Postcards

24 January 2018

Postcards
We hear from five Old Sydneians making their mark at home and abroad.

Craig Gillespie (OS 1984)

Film and Television Director
Los Angeles

I’m sure there are many of you who have a clear plan and have been working towards that goal all through high school. I am equally sure there are a few of you with no idea what is next. I certainly had no idea.

Academically, Grammar had been a challenge for me. Despite my best efforts, I often found myself in the middle of the pack. It left me feeling I was of average intelligence despite being in the most academically rigorous school in the country. Paradoxically, once graduating, it gave me an enormous sense of pride and confidence as I entered into the world with that academic foundation.

As with many of my peers, I stayed on that academic trajectory and went to Sydney University. Having no idea what I wanted to do, and no passion for economics and computer science, I lasted all of one term. I dropped out, and with very few options, enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in Sydney. I had always dabbled in art but had never taken it seriously as a career. Here, I found my passion.

At the end of the first year at the School of Visual Arts I won a full scholarship to the School of Visual Arts in New York. I was still unsure of my career, but very quickly zeroed-in on graphic design and advertising. I got my first job at J Walter Thompson as an art director, and over the course of eight years worked at five different agencies in New York on many high profile accounts. I primarily worked on commercials – and loved it – but was still not satisfied. Being in close proximity to commercial directors and watching them work, I realised that was what I truly wanted to do – I was 23 years old. On weekends I would rent film cameras and shoot ‘spec’ commercials around New York. After five years of compiling a reel I finally got signed at my first production company at the age of 28.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot hundreds of commercials and I still love it. I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 with my family. My career then expanded into film and television. I’ve done several TV projects, including The United States of Tara with Australian actress Toni Collette, but have spent most of my time in film. One of my proudest achievements was Lars and the Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling. I’ve just completed shooting my sixth film, I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie which will open later this year.

For those of you who may still be deciding on what path to take as they leave school, my only advice is what worked for me: Don’t do what is expected of you, do what you love.

Oliver Brown (OS 1987)

Archaeologist and wild food enthusiast Sydney

At Grammar, it must be said, I didn’t have a clue where I would end up. I played rugby, made friends who I still hang out with today and had a passable crack at the natural sciences subjects that most engaged me. I then went to university and gained some credits that went to an eventual archaeology degree ten years later. But mostly, itchy feet had the better of me and I roamed, working along the way, in Asia, New Zealand, across Australia, the States and the UK. Settling down back home had to wait until my thirties, working in Aboriginal cultural heritage management.

All along, a passion for wild and homegrown food and all its close interaction with nature simmered away. I fished, hunted, grew vegies, kept bees and chickens and foraged wild food in so much of my spare time that eventually I was ready to do something big. Last year, while living an otherwise fairly ordinary Sydney family life, I did it: I spent an entire year living almost entirely on wild and homegrown food.

Perhaps it was my mid-life crisis. And if it was, then perhaps such crises get a bad rap, because now there is no looking back. I find myself closing in on age 50 with my career wandering yet again, this time towards teaching and writing about wild food.

Knowing where food really comes from is a seemingly simple thing, but I have come to see it as matched only by love, family and knowledge as one of the secrets to a good life.

Richard Leslie Francis-Bruce
AM (OS 1967)

Film Editor
Los Angeles

I’ve always had a passion for photography and film. My father worked as a cinematographer in Hollywood in the 1920s, and I too wanted to pursue that career path.

But my circumstances sent me into film editing instead, and after leaving Grammar, I joined the film department at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. There was no film school in Australia at that time, but working the ABC turned out to be a great substitute, and I learnt a lot there. For the next 15 years I worked as an assistant, then an editor in news and current affairs, documentaries and finally drama productions.

I admired the films of David Lean, namely Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Ryan’s Daughter, drawing me into a desire to work as an editor in feature films. I eventually left the ABC and worked for many Kennedy/ Miller television miniseries productions including The Dismissal (1983) about the Gough Whitlam dismissal as Prime Minister, Bodyline (1984) a dramatization of the 1932– 33 Test cricket series between England and Australia and Cowra Breakout (1985) on the friendship between an Australian soldier and Japanese prisoner during the Second World War. I then edited George Miller’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

When Miller went to the United States to direct The Witches of Eastwick (1987), he asked me to edit it. This turned out to be a lot harder than expected, but after getting the appropriate work visas I was on my way to the US. It opened a door to Hollywood which exceeded all my expectations and allowed me to pursue a career in feature film production.

I have now been working in the film industry in Los Angeles for 30 years. The titles I’m most proud of are the Academy Award winning The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Seven (1995), Air Force One (1997), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and Oblivion (2013) starring Tom Cruise.

Tim Bauer (OS 1977)

Freelance and Press Photographer Sydney

In my leaving year of 1977, Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister, Neville Wran was the NSW Premier and Elvis died. We were all listening to Boz Scaggs do the Lido Shuffle, Peter Allen go to Rio, and witnessing the birth of Punk with The Sex Pistols.

It was going to Grammar that opened my eyes to other worlds. Coming from the leafy North Shore, the daily commute by train to school and the walk back from Weigall after sport through Kings Cross was always an adventure. There were the interesting characters in Hyde Park whom I was fascinated by and whose lives I wanted to document, as I was already very into photography.

From age thirteen, I had been processing my own films and making prints in my small home darkroom in Roseville. At age fifteen, I remember photographing an imposing gentleman known as the German Knife Sharpener. Then at seventeen, I found myself watching and photographing open heart surgery. After completing my HSC, I began a cadetship as a press photographer at The Sydney Morning Herald. Then in 1980, Azaria Chamberlain disappeared, and so did I to London, to capture more of the world as a self-employed photographer, which I remain today.

London was to be home off and during the 1980s. During this period I photographed Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn, Jerry Hall and many other high profile people of the day, as well as shooting for many feature stories for the press. Since being back in Australia, I have photographed the last six Prime Ministers of Australia including Malcolm Turnbull (OS 1972), and I continue to document the world through my lens.

Richard Scheinberg AM
(OS 1975)

Managing Director, Land Developer and Philanthropist Sydney

The mark of a good school is not what is taught in the syllabus, but what is taught beyond, as it was with my experience at Grammar. Under Headmaster Mackerras, the masters were encouraged to teach beyond the course work, and the boys were equally encouraged to undertake studies beyond the HSC. A group of like-minded boys in my year pursued evening courses in mathematics, philosophy and the arts.

After school I went to work in real estate investment. I returned to University of Sydney to complete a degree in Arts majoring in Philosophy. Although I worked throughout those studies, it was what I did beyond my career which gave the most reward. Even during my school years in 1971, I was demonstrating in support of ‘Refuseniks’ in Russia; those who were refused exit permits from the Soviet Union. I attended the famous “It’s Time” address by Gough Whitlam at the Anzac Auditorium in 1972, just across the road from the School in College Street. I was active in philanthropy in my midtwenties and later was appointed to the board of several medical charities (Microsearch Foundation and the Sydney University Medical Foundation), Jewish community charities (Jewish Communal Appeal, Kesser Torah College, Yeshiva College and Australia Israel Jewish Affairs Council) and real estate industry representative bodies.

I was awarded a Member of Australia Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours this year for my work in philanthropy.