Don McAlpine receives AACTA’s Raymond Longford award
Cinematographer Don McAlpine ACS ASC has been presented with the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts’ (AACTA) prestigious Raymond Longford Award at a luncheon held in Sydney.
The award was presented by film director Bruce Beresford, actors Jack Thompson and Sigrid Thornton, and Australian Film Institute chairman Alan Finney, in recognition of McAlpine’s 40-year career.
"I have often joked that it’s quite easy to make a good film – you just have to make a lot," McAlpine told the audience.
"We all have commenced our opus in the blind belief that it must be a success. I hope that in the future more mature successful people could be co-opted into the selection process…
"Since receiving this award I have been motivated to find out more about Mr Longford. It is interesting that such a driven, successful man was basically beaten by the system. In a long career the number of exceedingly talented colleagues I have seen vanish from this capricious business is devastating."
He dedicated his award to Longford and other colleagues who are no longer in the industry and gave special thanks to his high school teachers and the chemist who introduced him to film, as well as directors Bruce Beresford and Paul Mazursky, and his wife Janet.
McAlpine has previously been recognised with two British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominations for Moulin Rouge! and William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for Moulin Rouge!, and three AFI Awards for My Brilliant Career, Breaker Morant and Moulin Rouge!
Among his more than 50 films are The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (his and Beresford's first feature), Predator and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the upcoming Toni Collette-starring feature Mental. McAlpine later confirmed that he will shoot sci-fi film Ender's Game, which stars Harrison Ford, in New Orleans later this month.
Read or listen to Don McAlpine's full AACTA Raymond Longford acceptance speech below.
Thank you and thank you – I’m really lost for words. Fortunately I have some written down… [laughter]
First of all I’d like to thank the AFI and thank the shiny, new Australian Academy. I have been in the audience to honour persons for persistence and endurance. It’s now happening to me. Like most people I think ‘that marks the end of their career’. Well friends, I intend to be the exception that proves the rule. I enthusiastically believe that with each film I do learn a little more.
But more importantly, the years imply a certain authority – this is debatably ridiculous but exceedingly useful [laughter].
Cinematography, after 110 years of gentle evolution of a simple concept of a cam-driven core and a rotating half-disc shutter, has exploded into the mercurial world of digital capture. These electronic cameras are exact tools that will enable us to record pictures with precision that we only dreamt of with film. A few disagree with that – that’s my opinion. The computer has enabled us to tell stories that were once locked in our imagination – do you really think I want to quit now? [laughter followed by applause]
How have I survived in such a fashion-driven, facile, egocentric business? [laughter] I know I’m too involved to answer that question objectively. One thing I do believe is the fascination with recording an action or an emotion in time still fills me with awe and fascination. Each movie is a new life for me. Each new director, new script, new actor, is a question that has to be solved.
Convention dictates I should be humble and thank those who contributed to my progress. It was on the stage performing Gilbert and Sullivan while in high school that I discovered the joy of performing and entertaining. I thank those teachers.
A local chemist showed me the magic of the photographic process. I thank Mr Mitchell.
Sincere gratitude to every director who was able to entrust the visualisation of his dream to me. Bruce Beresford, of course, is top of that list. We formed a two-man film school and we experienced 10 wonderful lessons together. The other director I owe and unpayable debt to is Paul Mazursky. Tempest is the film that opened the world to me.
Janet, holding that Oscar – no it’s not the Oscar [laughter] – who in the beginning provided the sustaining income to enable me to risk the vagaries of freelance cinematography [applause]. I’m very lucky that she has enjoyed the gypsy lifestyle. Maybe too much. After a few months at home I do sense a pressure to hit the road again. After more than 55 years of marriage we head off on Thursday to another adventure in New Orleans.
In the 1970s I travelled a world uninformed about Australia. Sheep and kangaroos were what defined us. The prime minister of the day, John Gorton, brilliantly decided that a motion picture industry would be an effective way to promote who we were. It has worked and it is still working. I suggest we may name our beautiful new sculpture a “Gort”. For all of us here, our Australian industry started 40 years ago – where is it now and where is it going?
We have produced some fine films and we have produced a mass of fine filmmakers. I have often joked that it’s quite easy to make a good film – you just have to make a lot. We all have commenced our opus in the blind belief that it must be a success. I hope that in the future more mature successful people could be co-opted into the selection process – not me. No, I would just count the sunrises and sunsets and maybe deduct a few points for each night shoot.
Since receiving this award I have been motivated to find out more about Mr Longford. It is interesting that such a driven, successful man was basically beaten by the system. In a long career the number of exceedingly talented colleagues I have seen vanish from this capricious business is devastating. In some weird way I would like to dedicate this award to them and Raymond Longford. The truth is the only quality that separates me from them is that, so far, fate has given me the nod. Thank you.