Film Location Scout and Location Manager

BY PAMELA WILLS BURDEN

Courtesy of the Clifton family

Robin was the epitome of location managers, creating a vital department on films and commercials. She had a great ability to read directors’ minds and visualise exactly where a scene could be shot. Maybe it would suit something on her secret list of Sydney mansions, or an outback stretch of red sand that only she had found.

She had an easy way with location owners, smoothing the way as a large film crew descended. With her great love of travelling, art and film, she could chat engagingly and always raised a laugh.

She greatly enjoyed her collection of friends from many different arts backgrounds and popped into conversation snippets like ‘I’m off to Alexandria with the Prince’ or ‘lectures at the Art Gallery today’. ‘Hideous’ and ‘fabulous’ and ‘tragic’ were some of Robin’s favourite words when describing her adventures.

Both American and Australian producers adored going on location recces with genial, entertaining Robin. And we all adored having her amusing and witty presence on a film set.

Her beloved sons Bede and Jake, nicknamed her ‘dipsticks’ when they were young, gave her four cherished grandchildren.

To mark her passing, the NFSA has published the Oral History interview I did with Robin on 7 March 2011.

In this interview Robin spoke about the early days, when there were only four Location Managers, and the Unit Department was very small. She described her work during pre-production, and the problems of securing Indigenous locations. Robin also talked about the many challenges of working overseas on projects such as Ultraviolet, shot in Shanghai; The Thin Red Line, shot in the Solomon Islands; and Till There Was You, shot in Vanuatu. She told stories of working on Evil Angels, The Matrix, and Mission: Impossible II, among others.