Storm Boy, the classic Australian film based on Colin Thiele's novel, appeals to audiences of all ages. Now 40 years old, its themes of friendship, land rights, conservation and family breakdown are still as relevant as ever. Complements the Storm Boy online exhibition.
WARNING: this collection contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While his father takes a catch of fish to sell in town, Mike (Greg Rowe) discovers some illegal hunters shooting birds. An Aboriginal stranger, Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), drives them away with a warning shot. Mike tried to hide but Bill asks him to come and see if the hunters hit anything.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
Mike (Greg Rowe) is overjoyed when Mr Percival, his pet pelican, returns after being set free.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
Mike (Greg Rowe) and his father (Peter Cummins) go to warn Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil) that trouble is brewing. Bill is not supposed to be living on a state reserve, and the ranger wants to talk to him.
Summary by Paul Byrnes
The NFSA’s experts had their work cut out for them when they discovered the oxide was lifting off two reels of the final sound mix. This required ‘baking’ them in a low humidity rejuvenation chamber for seven days before they could be safely digitised.
Restoration partners Frame, Set and Match had to spend almost twice the time on digitally cleaning and grading the picture than with the restorations of Starstruck (1982) and Howling III: The Marsupials (1987).
Producer Matt Carroll contributed to the process and the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) were very happy to see the film digitally restored.
You can rent or purchase the full film from Umbrella Entertainment.
In this excerpt from the documentary, The Crew filmed on the set of Storm Boy, we see dialogue coach Michael Caulfield working with Greg Rowe on his lines. Stunt advisor Grant Page performs the stunt work for the pelican POV flying sequences and we see behind the scenes of the shipwreck scene. First assistant director Ian Goddard explains his role as a 'right-hand man' to the director.
This is rare footage of Greg Rowe working with his dialogue coach on the seminal Australian film. It's great to see the skilled and fearless Grant Page doing his thing, advising them on stunts and flying in hang gliders. The educational intention of the film is to give a succinct look at each crew specialisation and it works well. Today its value is even greater because it captures behind the scenes footage of what has become an iconic Australian film. It's also historically important because we see people who have become famous in their field, for example, clapper loader Erika Addis who went on to become a prominent cinematographer.
Notes by Beth Taylor
One of the pelicans on the set of Storm Boy taking a break from the shoot in a jeep.
Greg Rowe (Storm Boy) speaks with Sue Smith about working with the pelicans in Storm Boy, travelling to Japan to promote the film and fan mail.
This clip is from The Mike Walsh Show – Episode 8075.
Storm Boy producer Matt Carroll talks about how the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) worked with the distributors and education departments around Australia to turn Storm Boy into a massive box office success in this edited extract from an oral history interview in 1981.
This clip is an important record of the original approach the SAFC took with marketing the film directly to schools. The SAFC in conjunction with other organisations created additional educational resources to build on the potential the film had for being part of the primary school curriculum.
As well as the more standard film posters and lobby cards, additional educational materials were produced to coincide with the film’s release:
A special edition of the book featuring stills from the film by Rigby Limited.
A twenty-minute documentary called The Crew, filmed on the set of Storm Boy, and explained the different roles of the principal crew members was produced by The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in conjunction with SAFC.
Pic-a-pak teaching aids were produced by the Educational Technology Centre and the Film Study Centre. Each pack included colour prints, a study guide, audio cassette, map and colour slides.
The SAFC staggered Storm Boy’s release across Australia so they could concentrate their efforts promoting the film through state education departments and direct mail campaigns to schools. The film was released in South Australia first and it ran for over a year at the My Fair Lady Theatre in Adelaide.
The film was a run-away success. It sold to 100 countries and grossed $2,645,000 in Australia alone (which is equivalent to over $14 million today).
Notes by Beth Taylor
Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil) tells Storm Boy (Greg Rowe) a dreamtime legend about the pelican including a dance.
The original trailer for Storm Boy. The classic 1976 film has been digitally restored as part of NFSA Restores. Starring Greg Rowe, David Gulpilil and Peter Cummins.
Synopsis: A 10-year-old boy (Greg Rowe), living with his father in the wild Coorong wetlands of South Australia, rescues a baby pelican orphaned by hunters. With the help of Fingerbone Bill (David Gulpilil), the boy and the bird become inseparable, until the outside world encroaches.
An excerpt from the AFTRS documentary The Crew showing director Henri Safran giving direction to Greg Rowe and pelican trainer Gordon Noble on the set of Storm Boy (1976).
This short excerpt, skillfully weaving documentary footage of the shoot and excerpts from the final film, shows what a collective effort filmmaking is.
Footage of the pelican trainer working with his whistle and bucket of fish is an example of the kind of the essential, but often invisible, jobs that exist on film sets.
Sandwich, Carpenter and Dum Dum - the three pelicans who played Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival in Storm Boy - were raised from chicks by Noble, who was originally a dolphin trainer. They couldn't hire a pelican trainer because there were none; pelicans had never been trained for a film before.
The first pelicans they tried to train flew away, so they had to start over again. Noble lived with the pelicans for nine months in the lead-up to the shoot and taught them them tricks (such as catching a ball) which they repeated for fishy rewards.
Pelican trainer Gordon Noble on the set of Storm Boy with two pelicans he trained from birth for the film.
David Gulpilil talks with Mike Walsh about missing Arnhem Land when he's in the city and the importance of passing down traditional dances to young people.
He offers to teach Mike Walsh the emu dance saying that it will take about one month.
Notes by Beth Taylor
The Polish one-sheet poster for Storm Boy (1976) represents the bonds of friendship between a boy and his pelican, depicting them as inseparable.
Polish film poster artists weren’t constrained by Hollywood movie studios and were free to create designs inspired by the mood of a film.
Notes by Adam Blackshaw
Cinematographer Geoff Burton talks about the challenges of working on Storm Boy (1976) in a conversation with NFSA Engagement Officer Louise Sheedy on 30 October 2016.
Sonia Borg, screenwriter, talks about scriptwriting and her work on films Blue Fin and Storm Boy covering influences of cast, location, nature, author Colin Thiele, her television writing background, script editing, research, appeal and themes.
An excerpt from the documentary, The Crew filmed on the set of Storm Boy. Film crews at their best are finely tuned machines - each piece working to produce a beautiful work. Production designer David Copping explains the responsibilities of him and his crew. Ken James explains the job of a stand-by props person. In voice-over, director of photography Geoff Burton explains the importance of make-up, even for a film like Storm Boy that requires a very natural look. Jennifer Zadow from the wardrobe department says it's been a challenge to keep the costumes dirty and in a sufficient state of disrepair, 'complete with fish scales', on the film.
By focussing on the crew members working rather than having them speak to camera, the clip succeeds in providing a fascinating behind the scenes insight into the making of a feature film. The voiceovers are effective in explaining what they are trying to achieve and the challenges they confront. Although each crew specialisation is talked about only very briefly, seeing them at work makes it feel like a full picture of their jobs.
Notes by Beth Taylor
Page ten of the Survival/Metro Storm Boy: Ocean Studies Guide. The 25 page guide was included as a supplement in Metro Magazine in 1978. The guide includes ideas for excursions, activities, information about animals and a shell guide, using the film Storm Boy as the central text to inspire an exploration of the ocean.
This opening of the guide shows examples of observation exercises for students at the beach. Students are encouraged to observe the tides, and different types of birds and crabs. Examples of the birds the students might observe are illustrated in silhouettes next to the exercise. This thorough study guide, with its skilful combination of information, activities, film stills and illustrations, is an excellent example of how the film was marketed to the educational sector, and shows why the film went on to become such a key text in the Australian curriculum for decades.
Notes by Beth Taylor
A Roadshow Distributors press sheet created for Storm Boy, featuring synopsis, information about the adaptation of the book, cast, crew, list of accessories for marketing, censorship, running time and length information and examples of press ads. This is page one of a two page press sheet.
Page two of a Roadshow Distributors press sheet created for Storm Boy, featuring production notes, how to sell Storm Boy and details of ads to place, preview screening instructions and a colouring competition for local newspapers. This is page two of a two page press sheet.
A special understanding: Lobby card featuring Storm Boy and Mr Percival the pelican. Lobby cards were displayed in cinemas to entice moviegoers. Lobby cards typically came featuring a series of different scenes from the film and there are eight lobby cards for Storm Boy in the NFSA collection.
These are two AFI (Australian Film Institute) awards won by Storm Boy in 1977. One is for best film of the year, and the other is the Jedda award. The awards are made from black perspex and bronze, which has been cast to look like a piece of sprocketed film with the Australian Film Award logo at top and year at bottom. The bronze-coloured metal plaque on the top is engraved with text: 'Australian Film Award, Storm Boy, Best Film of the Year, Produced by Matthew Carroll for the South Australian Film Corporation'. The other reads: 'Australian Film Award, Storm Boy, Jedda Award, Produced by Matthew Carroll for the South Australian Film Corporation'
An Iranian Film Archive trophy won by Storm Boy from the Tehran Festival of Films for Children in 1977.
An trophy won by Storm Boy in 1977 from the Special Prix, National Organisation for the Protection of Children. The chrome sphere, which is suspended between two brass arms spins around.
One-sheeter poster for Storm Boy from Australia.
Pelican trainer Gordon Noble, Greg Rowe (Storm Boy) and pelican sit on a pier near the water on the set of Storm Boy.
Director and actor at work: Henri Safran (left) talking with Greg Rowe as they walk down the beach during the Storm Boy shoot.
Henri Safran standing in the sand dunes with actor Peter Cummins (Hide-Away Tom) on the outdoor set of Storm Boy.
Forty years after starring in Storm Boy as an 11-year-old, Greg Rowe talks about working with the pelicans and the tricks he learnt to make them happy.
Bonding with baby pelicans: Greg Rowe (Storm Boy) on set with baby pelicans.
Making rain: behind the scenes of Storm Boy, with a hose connected to an off-camera water truck, a wind machine in the centre used to heighten storm effects, an Avis truck in the background which was used to haul heavy duty equipment, and cast and crew wrapped in oilskins in an attempt to keep dry.
Crew film outside of the humpy on the set of Storm Boy.
Author Colin Thiele reads from his book Storm Boy as we see how the film interpreted the world he created. Thiele goes on to talk about the power of words: 'Even now I never cease to be amazed at the way a row of black marks on a piece of paper can do so many wonderful things. They can make us laugh, they can entertain us, they can make us cry.'
Slate 374: Actors Greg Rowe (Storm Boy) and David Gulpilil (Fingerbone Bill) playing with string on the set of Storm Boy, with boom operator Julian McSwiney and clapper board visible in the frame.