Inducted into ACS Hall of Fame – 1997
In 1932, sixteen-year-old Ross Wood began his film career as an office boy at Fox Movietone News, where his older brother Syd Wood also worked. Syd was a central – and indeed colourful — figure in the Sydney film scene. Syd was later founding president of the Australian Cinematographer’s Society. Syd’s career as a Movietone News editor and cameraman, and his brother Ross, inspired the feature film Newsfront (1978) on which Syd worked as an advisor. However, of the two cameramen, the less flamboyant Ross was considered to be the more creative.
Not long after joining Movietone, Ross was assigned to the camera department as a Truck Assistant (in those days Movietone had a policy of not allowing use of the term Camera Assistant, as they would have to pay them a higher salary). Ross was very keen and learnt a great deal from the cameramen – Bill Trerise (Chief Cameraman), Eric Bierre, Wally Sully and Hugh McInnes. A few years later Hugh had a serious altercation with Bill Trerise and was transferred to the editing room, which resulted in Ross being promoted to fill the position vacated by Hugh.
Ross remained with Movietone until 1945, he then did a brief stint as a war correspondent in the Royal Australian Navy. At the end of the War, he returned to Movietone but had “a bit of a brush up with them”, and on the sacking of his mate Wally Sully, followed Sully over to Cinesound. In 1947 Ross departed Cinesound, then worked for a variety of independent producers and directors. Significantly during this period, Wood shot documentaries for John Heyer and the Shell Film Unit, including The Back of Beyond (1954), which won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival, thanks in no small measure to Woods’ cinematography. This dramatised documentary is now considered an Australian classic. He also worked on many local & overseas feature productions being shot in Australia, Return to Paradise, Smiley Gets a Gun, Long John Silver, Whiplash, On The Beach, etc.
Ross also did time at Supreme, Artransa and Visatone Studios, then in 1963 formed the highly successful tvc production company Ross Wood Prod’s with partners John Bowen (Editor), Lex Merdith (Gaffer), George Wadeson (Grip) and Eric Francis (Still Photographer) however, the partnership with Eric Francis was short lived.
In 1958 Ross figured prominently in the formation of the ACS and inspired many young assistants who went on to become leading cinematographers. The ACS now makes an annual award to young cinematographers in his name.
Ross Wood died in 1980 leaving a legacy of memorable work.