Robin Clifton, one of Australia’s most respected and successful location managers, died last Friday after a long illness. She was 71.
Born in New Zealand, Clifton worked as location manager on dozens of films and TV dramas in Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and China.
Clifton entered the industry in the early 1980s, working initially on TVCs. Her first feature was Bliss (1985), produced by Tony Buckley and directed by Ray Lawrence. She later collaborated with Buckley on Poor Man’s Orange (1987), the miniseries adapted from a Ruth Park novel, and the telemovie Heroes’ Mountain (2002), the saga of Stuart Driver, who survived the 1997 Thredbo tragedy.
“Robin knew how to read a script from a director's point of view,” Buckley tells IF. “No mean feat. A true professional with class. She is going to be very sadly missed.”
Buckley hailed her as a “location manager par excellence. Difficult location? Stroppy bureaucrats? Send in Robin Clifton. Result: A wonderful-looking picture and all problems solved.”
Her film credits included The Matrix, Babe: Pig in the City, Travelling North, The Perfectionist, Paperback Hero, Me Myself I, Dark City, Thank God He Met Lizzie, The Thin Red Line, Welcome to Woop Woop and Mission: Impossible II.
Later in her career she served as head of the location liaison unit at the NSW Film & Television Office, Screen NSW’s predecessor.
“Robin was arguably 'the mother of all location managers' in Australia,” says Robyn Bersten, her friend and colleague of more than 20 years. “She was a big personality of acute intelligence who stood out from the crowd and could hold her own anywhere.
“Locations was a job Robin seemed perfectly suited to. A big picture person, she had an extraordinary ability to appraise a script creatively and pinpoint where a film should be based. Long after she retired from the FTO she would often take calls from overseas producers asking for her thoughts on where to base their film. “
Jane Smith, who was CEO of the FTO until 2006, tells IF, “Robin was one of those magnificent, larger than life characters. She had taken risks, had amazing adventures and could nonchalantly tell a story about a wild escapade with some famous person. There was no ego in it, just a love of life.
“Robin was one of Australia's best location managers and filmmakers from all over the world would seek her advice. I will miss Robin greatly. I send my heartfelt condolences to her family.”
She is survived by sons Jake and Bede Clifton and four grandchildren.