We're like the dogs Who shy away from your touch Some of us bite When we've been hurt too much We try to forget But we never can The inhumanity And cruelty of man Some are like cats Who tend to love with reserve Dogs wag their tails While the cats just observe Dogs try to help us But cats know they can't For dogs think we are Gods While cats know that we aren't (c) Frank Howson 2017 Lantau, Hong Kong.
Becoming the Director of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival is something I had not lobbied for or ever desired. But given Richard Wolstencroft’s recent sudden departure and his request to take over the helm, it is something I couldn’t refuse as the Festival is now bigger than any one person and for it to cease to exist would be, in my opinion, a tragedy for the industry. It fills a very important role in shining a light on the next generation of Australian filmmakers and in its 18 years of existence it has discovered a number of people who have gone onto receive international success.
Years ago when I was a young creative person trying to break into the film business it was almost impossible. It seemed, at that time, to be a closed shop with the same ol’ same ol’ people getting the grants and making the movies. And of course, those who were benefitting from the system were certainly very reluctant to let new blood in. Many of those people never encouraged the next generation of talent and we have been paying for that for some time now. Who knows how many brilliant young creatives got frustrated by the red tape and closed doors, gave up and walked away. It made me all the more determined that if I broke through then the least I could do would be to help others achieve the same. And so I did. Even though at the height of my success I was making 5 films a year (in some cases shooting a movie whilst I was in post-production of the last one and pre-production of the next), yet, I still made time to meet and give advice to any young filmmaker who phoned asking for help. I am proud that my company gave several directors their first chance to direct a movie, along with giving breaks to young editors, music composers, actors, costume designers, etc., etc.
In fact I remember giving the young Richard Wolstencroft his first chance to direct a 35mm movie, which starred the very young Lachy Hulme. Although in my long and varied career I have won quite a few awards, I can say in all honesty that nothing gives me more joy than the knowledge that I helped several people into the industry who went onto achieve international recognition.
It saddens me that Richard has had to relinquish his directorship of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival so suddenly and in such circumstances. It was his creation and for 18 years his baby and I have some understanding of the pain involved in having to walk away from that. Hopefully with the passing of time people will choose to remember his contribution and achievements rather than some ill-conceived and ill-timed remarks that I know he is extremely and sincerely sorry for having made. In the words of the great director Billy Wilder, “A man is as good as the best thing he did, not the worst.”
In my opinion the mark of how far we have spiritually evolved in this life is measured by our capacity to humble ourselves by owning up and apologizing for our wrongs and, in other cases, to forgive. The latter takes an awful lot of evolving to reach.
Under my directorship at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, I will continue to spotlight new and exciting local talent, and select movies that take risks, that inspire and inform us, confront us, thrill us, and celebrate our humanity towards people of diversity. I do not undertake this leadership for ego reasons, or financial gain, but see it as a service to the industry and the community that original voices are discovered and given the forum to be heard, and debated, as well as the opportunity to go on.
I look forward to steering a new look Melbourne Underground Film Festival to an exciting future for filmmakers and cinema goers alike, and I hope you will support my efforts by submitting your work and attending our screenings. Let’s defeat apathy and build a healthy and diverse film industry one brick at a time.
Submissions will be open in January for our 19th Festival.
I travelled far It brought me here I went to great lengths To disappear It's gonna take courage To kill this fear That your world can go to hell In the falling of a tear I was there for you Do you remember me? I laid down my life So you could finally see You have to lose everything That you held so dear For wisdom comes At the cost of a tear I was happy as Larry and full of beer Till the dice left me stranded At the end of the pier I thought of jumping I thought of King Lear Your whole life can go past ya In the falling of a tear Now I have gone But this ghost remains To forget you went to Paris Me? I went to great pains You could tell my story But it wouldn't seem clear Why I missed the chances That was already here You wrote me a letter And it sounded sincere You said you'd found God in the details And the falling of a tear I read it standing in the rain Misdiagnosed as insane Some call it falling But I say it's the higher calling Of the falling Of a tear (c) Frank Howson 2017. (c) photograph by Vanessa Allan
In this business of show The best advice I can give is Don't take no for an answer Your work will be judged by idiots And by genius And guess what? Sometimes they all get it wrong And if all these experts know everything Then how come they make so many flops? Your greatest guide And you must protect it Is your instinct For those of us who believe in a higher power I believe our instinct is God talking to us But guess what? Most times we second guess ourselves And go against it Or allow ourselves to be talked into doing Something that doesn't feel right And the end result is always disaster And recriminations If everyone followed sound advice And stuck to the tried and true formula We'd have had no DaVinci Or Glenn Gould Nikola Tesla Or Picasso Marlon Brando Beatles Elvis Hitchcock Bob Dylan David Lynch Breaking Bad And so on and so on... The Beatles were told that "Guitar bands are out of fashion" Tesla was told that "his ideas wouldn't fly" Yet he lit up the world And in return it broke his heart Elvis was threatened with jail if he continued to rock the boat And Dylan was laughed at as a freak I'm not saying that sticking to your inner voice Wont be a difficult road It will be But when was anything worth having easy? All the people I have mentioned had only one thing in common Persistence Fuelled by a total self belief Don't get me wrong I'm not saying don't listen to good advice Do For only a fool turns their back on a good idea But trust your own instinct as to what is right for you And what isn't My mother once told someone that if you want Frank to do Something for you just ask him and he will But order him to do it And he'll do the opposite just to piss you off So I guess I was born with a rebel soul And all I know is this Every time I was told "You'll never make a film because you haven't made one before. So go home and forget about it, sonny, and leave it to the experts" It somehow made me stronger and more determined to prove them wrong Every time I was told "Don't bother trying to get that big name star For your movie, because it won't happen" It did Or "You can't make a film about that because it's too personal and no one will get it other than you" That was the one the people responded to In an era that I believe is the darkest age for movies When they are only making films about comic books Don't give up Where some see a wasteland Others sees a golden opportunity Never before has an original idea been such a valuable commodity Be bold and mighty forces join you The future belongs to you If you are brave enough And strong enough And stubborn enough to grasp it And to those who are We at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival Salute you (SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE 2017 MELBOURNE UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL) (c) Frank Howson 2017
She appeared in the half light Of the room Suddenly the space feels smaller Her tight dress hugging her body Like the imagination of many men Revealing enough of her ample cleavage To start a riot She is hesitant at first Not yet seizing her control of the situation Scanning the large studio Taking in every detail like an experienced assassin Her eyes finally settling on you And exuding all the electricity Of a holy prophet She asks how long she will be needed And you tell her all afternoon Suppressing the urge to say "forever" She smiles ever so slightly As she reads your mind She then says "How do you want me?" Now you know she is playing you And the game is afoot You slowly walk to her And stand behind her body Unzipping her into freedom Letting her dress fall to the floor There are no undergarments to bother with And suddenly Unexpectedly She is revealed to you Naked except for the high heels Looking down you take in everything Trying to etch it into your memory Forevermore The wonder of this moment And the privilege And although you are behind her She feels the heat of your stare And is energised And empowered by it Stealing the last of your strength You are now in checkmate She smiles to herself The hunter and the hunted The lines now blurred She has you As you slowly circle her seeing everything she has While she stands there proudly defiant Like a Goddess You want to hear her cry out In payment For her sins But that will have to wait You are no longer commanding the moves As you stand before her Humbled Maybe broken As those who stand in awe In front of the world's great works of art You look up and lock eyes with her And this is the most intimate moment of all And you flinch Lowering your eyes to her perfect lips You have never hungered for anything more Than to kiss them And her body knows it Standing there a second longer Would cause you to take her With the force of a leopard Devouring its prey But you have no strength left in your body You are done As you turn to walk back to the blank canvas Waiting on your easel You select your paintbrush And already defeated Attempt to capture Her beauty Before the light fades (c) Frank Howson 2017
The great actors know What it's like To stand naked in front of strangers Your vulnerability exposed And on show for all to see No secrets No guards No veils No safety net No second takes You're on and this is the moment To learn to not cover yourself For the sake of modesty There is no such thing Anymore So you relax And savour it Burn Don't run It's thrilling that they now Know you more intimately Than you know yourself The monster with a thousand eyes Hidden in the dark Breathing as one Committing every part of you to memory And reducing you to a one line review To be discussed amongst friends At dinner parties Laughing at how far you were Prepared to go For that moment of truth That intimidated the audience Reminding them how timid their lives were In comparison Exposing their cowardice To walk the high wire And to be seen in anything less Than designer labels and tags While you are free To soar Experience Feel Fail And show The real you 8 shows a week They will never be able to hold Eye contact with you again Without flinching For your eyes are way too honest And brave And can see into The darkest places of the soul It has made you strong Undefeated Self-reliant And lonely (c) Frank Howson 2017
My memory is going Taking with it the moonlight I can feel it That bank of steel That never let me down Is letting go of things Perhaps making room for new Or maybe God is showing mercy By finally unloading from me Some of the painful baggage I have carried for far too long I don't know Not even sure what my PIN number is anymore But the jokes still come To cover any situation And never let me down I have been using this technique Since I was a child Who felt things too deeply To save face amidst any humiliation Against any bullying Or grief Despair Loss Embarrassment It's seen me through many falls And comebacks And falls again As I've clung desperately To the glimpses of joy While equally frantic to shed The fatal wounds of misery Now All has become one In a faded echo of some childhood song Where only the chorus is still remembered And the detailed verses Are only hummed The Tin Pan Alley story forgotten But the melody memorable enough To linger in that part of your brain Reserved for joy and innocence From a time way before You knew of war Or suffering Or heartbreak Or selfish love Or painful longing And here you find yourself again And know it from memory muscle that this strange room Feels like home Whatever that was... (c) Frank Howson 2017