John wrote an intriguing tale that went from the brutal and deadly early coal mining days, through the formation of unions and early radical organisations like the International Workers of the World and the Communist Party, the Depression, to the famed Dalfram battle between the community and 'Pig Iron Bob' Menzies, to wars and anti-war resistance, women battling what was then Australia's biggest company (BHP), and up to today's continuation of radicalism in struggles such as opposing Coal Seam Gas.
John showed his writing to Paul Benedek who had recently helped forge Green Left TV, a video-based arm of the newspaper Green Left Weekly. What Paul read was far from the writings of dull academia or stuffy historical treatise....instead this was action-packed, people-powered history that screamed out to be told....or better yet, shown. Paul was sold immediately, and thus began, in late 2012, the planning for the film. At the same time, Mel Barnes (who co-edits Green Left Weekly) and John began filming interviews with fascinating subjects (old communists, draft resisters, women who beat BHP and so on) that would form the backbone of Radical Wollongong.
However, while the initial story was fascinating, it would take months and months to boil it down to its essence (it began as 8000 words which would have filed a one hour film with narration alone!). The story had to be progressively edited down, rearranged, linked to the interviews with the interviews used to replace narrative, sections without key footage removed....in reality the writing continued right up to today, at least 15 months later, and it continues to be developed!
The next blog post(s) will look at how Radical Wollongong went from words on paper to where it is today - which is with almost all production (save one last day of visual shooting) complete, and the sound edit 95% complete.
From there, we will be trying to keep this blog updated, as a means of tracking progress with the film, and hopefully providing some useful ideas and lessons for anyone interested in either no-budget filmmaking, documentary production, political filmmaking, Wollongong's radical history, or just the journey into filmmaking for newcomers. And at the very least we can look back and remember the wild ride!