HANDLE THIS: Mullumbimby documentary maker Mark Lewis with one of the furry critters that will feature in his four-part series
HANDLE THIS: Mullumbimby documentary maker Mark Lewis with one of the furry critters that will feature in his four-part series

Filmmakers take on world

By Hannah Ross

WHAT do giant pumpkins, woodchucks, world champion hairstylists and synchronised swimmers have in common? They have all been immortalised for the small screen by local filmmaker Mark Lewis and his production company Radio Pictures.

This week Mark's four-part documentary series The Pursuit of Excellence will go to air on United States TV network PBS. The documentary will screen again later this year on the ABC.

From their base in Mullumbimby, Radio Pictures have been taking on the world.

According to production assistant Peta Ayres, the team spent six months of last year travelling the globe filming The Pursuit of Excellence.

They followed two teams of teenage synchronised swimmers from California and Minnesota to competition in Orlando, Florida. Around this schedule they worked in a trip to Russia to follow a US team competing in the International World Championships of Hair Styling.

Then it was off to Coopers Town in New York State for the giant pumpkin competition followed by a jaunt to Buckeye Bash in Ohio for the woodchuck show.

Ms Ayres said although the documentary followed American subjects, Radio Pictures had no problem orchestrating its shooting schedule from Mullumbimby.

"Mark chose Mullumbimby as his home base because he wanted to live here. As he says, it doesn't matter where we are based because we deal with people internationally and have to travel for filming anyway."

As if to further illustrate the global village filmmakers live in, a recent job vacancy for a production assistant with Radio Pictures attracted applicants from as far afield as Singapore.

The Pursuit of Excellence was co-produced by PBS in the States and the ABC in Australia.

"Mark looks for documentaries that feature great characters, which are irreverent and have funny subject matter.

"I suppose we can get away with being based here because we always follow the motto 'quality whether they like it or not'," Ms Ayres said.

Radio Pictures is now in development on two new documentaries, one slated for theatrical release and the other a one-hour special for PBS show American Experience.

The success of Radio Pictures is another feather in the cap of the local filmmaking industry, which boasts the highest concentration of professionals outside Sydney and Melbourne.

Radio Pictures employs a permanent staff of three, and a further 45 locals are currently employed shooting ABC series East of Everything.

Other local projects currently in production is Bangalow filmmaker Tristan Bancks' documentary for SBS Change the World in Five Minutes; and dating games show BrainDate by Hula Horse productions going to air later this year on Brisbane TV station Brisbane 31. Clunes filmmaker Catherine Marciniak is also busy with her series for the ABC on early childhood development. Life at One screened in 2006 and Life at Three is due to screen next year.



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