Storm Boy producer Matt Carroll oral history excerpt

Storm Boy producer Matt Carroll oral history excerpt
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Producer Matt Carroll talking in an oral history interview. This is an edited excerpt:
What you're trying to do is to make a film for a very broad audience group. In other words, from five to 100. Rather than for the usual cinema audience which is your 18 to 28 year-old.
And so the film has to be very simple in concept, and yet very complex in its subtleties, so that it works for an adult audience. And when Storm Boy came to us --- Storm Boy came to us just through the usual reading of things and someone threw it on my desk and I read it and I just thought - terrific. That would make a really good children's feature.

When we first got the thing we knew that the picture had been prescribed reading in primary schools in a number of states. We also knew that a) that it was a difficult picture to market, even before we'd made it. So we knew that we had to come up with some new way of promoting the picture.

And so we developed this idea of promoting the thing through the schools, using the education system to mobilise the people to get to the theatres. Because we knew there was a desire for people to go and see these films, because you've got all the pressure groups coming out saying 'Why can't we see family films?' and 'clean wholesome' films, and all this sort of thing. So we just devised a campaign to use the education system to mobilise these people into the cinema. And we did it on a trial basis in Adelaide, and out of it, of course, it just mushroomed. Because what we found was that there was not only a desire, but a desire by the education department to involve, not only their classrooms just in the process of going to see a very interesting film, but in a whole range of educational activities. And so we just motivated all that, in doing pic-a-paks, and video tape records of interviews, and the book that Rigby brought out.

Now that was, first of all, done on a state basis. And then of course the results were enormous. And then we knew --- We also saw how the other children's films, or equivalent films, performed against Storm Boy. So we knew we had to do the same thing in the other states. So a massive mailing campaign, and a careful approach to the education departments to use their resources to mobilise, was used again. And of course the resources that we produced in conjunction with the South Australian education department were eagerly snapped up by New South Wales and Victoria.

And in fact there's an educational pic-a-pak, which is a classroom study kit, sort of based around the curriculum. I mean I've been told, I think, it sold 10,000 copies. It's just crazy, I mean they just - the Educational Technology Centre in South Australia has been completely flabbergasted by that. The book will probably sell 400,000 copies eventually.

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).