“It was our single greatest expenditure but we feel ultimately one of the crowning glories of our film! “
Filmmakers Susie Conte and Jenny Crabb write exclusively for Cinema Australia about their exciting new documentary based on an almost forgotten Western Australian icon, The Parkerville Amphitheatre:
Almost three years ago, Jenny stumbled across the ruins of a mysterious crumbling amphitheatre structure while working on a short film in the Perth Hills. Intrigued, she set about trying to dig up some information on this bizarre site, and was immediately struck by how little she could find. Eventually tracking down the original owners via an old blog site, and after several months of back and forth emails, she persuaded Margaret and Lawrence Jones to agree to a meeting.
This is where I came in. In early 2013 Jenny pitched me the idea of potentially making an independent documentary and the following weekend we made our way up to the historic Parkerville Tavern where, over the course of five hours, Margaret and Lawrence recounted their epic tale.
It was a story spanning decades with elements of light and dark, triumph and tragedy. We discovered a compelling aboriginal element with the discovery that volunteer rehabilitative prison labour helped build the site along with the Jones family, as it was sensitively hewn from the natural landscape. Once constructed the site hosted Perth’s first aboriginal corroboree performed for white people, theatre shows under the gum trees, rock concerts featuring a who’s who of iconic Aussie 70s bands…before slowly, inexorably, succumbing to council wrangles and debt.
We were hooked.
For the next two years, entirely self-financed, we tracked down people to talk to us about the Amphitheatre, cajoling sometimes painful memories from them. Each story unraveled another layer and from a virtual avalanche of information – sometimes contradictory or nebulous – a profoundly human story emerged.
The Joneses allowed us a level of access into this deeply affecting chapter of their lives that was utterly humbling, and, despite the many painful memories it dredged up, they never failed to encourage us to move forwards and get the story told.
Jenny and I worked weekends and evenings, as our own obsession took hold.
As time wore on we never ceased to be amazed that this enigmatic amphitheatre in the bush, which had such profound cultural significance to 1970s Perth, could have been virtually lost to memory.
In the final stages of post-production, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to enable us to use some spectacular ABC archive footage that we managed to track down, from 1971. It was our single greatest expenditure but we feel ultimately one of the crowning glories of our film!
Sets, Bugs and Rock n Roll picture locked in January 2015 and feedback from tentative preview screenings was overwhelmingly positive as our audience seemed to find resonance with this lo-fi human story.
Soon after we were thrilled to be accepted into Revelation Perth International Film Festival. Since then, it has been an absolute joy to watch the film trickle out into the wider world as we have found ourselves championed and fostered by Revelation, especially by Suzie Worner, and by Ian Hale of Backlot Studios. The groundswell of support and goodwill towards our low-budget independent film has been humbling for Jenny and I, and made our first ever festival experience a deeply exciting and rewarding one!
We hope our film continues with its lucky run and finds the audiences we think the Parkerville Amphitheatre’s story deserves
Parkerville Amphitheatre: Sets, Bugs & Rock n Roll will screen at this year’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival. You can find screening details and more here.
You can follow the film on its Facebook page here.