Monday 29 October 2018

Vale Colin Talbot - Peter Tammer remembers a remarkable Melbourne writer and film-maker

Colin Talbot died on Sunday 28 October

Dear Geoff, 

That’s really sad news which you have sent me. 

I hadn't had any conversations with Colin since about two years ago. Then there were a few months when we did engage in a series of connections via email, and Colin did visit me here in Kyneton one day for lunch. 

Colin Talbot, 70s (ph: Carol Jerrems)
Our friendship arose from the time when I was making a film with Mark Gillespie which eventually became another film, that's my film "Struttin' the Mutton" (1975), which was not the "intended" concept I was pursuing at the time. During the various stages of that filming I met Colin at Mark's place in Fitzroy one Sunday afternoon in a building which was being renovated and Mark was staying there for free. Colin told a story, which I cannot recall in detail, only that he bowled me over with his brilliant raconteur style, and then later I came across his novel "Massive Road Trauma"

That's where the friendship really started, all because I loved that novel and dreamt of making a film derived from it.

“Do not write letters, if you do, do not post them. If you post them do not put any address on the letter. On the envelope. Or write the wrong address. Or the wrong name. Better still do not write the letter, or keep the letter on the mantelpiece. Above the fire. Throw the old photographs in the fire.” 

Some years later I read "Sweethearts" and loved it too, although Massive Road was my favourite. Then in the mid-eighties I asked Colin if he would sell me the rights to Massive Road, and instead he offered to give me the rights if I would help him film"Sweethearts". Even though I was full of trepidation about going into a joint filming venture with him, because I had a strong understanding that our approaches to filming were quite different, I did engage with that project and I was central in getting it up, contributing all my 35mm film stock, my film equipment, and also in making deals to get the right camera etc. And I was the DOP.  However, all my fears came true about 16 days into the shoot and I had to resign from the film... there was no single cause, many causes, but one day I simply said to myself, "This is not working very well at all, and I just can't take any more." So I walked.

“There is blood on the road. It is mine. Running in the street. Well almost. Blood on the face, distorting the vision, ruining the clothes. I have fallen over. I have tumbled to the road and now cars rush by horns blaring. 

It was the bootlace. A tripping. I am confused and dazed. A lesser person would scream now for succour, for drugs and medication to lessen the pain.

Cars swerve to avoid contact, there goes one swerving. Swerving into a telegraph pole. I can see it from where I lie. Lay. Someone is contacting the ambulance. Not for me who really needs it though. The car door has fallen open. I must twist the neck to see correctly. There has occurred an accident. A series of loud noises, crashes, rents, scars.”

Later Colin managed to raise completion finance from the AFC and that's why there is now a complete version of "Sweethearts" posted on YouTube. I can't bear to see the film in that  extremely poor copy.  Viewing it now takes me right back into what was a really bad time for me on the set. But you can watch it if you click here

But true to his word and his gentlemanly nature, a few weeks after I walked from the production Colin visited me with a contract giving me the rights to "Massive Road Trauma". I was most surprised about that because I had only fulfilled about 50% of our deal when I walked.

Then I tried for many years to convert the novel into a film script, and tried to get it up as a film... all of that effort came to nothing! A great film was never made!

“Yesterday I invented a joke. The joke seemed as if it were funny, yesterday, then. I am thinking of the joke now. It does not seem funny.”

Colin and I had occasional contact about 1995 when I met him on St. Kilda Road one day during the time I was teaching at the VCA, he was with his partner Liz.

Not much happened after that, a lot of water went under the bridge. When I moved to Kyneton in 2010 we renewed contact via email. Then he sent me some stuff he was writing, and I sent him some of my stuff. Eventually he came to visit me here about two years ago and we had a nice day together. He wanted to make another film with me, another "no budget film" but I was incredibly nervous about it. I gave it a lot of thought, a large number of emails passed between us, but in the end I could see we still had the same "gaps" which had led to me walking off "Sweethearts". So I said no.  There was no bitterness, no anger, we both accepted it like that and really nothing came through since then, no further emails.

I didn't know Colin had been ill recently. Two years ago he told me his energy levels were really good for the first time in years after receiving some revolutionary new treatment. So when I received the news from you yesterday, Geoff,  it was a shock.

I just want to add a few more words here... Colin was a really nice guy, very gentle, and to me he was always extremely considerate. A lovely guy! Isn't it strange that we were both disappointed by what happened on the "Sweethearts" shoot, but we remained friends?

I'm also sad that I never succeeded in making a wonderful film of "Massive Road Trauma" because I just loved that novel, and I think that in loving that novel it was like loving Colin too!


Editor's Note: All the quotes in blue are from Colin's wonderful novel Massive Road Trauma.

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