BY GRAHAM SHIRLEY AND MEG LABRUM

The Australian film and TV industries mourn the loss of Patricia ‘Pat’ Lovell AM, MBE, who passed away on 26 January 2013 at the age of 83.

Lovell was known as ‘Miss Pat’ in the ABC-TV children’s puppet series Mr Squiggle and Friends, and went on to produce films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli. She received the Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award in 2010, for three decades of involvement in the industry and her tireless work in promoting the need for preservation to film industry colleagues, politicians and the community at large, and her firm belief in the value and importance of the NFSA.

The NFSA’s Graham Shirley and Meg Labrum share their memories of Australian screen industry legend Patricia ‘Pat’ Lovell.

As a child I first met Pat Lovell when appearing as a quiz contestant in Children’s TV Club (1957-1961), an ABC-TV program that she compered every Monday afternoon. Knowing exactly how to boost the confidence of a child, Pat preceded the live-to-air broadcast by rehearsing me and my fellow contestant (the son of actress Margo Lee), encouraging our answers to the quiz and achieving results that had us calm and assured on screen. At the end of the segment, Pat gifted we two competitors a beautiful hardback edition of Gulliver’s Travels.

Whenever I met Pat later in life, she continued to be the mentor, always willing to pass on the skills and wisdom she had learned in her career in radio, television, theatre and film. Pat’s mentoring included the feature directors whose films she produced, including Peter Weir, Ken Cameron and Ken Hannam, along with the young producers she inspired when head of Producing at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (1996 to 2003). Pat also paid tribute to the earlier generations whose work she admired and who had mentored and encouraged her, especially Ken G Hall, producer-director of a string of successful Australian feature films in the 1930s and 40s.

Graham Shirley’s Children’s TV Club book, presented to him by Pat Lovell

Pat Lovell’s reputation as a film producer was synonymous with stories she chose with a sure eye for the commercial market, and whose films she invested with high production values. With Picnic at Hanging Rock] (1975), Gallipoli (1981) and Monkey Grip (1981) she produced three very different quality films that became milestones in the Australian feature film revival of the 1970s and 80s. All three reached the screen thanks to Pat’s passionate belief that they should be made and her tenacity in seeing them through.

A film buff with a love of film history, Pat consistently spoke up in support of the need for Australia’s need for a realistically funded National Film and Sound Archive. As the feature industry revived in the 1970s, film industry people, Pat among them, realised that the archive needed proper resourcing and a clear identity if it was going to be able to look after the recent and older output as well as provide access to it. In recognition of this advocacy which continued over three decades and included Pat’s membership of the National Film Archive Advisory Committee, Pat received the NFSA’s Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award in 2010.

Graham Shirley
Manager, Access Projects

Patricia Lovell loomed large in the National Film and Sound Archive’s history. An active member of the then National Library Council’s Advisory Committee on the National Film Archive (1981-1984), hers was one of the clear voices heard in the days before the Archive’s formal establishment in 1984, lobbying fiercely for recognition and understanding for the world of audiovisual preservation and access. She remained an ardent supporter for the newly formed National Film and Sound Archive, supporting its formal development of operating and philosophical principles, and continuing to place her own precious film materials and personal papers and memorabilia with us throughout her lifetime.

Jenny, Pat, Simon and Lauren Lovell at the 2010 Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award

On top of all this, Patricia was a delightful human being with strong opinions, an openness to the ideas of others and sturdy esteem for the professional heights that she reached in both film production and associated teaching roles. When the NFSA presented her with the 2010 Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award, it was further acknowledgement of her extraordinary life of achievement in our field. And on a related note, in an email that she sent me around the same time dealing with her most recent donation of material to the NFSA, she commented:

‘… there are still 3 boxes I haven’t had time to look at. I have no idea what’s in them but if there’s anything remarkable I’ll certainly let you know. I also have all these awards – the first was a “Sammy” in 1976 for Best Feature Film, Picnic At Hanging Rock, presented by TV Times and the Variety Club of Australia. It is so heavy, I can hardly pick it up!! The last was in 2004 and the one I really treasure – The Longford Life Achievement Award.’

Patricia knew that she had achieved great things in a professional life which challenged the glass employment ceiling for women, the revival of Australian cinema as a vital independent voice, and the ever increasing need for the sharing of that experience with the generations to come. A generous presence in a most fortunate life.

Meg Labrum
Senior Curator – Film, Documents, Artefacts

The funeral was held on 4 February at 11am, at St. Thomas Anglican Church, North Sydney.
Pat’s daughter Jenny had stated all were welcome. She asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to dementia research.

The church is where Ken G Hall’s funeral service was held, and where he filmed The Silence of Dean Maitland, so Jenny and her brother Simon feel that the venue is fitting and right.

Further reading

Read Graham Shirley’s portrait of Pat Lovell on ASO.