WHEN legendary Australian film producer David Hannay was recently diagnosed with oesophageal cancer he knew it was now or never if he wanted to pass on his wealth of knowledge to local filmmakers.
Mr Hannay, who has lived at Yetholme for the past 10 years, has joined with Christine Sweeney, a filmmaker in her own right, to create the Bathurst Film Factory – a film-focused co-operative which will support filmmakers and filmmaking in the region.
Under the umbrella of the Bathurst Arts Council, the film factory will bring members of the local filmmaking community together to develop, discuss and debate all things to do with film.
It was the sort of project Mr Hannay wanted to be involved in 40 years ago, but the timing wasn’t right.
Now 73, the executive producer has spoken publicly for the first time about his cancer diagnosis in April.
He called it a wake-up call.
“I was stunned. I was given no chance of survival,” he said.
Mr Hannay said based on family longevity he had expected to be an active film-maker into his 80s and cruise into his 90s playing wonderful character parts in Australian films.
“This was a real kick in the guts,” he said.
However, determined to “not go gentle into that good night”, Mr Hannay embarked on a radical course of treatment involving massive doses of chemotherapy and radiation, which he glumly reflects resulted in the loss of his luxurious trademark beard.
He does not know yet how successful that treatment has been but he is moving forward with determination.
“Whatever time I’ve got, I want to devote to the next generation,” Mr Hannay said.
“That’s my obligation, my passion.”
Until now only his closest circle, including his wife, author Mary Moody, have been aware that he is fighting the battle of his life.
While he considers himself a local man, he also belongs to a much larger artistic community.
His contribution was recognised by the Australian Film Institute when it awarded him the Raymond Longford Award in 2007 and by the Australian Screen Sound Guild in presenting him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
His work was recognised by the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and in 2002 the Screen Producers Association conferred on him the Maura Fay Award for service to the industry.
He was also the recipient of the 1988 Human Rights Australia Film Award.
Mr Hannay has been involved in the production of 40 films, generally as producer or executive producer, as well as 23 television films, series and documentaries.
Some of the most iconic films include Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll, cult classic Stone, and The Man From Hong Kong.
Mr Hannay said American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino regards The Man From Hong Kong as one of his favourites.
He and Ms Sweeney have organised a special showing of this film, partly shot at Sunny Corner, as a fundraiser to launch the Bathurst Film Factory.
Mr Hannay will introduce the 1975 Australian cult classic at the once only screening at Bathurst’s Metro Cinemas on November 4. All film lovers are invited to attend, with tickets available through Metro 5.
“Nothing happens in the community without community support,” Ms Sweeney said,
She added that the Bathurst Film Factory will strengthen a network that already exists, encourage young local talent and provide filmmakers with the opportunity to stand in Mr Hannay’s shoes and learn.
It will also build the confidence of local filmmakers by showing them it is a valid career choice.
“They will be able to talk to people who’ve already done it and collaborate with others,” Ms Sweeney said.
“If you want to make a film it can be really daunting knowing where to start.
“Sometimes you just need to talk to people who have done it before.”