The Hector Crawford centenary article, recently published by the NFSA, brought back many memories. Not just to me, of course, but of a huge proportion of those who sustained the Australian film industry as freelance technicians (and in actual employment, on occasion) and went through the Crawfords portals in their careers’ formative years.
Garry Hardman’s marvellous Crawford Productions tribute website for all of us Crawfords tragics, presents as much as anyone has ever – and will ever! – amass in one place on the topic; and the rest of us can do no more than relate anecdotes from our time there. I should like, personally, to see many more people write themselves up under 'My time at Crawfords’ – I honestly doubt there’s a single person whose memories wouldn’t be interesting, at the very least to the others they knew when there.
My own memories of the great HC are restricted to those few times I was summoned by Ian Crawford to talk with the two of them about… I don’t actually remember! This is due to my brain’s having decided that there’s so much goddamn junk inside it that it’s just going to chuck out anything it feels like, and be damned to me. It doesn’t sit down calmly and write lists of what’s important and what can best be discarded; it doesn’t enter into any discussion with me, its landlord, about what I would like to retain and what eject: it makes unilateral decisions as to rissoling whatever it feels like and then does it. No negotiations entered into.
So I’m obliged to admit that this is one such instance, and I don’t recall what we used to discuss, but logic tells me that it would’ve been along operational lines of some kind. There the three of us would sit, the two blokes looking so like each other as to make me want to smile, upstairs in the Abbotsford building in those end offices, talking away … Oh, if only this infuriating brain wouldn’t lose stuff! I’ve written a book – And Then Like My Dreams – that includes my time at Crawfords, but not in infinite detail. None of your actual anecdotes: just a kind of relating of my behaviour, really – and I don’t mean on crew, like this:
What a lazy young woman! – tsk tsk! (And, you know, I have no recall of that horse: I can’t believe it was as close to me as it looks!)
There’s a strong link between the article on Hector, the NFSA and me, for the NFSA played a vital role when my husband, stills photographer Chic Stringer, died. The only thing keeping me going was an enormous need to make sure that Chic was never forgotten by people in the industry he loved so much, and I approached the organisation to ask if they had interest in anything of his work that I had. The result was more than gratifying, and it wasn’t solely because they indicated that those of Chic’s stills I could locate would happily – very happily! – be included in a database they created of his work. The really meaningful thing was that it was I who got this terrific business underway: I actually did something of worth and value – something that reflected well on my so-loved husband, showing how good he was at the work that made him happiest. And any of you who has lost your life partner will understand exactly what I mean when I say that there is nothing, simply nothing, as marvellous and rewarding and joyful as being able to remind the world of that person who now lives only inside you.
So the NFSA and I share a symbiotic relationship of pleasure: they in being able to extend their vast, ever-growing and quite extraordinary history of our industry by adding Chic to it; and I by having provided them with the wherewithal to do so.
And it all started at Crawfords, where I first learned about continuity, and was thus able, a few years (and several life-changing events, all written about) afterwards, to work on one of Terry Bourke’s little comedies, whereon the Stills Photographer was one Chic Stringer…
Margaret Rose Stringer’s memoir, And Then Like My Dreams, is available through Fremantle Press and at the NFSA shop. Read more from Margaret Rose Stringer on her blog.