Greg Rowe and Gordon Noble with a pelican standing on the beach. Noble is teaching the pelican how to catch a ball.

The making of Storm Boy

 Beth Taylor

Over 40 years on, rare behind-the-scenes footage from the Storm Boy shoot shows the team effort involved in making this magical film.

Shot during the production of Storm Boy, the documentary The Crew was produced by the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). In the excerpts below we see interviews with members of the film crew about their roles and responsibilities on set.

Training the pelicans

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 a dolphin trainer, Gordon Noble. 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. In the excerpt below we see Noble at work.

Excerpt from The Crew, 1976. Courtesy SAFC and AFTRS. NFSA title: 5140


Sets, props and make-up

Excerpt from The Crew, 1976. Courtesy SAFC and AFTRS. NFSA title: 5140

Production designer David Copping says of his role, 'Personally I accept responsibility for just about everything visual'. We see stand-by props person Ken James at work, and Jennifer Zadow talks about the wardrobe challenges on the film. Director of photography Geoff Burton explains the importance of make-up, even for a film like Storm Boy that requires a very natural look.

Greg Rowe as Storm Boy, looking deshevelled and dressed in a man's jacket and jumper that are too big for him. He has rope over his shoulder for dragging driftwood back to his humpy

Most wardrobe ladies have the job of keeping clothes clean. I have the job of keeping them dirty and in a sufficient state of disrepair, complete with fish scales.

Jennifer Zadow, Wardrobe

To see a clip showing Greg Rowe (who played Storm Boy) working with his dialogue coach, legendary stunt advisor Grant Page shooting pelican point-of-view flying sequences and behind-the-scenes of the shipwreck scene, visit the Storm Boy curated collection.

There you'll also find more behind-the-scenes materials, interviews with Greg Rowe and David Gulpilil on The Mike Walsh Show, and a 2016 interview we conducted with Greg from his home in Toronto.