A detailed history of the ACS

A Detailed History of the Australian Cinematographers Society

By Syd Wood ACS, Foundation President of the ACS


To write an official history of an organisation such as the ACS from the existing scantily written records is indeed a difficult task. Relying mostly on memory may lead to the omission of some names of cameramen who played a leading part in our formation. Should this happen I can only ask fAor your indulgence.

Just after the war there was an organisation formed known as the Australian Cinematographers Society. To be accepted into the society one had to have had twenty years as a cameraman In the Industry. This limited membership to a select few. I\’m afraid that I had little knowledge of their activities but I know that after a few years the organisation ceased to exist.

When our Society was formed, we asked the ex President, Mr. Eric Bierre for permission to use the name ACS and to this he agreed.

The middle forties and fifties saw an upsurge in the industry where once, Movietone and Cinesound were the only havens for regular cameramen. The Commonwealth Film Unit was in full operation extending their organisation from a small unit in Victoria Barracks, Victoria – an information and news department during World War II to full documentary productions. Feature films with overseas capital and top technicians were on the move. Notable of these was the “Long John” series. It was a new era for cameramen as young and talented technicians were learning fast and applying their knowledge.

It was an exciting period and I was glad to have part of it. A film editor by profession, I started camera work with the Army during the war when 28 years of age. With so many new faces, young and old, in the camera world, there seemed to be a need for some form of basic group to gather together for the betterment of Cinematography. Where there is a need, somebody will surely move in a practical way, and those people were Ross Wood, Keith Loone and Bren Brown.

After a few formal discussions among themselves they decided to act. The year, 1958, and through their efforts, the first meeting was held at the Film Club, approximately September 12, with an attendance of well over 50. Before the meeting began I was elected chairman. The meeting was an easy one to chair as most attending felt that the time had come to weld ourselves into a group.

The first official meeting was held at the Film Club on Friday, October 31, 1958. The agenda, “The proposed formation of an Association of Cinematographers.” At this meeting I was elected Chairman. Ron Horner was Secretary, Keith Loone as Treasurer and the Committee consisted of Messrs, R. Wood, R. Perier (N.S.W.), J. Fletcher, J. Leake, A. Higgins, B. Whiteman, J.W. (Bill) Trerise.

On November 14, 1958, the elected committee held their first meeting. Among the many things discussed were – office bearers, eligibility of membership, subscription, etc., but the first proposal was made by Ross Wood and seconded by B. Whiteman “To further the advancement of Cinematography in Australia, both professionally and socially.”

At our next general meeting on November 28, 1958, we had our first overseas guest, Gordon Dines, BSC.

The organisation had gathered impetus and our third general meeting was held on December 8, 1958, for the election of permanent officers – not too bad for an infant body.

In five weeks we were established.

I was elected President, with Ron Horner as Vice-President, Keith Loone Secretary, Gus Lowry Assistant Secretary, Reg Perier Treasurer, Jack Gardiner Assistant Treasurer, and our first committee was R. Wood, J. Leake, J.W. Trerise, B. Whiteman, A. Higgins and A. Hansen.

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There was much work to do.

Sub committees were formed for education and social functions, and many thanks to the members of these groups who did so much to establish the aims and objects of the Society. Finance is always a problem and most cameramen balance their budgets like an expense account. If I remember, subscriptions of �1 was to be payable for the first quarter on or before January 31,1959, and for this year we remained solvent and active, but with our Society growing we needed stabilising.

Early in 1960, a constitution subcommittee, Messrs. J. Kingsford-Smith, R. Feeney, J. Gardiner, A. Hansen were elected and working together with the committee presented a formal constitution to a general meeting on March 3, 1960.

After a general discussion and slight amendments, the constitution was accepted by the members, and then came the bombshell when Jack Kingsford-Smith proposed that we form ourselves into a company.

As President, I must admit that I was startled, the ramification of such a venture which I was to find out later, were beyond my ken. Anyhow the motion was put and carried, a motion that was to put Keith Loone, Reg Perier and myself into a world outside cameras.

Our Treasurer, Reg Perier, struggling along on our meagre bank balance, was to make the first move. He introduced us to solicitors Bowman & McKenzie, who in turn assigned Mr. A. Mills to our case.

In the initial stages there were many meetings to formulate and combine our constitution with the “Articles of Association.” Yes, we were learning, but like all such ventures – money.

Mr. Mills finalised all details and our Articles were ready for presentation to the Attorney-General\’s Department. A general meeting was to acquaint the members with the situation and advise them of the legal cost and our rather shaky financial position – I cannot recall who made the proposal, he must remain anonymous in ACS history – the motion for a donation by all present members, 41 in all – and the yield of $390.

It was a proud meeting for Keith, Reg and myself, for we felt that the confidence the members showed in us had set the seal on the ACS.

The Society was growing, and an educational committee headed by Ross Wood and John McLean who were responsible for many enlightening and instructive evenings, and the response from individuals and companies, who made their time and premises available, was gratifying.

It was a memorable day in October 1961, when Keith Loone and myself received the Articles of Association from the solicitors, and the nearest place for a toast to the ACS was the Angel Hotel in Pitt Street.

Pressure of camera assignments had forced our worthy Secretary to resign. Apart from the loss, this was going to be a hard job to fill, the position had become demanding-too much for roving cameramen, and once again Reg Perier came to our rescue when he introduced us to Mr. Hilton Gordon. Hilton, an accountant by profession, and with experience with cameramen, accepted the position as full time.

From the beginning his enthusiasm and interest was to greatly benefit the Society, and no doubt gratifying to him to see the ACS become nation-wide. After six years I felt it was my time to bow out, so in 1963 Ron Horner became President, and when in the chair was to help start and consolidate a national organisation.

Following Ron came hardworking Jack Gardiner. Jack, an original member, was at all times ready to aid the ACS whether in office or not, and his term was indeed a fruitful one for all members.

To the new President, Ron Windon, who I know has the association at heart, I wish him a successful term in office.

The ACS was created for all cameramen, young and old, for the betterment of Cinematography, and although the “Senior Citizens” may have dominated the early formation, it is indeed gratifying to see so many young faces serving on the Executive. I would like to extend my thanks to the many members who aided me in those early years, and I trust that all of us have plenty of time to enjoy our membership with the ACS.


Supplied by Bob Feeney ACS