Tony Wilson ACS was “one of Australia’s greatest observational cameramen” who “shot with both his ears and his eyes”.

So say many filmmakers he worked with over his long career as a documentary cinematographer.

“He made directors very lazy because he was so good,” long-time friend and collaborator Aviva Ziegler says.

“Quite often when I was filming with him I’d want to ask him to do something and he would have already done it – he was always ahead of the game.

“I’ve always said that he had eyes in the back of the head because he always knew what was going on.

“He always anticipated what was going to happen and he’d always be there; you never felt that you’d missed something because Tony would’ve found it beforehand.”

Documentary filmmaker for more than 20 years Mitzi Goldman, who also worked with Wilson, says he was a great guy who had an incredible eye and gift to see what was happening.

“You just knew you could get to the cutting room and every shot would be usable,” Goldman says of the man whose credits include Plumpton High Babies, Facing The Demons and Seasons of Revenge.

“And he was great with people in front of the camera – he really put them at ease.

“He could become invisible which is really important for a documentary cinematographer. He was a lot of fun.”

Sadly, the “personable” Sydney cinematographer passed away suddenly just before Christmas last year. He was 69.

A tribute to honour him was held last night (Tuesday) at AFTRS. It was OzDox's first event at the Moore Park-based school this year.

Goldman moderated the session, and Ziegler spoke on the man, along with Hart Cohen, Jessica Douglas-Henry and Mark Gould.

Some of Wilson’s work was also shown.

“I always felt he was a cameraman who shot with both his ears and his eyes – he wasn’t just an eye cameraman because he was always listening with what was going on and with observational filmmaking that is terribly important,” Ziegler notes.

He wasn’t just a cinematographer – he was a teacher and a mentor.

“A lot of documentary people have either worked with him or learnt from him over the years,” Ziegler says of Wilson who also conducted workshops in Sydney.

“He was a very generous teacher; he taught people without really thinking about whether it was doing himself out of a job or not – and ultimately it didn’t because he was so good.”

Ziegler says he had a very particular style which she noticed immediately.

“Interestingly enough I was doing an archive project for the ABC some years ago and I was looking at old films from the archive and I could always tell when they were shot by Tony – it was pretty amazing, he had a very particular style, very fluid.”

Wilson leaves behind a wife, two children and three grandchildren.

Aviva Ziegler and Tony Wilson ACS


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  1. RE: “A tribute to honour him was held last night (Tuesday) at AFTRS.”

    To be exact – it was the first OzDox event of 2011 held at AFTRS.

    OzDox – The Australian Documentary Forum is a joint initiative from documentary filmmakers, industry bodies and academics to foster, promote and provide a monthly forum for documentary culture. OzDox is made possible by The Australian Directors Guild in association with AFTRS, Screen Australia, and Screen NSW.

    More info and to join the email list:

  2. Sad to hear of Tony Wilson’s passing. Was grateful to have worked with Tony on a number of occasions and privileged to have spent time learning from his vast experience.

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