The True Source of Knowledge
This was the first film I ever made, My thesis film in the final months of my Masters Degree at Stanford.
We had been watching wonderful documentaries from the National Film Board of Canada and I was quite clear that I wanted to make a documentary not fiction, an indication of my tastes to come. It seemed interesting and logical to make a film about the world around me, the elite University, and to ask how effective it was as a place to learn about life.
I might have been thinking I was making a day in the life of the Stanford, judging from the fact my film starts with the morning, the flash cars of the well-off students, arriving on campus. We drop in on various classes, hear student opinions of what they think of the teachers and subjects they are taking. Curious as to where the true source of knowledge resides, I film in the bookshop and am clearly fascinated by massive computers with a room to themselves and the arcane language of those who operate them. A new knowledge repository, I seem to be asking?
A classmate of mine Prince William of Gloucester, was British royalty. He was later killed in an air crash and long after, his mother wrote me a letter thanking me for the memory. I put William in because I thought it would help sell my film to ABC TV in Australia. It didn’t and it’s a rather sycophantic moment that seems out of place.
Stanford was a quiet a campus compared with nearby Berkeley. Student politics was very intense at Berkeley and there were groups determined to shut the place down. I searched for political commitment at Stanford and found students who were traveling south, part of what were called the freedom riders registering black voters in southern states, a very dangerous thing to do as one student tells me, just back from the South.
A lovely friend who was briefly a girlfriend, makes a pensive appearance towards the end of the film. I was not yet at a point of being very personal with my film making and so our relationship is not acknowledged. That sort of truth telling would come later.
Friends are impressed that Jerome Garcia, better known as Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead, is listed in the music credits, but was spelling his name with a G then, Gerome.
I don’t know how I met Jerry or persuaded him to help with the music, it’s not all his music as the credits reveal, but you can very much tell his guitar style throughout the film. Perhaps he was a student at Stanford or perhaps some friend, more music savvy than I, thought that Jerry was an up and comer and course he very much was. This may very well be the first film Jerrys music was ever featured on.
When the film was done I could only afford two prints. One stayed at the University, submitted for my degree, and this video, rather chewed up has been made from that print. The other print I sent off to Tom Daley, The renowned producer at the National film board of Canada, hoping it would get me a job at the NFB headquarters in Montréal. I didn’t hear back from him and because I only one other copy I decided to hitch hike across the country from Cali.
I arrived in the middle of the bitterly cold Montreal winter, going through the doors of the NFB I remember I was told Tom was busy watching a film in the viewing room. I walked over and entered quietly, crawling on my knees. To my surprise they were watching my film, and I could hear them discussing it. Tom saying “lets contact this student” I stepped out from my crouched position when the lights came on and said, “You don’t need to contact the student, because he’s right here”.
Tom looked at his colleagues as if they had pulled off an elaborate surprise… Of course it was all mere coincidence, or serendipity.
They apologised saying they couldn’t offer me an internship but they could offer me a job. So there I was, the first ever Australian documentary maker at the NFB where I stayed for some 30 years.