Al Clark and I have talked about re-teaming since The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This is a man who teed-up VHS cassettes on specific scenes of landmark films as tuition right though the shoot of Priscilla. Becoming friends first (co-workers second), not a week has gone by where we have not made each other question or laugh. The original recipient of the Swinging Safari pitch, it was Mr. Clark who finally got me over the line. I didn’t want to write it. I was too frightened. After decades of coaxing, he finally sat me down in front of a Mac and gently guided my hands to the keyboard.
Lizzy Gardiner is a childhood friend who shared the landscape with me. Somehow, we survived 1975 and remained close. An aspiring fashion designer, she came to me in the early 80s looking for work on a film, and I landed her a gig as standby on the terrible kitchen sink drama on which I was the 2nd assistant director. The highlight of that shoot was watching Lizzy leave all the wardrobe on the ground behind a 4WD and watching the grips and electricians drive all over it. Fast-forward a decade and there she was, collecting an Academy Award in a credit card dress (that American Express had knocked back for Priscilla). Swinging Safari is as much Lizzy’s childhood as it is mine.
Colin Gibson and I worked around each other through the learning curve that was 10BA, culminating with Priscilla. An insatiable young art director, Colin showed very little fear wearing very little underpants. His specialty was telling directors exactly what he thought of their sub-standard tripe, and I knew, after our first tour, he was the production designer for me. It’s been years since we’ve had the chance to re-team, his career having been hijacked by Dr. George Miller, with an army of talking pigs and tap-dancing penguins. When Fury Road was finally put to bed, Colin was mine again. All mine.
Sue Blainey and I studied film editing together as 17 year-olds. We share the distinction of being kicked out of the same film school on the same day. Sue went to the United States to work under Richard Francis-Bruce on The Witches Of Eastwick, and never came home ‘til I lured her back with a big pink bus. In the ensuing years, she has developed the fastest hands in the business (according to J.J. Abrams, when they were cutting Lost). Sue and I share an identical sense of humor, serving us well on Priscilla, Easy Virtue and A Few Best Men. She is my second set of hands and silly barometer.
Jamie Hilton and Ester Harding are the new kids on the block. We foundeach other on a gin palace in Cannes. They were engaging, funny and incredibly hungry. Not for the flaccid canapés on offer, but for the next Priscilla. Al had talked me to the typewriter, but I was still reticent. The concept had only been shared with close-knit family, possibly because I was shit scared that a younger audience would reject such personal material. Jamie and Ester – mere kittens in film time – loved it. And together, they put my start gunin the air.
Swinging Safari may read like a film about lost kids, but truth be told, it’s a love letter to lost parents. They did the best they could with the tools they were handed. So what if Forum magazine and Number 96 were blunt instruments?
They made me who I am today.
Stephan Elliott - Writer / Director