One of Australia’s most respected and prolific TV directors who started his career at Crawford Productions in the 1960s, Gary Conway died on Friday in a hospice in Melbourne, aged 73.
Conway directed nearly 800 episodes of Neigbours, beginning in 1988, and worked on the Fremantle show until late last year when he was forced to stop after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
“Gary was a great mate to me and to many, many others,” his friend and long-time colleague, composer Garry (Sam) Hardman tells IF.
“Gary started at Crawford’s a couple of years before I did. I met him when I started with the company in 1965. There were 45 people on staff back then and Gary was the company’s art department.
“He would make up the credit cards for Homicide and Hunter as well as the ‘fake signs” for filming that could turn an ordinary office building into a federal bank.”
From there Conway progressed to assistant director and later director on the flagship series Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police and Ryan.
“Gary was a beloved member of the Neighbours family and a legend of the local industry,” Jason Herbison, the show’s executive producer, tells IF.
“Proudly old school, he honed his craft in the golden era of Crawford’s and Grundy’s. We all loved to hear his stories about days gone by. He was never more at home than on set and retirement was never in his script.”
After leaving Crawford’s he spent some time in London. On return he was in constant demand as a freelance director on multiple series including Cop Shop, Skyways, A Country Practice, Prisoner, The Flying Doctors, Bony and Blue Heelers.
Gary Conway on the ‘Homicide’ set in 1969.
Among his career highlights, he directed four episodes of Sara Dane, the 1982 SAFC miniseries produced by Jock Blair, which starred Juliet Jordan as an English convict who was sent to Australia for a crime she didn’t commit, married an officer and became a successful businesswoman.
Rod Hardy, who directed the other four eps, observes: “Gary was a dear friend of over 50 years. He was a director when I joined Crawford’s and I observed him as a young director. He was always enthusiastic to share his knowledge with all we fledgling directors.
“He had a great spirit and a humour to match although a grumpy side that I learned to copy. He was adored by cast and crew alike.”
Neighbours cast members were fulsome in their praise. “Gary was a consummate professional and a dear friend,” says Alan Fletcher. “He would not allow one second of any drama he created to be considered complete until he had exhausted every possible approach to and interpretation of the work.
“He inspired me every day to be the best possible performer I could be. I loved him and will miss him dearly”.
Colette Mann, who worked with him on Prisoner and Neighbours, says: “Gary was one of the most passionate and committed directors I’ve worked with. While we would bicker like an old married couple, the outcome was always what we both strived for – he never compromised.
“I will miss him dreadfully on set and on this occasion, I’m happy for him to have the last word but only this time Gary.”
Director/producer Pino Amenta says: “What I remember about Gags was a great sense of fun, decency, fairness and genuine respect for all people from crew to actors. Always giving his time to any up and coming director or inexperienced actor. He gave me my first break way back and I am forever grateful.”
Herbison concludes: “There is so much to remember, not least his laughter. He did it his way and he gave it all to the end.”
Survivors include his sister Rosie.