“Storm Boy” Movie
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Storm Boy is an Australian movie that has been loved and has given great pleasure and joy to a wide range of audiences for many, many years. Not just Australian audiences but also overseas, where people have learnt a little of what Australian scenery looks like.
The first day of shooting the film was on 24th May 1976 but before this many decisions had to be made. Matt Carroll, the producer had to get permission from the author of the book, Colin Thiele who wrote the book in 1963. Once he got permission he had to find the right scriptwriter who could capture the true spirit of the book. Because the book tells the reader a lot of descriptions of the scenery, the film could show the audience in one shot what was written on pages so quite quickly a large section of the book was shown. To make the book into a full-length feature film the scriptwriter had to make the film longer. Sonia Borg became the script writer and to achieve a longer film she introduce new incidents and new characters, and to give more details about some questions which were only mentioned briefly in the book.
One change that was made from the book was when Mr. Percival dies. “You put a nine metre by six metre pelican up on the screen with shot gun blasts in its chest, and it would have been quite horrifying” (Colin Thiele author of book) Research shows that this was too upsetting for young children so Mr. Percival goes missing for a few days. This also allowed more filming as storm boy goes looking for Mr. Percival until he is told he has died and is shown the grave but at the same time he sees new pelicans hatching and know that life will go on.
An addition to the movie happened after a real life experience with Matt Carroll (producer) while he was camping a wild group driving dune buggies came roaring over the sand hills so this became a new part of the film where one night while storm boy is alone in his humpy the dune buggy riders come and wreck the house. The camera work in this scene made us feel that the attack was actually happening to us. It was an exciting part of the film that had the audience on the edge of their seats.
Storm Boy has two good friends, Mr. Percival and an aboriginal, Fingerbone. Fingerbone in the book is friend to Storm Boy and Tom and is only mentioned when needed but in the film he takes on larger portion where be becomes closer to Storm Boy teaches him the aboriginal stories of nature, the pelicans, the ducks, the storm, the land and offer him love and warmth which his father can’t give him.
Hideaway Tom in the movie is more moody, angry and distant from Storm Boy then in the book. The film allows Hideaway Tom to go through more changes. While he watches Storm Boy with Mr. Percival he slowly changes and realises that living isolated has deprived Storm Boy. As he watches Storm Boy grieve over the loss of his pelican he begins to show his love and understanding of Storm Boy. Being an outcast from his own people he also begins to feel closer to Fingerbone as he has something in common, both out casts.
The School teacher, Miss Walker who is not mention in the book points out to Tom that it is wrong in trying to hide Storm Boy and says that every child has a right to education not only outside the classroom where Storm Boy has gained independence and responsibilities and through bad things that have happened he learnt a deeper understanding of people and their feelings but also his reading and writing abilities.
Another new person in the movie is the ranger.
Although the pelicans were trained by blowing a whistle, the team was always worried that the pelicans would fly off with a flock of pelican that would fly pass. This fear actually happens near the end of the film. No matter how hard they blew the whistle the pelican either did not hear the whistle or was to interested in the other pelicans that the three trained would not respond. The quick thinking of the trainer Gordon Noble he told the Dog, Rupert which had also grown up playing with the pelicans to go scare the pelicans away leaving the three playing with their mate the dog, Rupert.
Another scene where they found the pelicans moody was when Greg (Storm Boy) was returning the pelicans to the sanctuary, the bird that he was holding suddenly had enough of acting and pecked him on the head, making it bleed. If you look closely you can see the surprise on Greg’s face and notice that he is not holding the pelican so closely.
Near the end of filming Matt Carroll noticed the pelicans did not appear as real character because they never talked. Matt Carroll and Michael Carlos, music director, came up with sounds from ducks and other wild life and some musical instruments that represented words like yes, no, maybe and look at me.
Greg Rowe became Storm Boy. He was chosen from over four hundred boys who wanted to become Storm Boy. Henri Safron, the director wanted to see each boy change expression on their faces so he made them change their expression from happy to sad after passing over a line marked on the ground. Greg Rowe used a technique where he would think of something that made him really sad after he crossed the line, this was of the loss of his grandmother who he loved very much.
David Gulpilil was chose for Fingerbone as Matt Carroll had seen him played in two other films, “Walkabout” and “Mad Dog Morgan” and liked what he saw.
Peter Cummins a stage and film actor played Hideaway Tom.
Gordon Noble, a dolphin trainer agreed to try and train the pelicans. This was not as easy as he first thought as he quickly learnt that not like dolphins where he would reward them with food. The pelicans would quickly become full and would do nothing but rest. He had to become their mother from an early age.
The Town of Coolwa became the location for the film as the book describes “His home was the long, long, snout of sand hills and scrub that curves away south east wards from the Murray mouth” and this description was like Coolwa which also had a safe harbour and pier which would be useful in the storm scenes. Because of the soft sand some of the filming became hard, as the electricity was a heavy generator which had to be carried over the sand. Many shots were also taken on water filming from boat to boat making it difficult.
The weather was also difficult, as it would rain when sunny weather was wanted, sun when rain storms were needed. Shooting took four weeks, the last week they used the studio at Norwood. This week was easier as the crew no longer had to deal with the weather.
There are other crew members other the Matt Carroll, the producer, Henri Safron, the director, Sonia Borg, the scriptwriter.
The other people who made up the crew were Michael Caulfield, dialogue coach, Michael Carlos, musical composer, Ian Goddard and Ian Jamieson, assistant directors, Ross Nichols, camera operator, David Petley, the grip, Grant Page, stunt man, Geoff Burton, photography, Tony Tegg, the gaffer, David Copping, production designer, G. Turney Smith, the editor, Ken James, the props, Jennifer Zadow, Wardrobe, Helen Dyson, hair and make up, Erika Addis, camera assistant, Ken Hammond, sound recordist.
There are a great number of people behind the film that makes a great film that can survive on for many years.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PEOPLE DOING NOW.
Greg Rowe:went on to star in Blue Fin another Colin Thiele book and now works in a bank in Melbourne.
Matt Carrollwent on to produce such films as Breaker Morant. He now works as an independent producer in Sydney with over twenty projects in development
Gulpililmost recently took the role of Mick Dundee’s Aboriginal friend, Neville, in Crocodile Dundee.
Robert Ingpenrecently won the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen international award for illustrating children’s books.
Colin Thielehas written many more books since Storm Boy.
P.S. The pelicanswere slowly reintroduced to living in the wild.
Storm Boy Video
Storm Boy Film making, Simons J MacMillian company, Crows Nest. 1987