs was perhaps designed to horrify. Though well filmed I failed to see its purpose except as an exercise. Professional handling was not only limited to Monash. Leongatha produced a very witty and creative film The Open and Shut Case. Five pall bearers with coffin poised ceremonially set out for the graveyard. One by one they join the dead. Restraint was its key feature. The framing was in tone with the mock austerity of the subject. Use made of natural landscape, silhouette and colour was carefully controlled. The film had a continuous unity in mode and expression. A very commendable effort indeed.

Overall the festival was highly successful. Great care and enthusiasm was evident in all the films. Perhaps the greatest deficiencies could be found in the editing and the lack of subtlety in subject and execution. However that is an adult’s judgement on youths’ exploration. I may have no right to make such a judgement.

[Note: the commentary on the festival that appears below was published on the pages preceding the above article without any attributed author.]

Inter-School Film Festival 1970: A Report on the Festival of Student Films held at Oakleigh Technical School

This year’s festival has demonstrated the growing interest in film production in Victorian secondary schools. There has been a hundred per cent increase in films entered and students attending. Again the Film Festival was held at Oakleigh Technical School during the final week of 2nd Term. Schools from all parts of the Metropolitan Area attended the screenings. Contact between schools undertaking film work has been far greater over the last twelve months and it is hoped that many more schools will be encouraged to undertake film making.

Because of the large number of entries it became necessary for the organisers to select a programme for each session from the material available. In the main, entries were made with Super 8 Cartridge Film, Standard 8 and 16 mm. still remaining popular among some schools. The Super 8 mm. format posed many problems for projectionists. With repeated use, the Super 8 film became damaged and made projection difficult and frustrating for the operators and audience alike. The Standard 8 and 16 mm. film gave no problems at all.

Films were submitted in various conditions, some unpackaged, others end out and unmarked. Those with tape soundtracks often came in loose paper bags. These small problems were easily overcome, but some care on the part of entrants could have saved the organisers a lot of time.

Notes on the Films Entered

Brighton Technical School. Super 8. Colour. The Pharisse. 9 mins. Teacher Mrs. Parker. Filmed on location in the City of Melbourne. 1/4″ Tape soundtrack (Music only).

Brunswick High School. Hell’s Bells. Super 8. Colour. 1/4″ Tape soundtrack. Simulated trip on tablets. Shown at 6 f.p.s. tremendous slow motion effects. Filmed in and around the Healesville Sanctuary at 16 f.p.s. and then replayed at the slower speed. Imaginative use of electronic sounds to accompany the film. Teacher Mrs. Falcone. Running time 9 mins.

Camberwell Grammar School. Orienteering. Super 8 mm. Colour. 5 mins. Brothers Revenge. Super 8 mm. Colour. 6 mins. The Bambara. Super 8 mm. Colour. 6 mins. Teacher Mr. K. Coldicutt.

C.B.C. St. Kilda. A film made by Timothy Clifford. Full of imaginative inventions, some old ideas on slapstick extremely well played by three young stars. Film clips produced commercially were introduced into the film with good effect. Silent. 5 mins.

Clayton Technical School. Colour. 8 mm. Magnetic stripe sound. A comment upon the colour problem in the world. A most effective film, uses close up upon news clippings and photographic material. Colour. 5 mins.

Collingwood Technical School. Untitled – Half a film (title undecided). Made by Form 1 students. Subject concerns the barrenness of the school playground. Teacher Mrs. Coldicutt. 16 mm. B & W. 2 mins.

Dandenong High School. Line. 8 mm. Colour. Experimental film, uses line to change patterns of light and form. Inventive use of venetian blinds, mobile sculptures etc.

A total of 15 films are at present under completion at the school.

Greythorn High School. 1. Doors. Super 8 mm. B & W. Silent. 2 mins. 2. The Letter. Super 8 mm. Silent. 1 1/2 mins. Teacher Mrs. Stewart.

Heywood High School. Gold Fever. 16 mm. B & W. Silent. 8 mins. Made by the students of Form 4 under the direction of Mr. Birnstihl.

Leongatha Technical School. The Open and Shut Case. Super 8 mm. Colour. 13 mins. A superbly made Black Comedy. Six undertakers acting as pall bearers carry a coffin through the fields. Through misadventure each of the pall bearers ends up in the coffin. In every way an excellent achievement from Form 2 students. Teacher Mr. Suggett.

Melbourne Grammar School. 1. Transmogrification. 16 mm. 1/4″ tape sound. 2. Bread Making Music. 16 mm. B & W. 3 1/2 mins. An exercise in editing.

Monash Teachers College. 1. Inside Out. 16 mm. B & W. 6 1/2 mins. Made by Jenny Jones, Second year student. 2. Counterpoint. A graphic description of the routine in a slaughterhouse. Made by Stewart McCubbin, Second year student. 3. Boots. Super 8 mm. Colour. 3 1/2 mins. Made by Lynne Clarke, Third year student.

Moreland High School. Revolution. Super 8 mm. Colour/B & W. Without teacher direction.

Moreland High School. The Kings of Crime, The Deviant, The Great Paper Race. Self directed films. Silent. 2 mins. each.

Niddrie High School. Red Belly – Saga of the New West. Super 8 mm. Magnetic stripe. Basic script and design by photographic group in school aesthetics class under the direction of Mr. Moore.

Oakleigh Technical School. 1. Carnation – Une Filme Du 3J. 8 mm. Colour. Teacher Mr. Forsyth. 2. Drot Commercial – Advertising commercials produced by Form 3 B. 3. Moon or Bust. 8 mm. Colour cartoon. 2 mins. Made by 4C. Paper cut out overlay.

Seaford Carrum High School. Yesterday. Standard 8 mm. Colour. 7 mins. Made by second and third form students. Teacher Mr. G. Cutts.

Shepparton South Technical School. 1. Abstract Scene. 2. Water or What. 3. Temporary 6. 16 mm. Magnetic stripe.

The technical standard of entries this year was perhaps not as high as last year, but if this is indicative that the students are assuming greater responsibility in film making, then this is a good thing. Subject matter has become more relative to the students’ environment. A dependence upon slapstick and schoolboy fantasy has waned and scripts were noticeably more sophisticated. Drugs, rape, murder, all previously untouched subjects, have been dealt with in graphic detail by entrants in this year’s Festival.

[from Film Appreciation Newsletter vol. 2, no. 6]