Life Scripted

From soap to secret police

Having worked in television and filmmaking for more than 30 years, it’s fair to say Richard Jasek knows something about making it in his chosen industry. The Prague-born producer, director and writer has directed close to 1000 hours of television during his prodigious career. He’s worked on enduring Australian favourites such as Heartbreak High and police dramas Blue Heeler, Stingers and City Homicide, through to serial dramas and soaps, including Home and Away, Neighbours, A Country Practice, The Secret Life of Us and McLeod’s Daughters, as well as various children’s miniseries.

Now, after spending most of his career in the commercial mainstream, Jasek is turning his attention to the Adelaide Film Festival. His new project, Making It, documents the inaugural year of the Ramsay Art Prize, a national $100,000 visual arts prize for artists under the age of 40, presented by the Art Gallery of South Australia and supported in perpetuity by the James & Diana Ramsay Foundation.

Making It follows a select group of Ramsay finalists, discovering the stories behind their works and taking audiences into the world of art on an international journey through Hong Kong, Venice and London. “There are so many extraordinarily creative people out there and Australia is giving birth to this fantastic generation of artists,” Jasek says. “There’s an explosion of creativity going on at the moment. You can see that in the works and the prize.

“The prize itself is so interesting because it’s for artists under 40, to support emerging and mid-career artists. In other words, it’s saying, ‘You guys out there, we’re giving you this opportunity, come rise to it and show us the best thing you’ve got’. And, my god, they did. I was really interested to find the stories behind those works and also, if this prize is targeted to under 40s because that’s where the greatest career challenges lie, why should this be so?

“And so this film is about what it takes to make it as an artist in the 21st century. Why would anybody be mad enough to take on such a difficult, unreliable vocation? Once they have drunk the Kool-Aid and there is no going back, what happens then? How do they make it? How do they sustain a career? That’s why the film title is Making It, because it’s not just about making the artwork; it’s also about making a profession.”

While Jasek is a filmmaker, the art world is never far from his doorstep. His great uncle is celebrated Australian artist Hugh Ramsay, and the James and Diana Ramsay behind the Ramsay Art Prize are his uncle and aunt.

“My great uncle lived at the turn of the 20th century and his works are represented in every major gallery in Australia,” Jasek says. “Tragically, his life was cut short at the age of 28 from tuberculosis. His family, I think, wondered why on earth he didn’t have a real job.

“Hugh Ramsay dead at 28 is something I think that my aunt Diana and uncle James never forgot. That’s something that underpinned, in part, their drive to philanthropy through their lives.”
Jasek’s passion for his subject matter is also linked to the history of his father, Ladislav, a concert violinist who fled to Adelaide from Czechoslovakia in the 1950s to avoid being co-opted by the Secret Police. There he met Adelaide woman Anthea Hamilton, whose father, Sydney, was one of Australia’s top vignerons and the founder of Leconfield Wines.

Ladislav spent three years in Adelaide before returning to Prague with Anthea. The Secret Police were alerted to his location and he was forced to collaborate with a regime he hated. After a decade of emotional pressure, they fled back to Australia, this time with Richard. “If it happened nowadays, there’s every chance I would have been locked up in Nauru, which just goes to show how much human talent we’re throwing down the toilet because of xenophobia,” Jasek points out.

More than 450 artists submitted entries for the Ramsay Art Prize and only 21 made it to the final stages. From those 21, Jasek selected about half to profile: “Looking even at the 21 finalists, it’s like someone has put a creativity bomb in the middle of the Art Gallery and it’s just gone splat all over the walls. In a way, those 21 are emblematic of the creative strength of the 440.”

The eventual winner was Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos, with Sarah Contos Presents: The Long Kiss Goodbye.

The Adelaide Film Festival runs from October 5-15. Log on to adelaidefilmfestival.org for full details.

Also showing

ODDLANDS

A blackly humorous story of a team of people who embark on the clean-up of a strange toxic wasteland. When they find a person who could be the last living survivor during an otherwise ordinary work day, they need to choose between saving humanity or saving themselves.

GUILTY

This one-hour work focuses on the last days of artist and executed Bali Nine prisoner Myuran Sukumaran. The project is written and directed by visual artist Matthew Sleeth, who ran art workshops in prison with Myuran throughout his rehabilitation.

REMEMBERING AGATHA

A hybrid live-action whimsical drama overlaid with animation, Remembering Agatha tells the story of a woman overwhelmed by family obligation and the domestication of her spirit.
She is haunted by her independent double, who whispers her true feelings out loud.

ALREADY ELSEWHERE

Adelaide-based public artist and lighting designer Geoff Cobham uses artificial light to transform the space and to influence and alter perception. An exploration of how we experience and respond to illumination which directly calls into play our individual responses.


New Digital reality

The burgeoning impact of digital technology and virtual reality upon the lives of everyday Australians is being explored in two new projects by the Adelaide Film Festival.

Hybrid World Adelaide will transform a historic former car factory in Tonsley into a digital playground for visitors to experience how technological developments, both present and future, can change the way we live. “The internet and reality aren’t separate places any more; we’re living in a hybrid world,” says Robert Tercek, Hybrid World Adelaide’s creative director.

“There’s a massive change happening right in front of us.”

The five-day project will feature a roster of public events aimed at all ages, “from digital-savvy experts and industry professionals to kindergarteners, grandparents, gamers, YouTubers, drone enthusiasts and people who just want to see what the future holds”, as well as a hands-on lab to mentor and develop selected tech projects.

Guest speakers, including futurist and bio-hacker Andrew Hessel, cybersecurity expert Mandy Simpson, DARPA Program Manager (Biological Technologies Office) Phillip Alvelda, space engineer Flavia Nardini and agri-digital expert Emma Weston, will join LA-based digital pioneer Robert Tercek to discuss topics across four “digital” themes: augmentation, substitution, infusion and transformation.

“Digital technology has begun to infuse the world around us, and this process is going to reinvent the way the whole world works,” Tercek says.

“The speakers we’ve invited to Hybrid World Adelaide will … discuss cutting-edge ideas and opportunities that will shape the future of SA, and the world.”

Also making its debut this year is the Adelaide Film Festival’s inaugural Virtual Reality Award, in conjunction with the AFTRS. The award celebrates the best in screen innovation, to be showcased alongside Hybrid World Adelaide.

Amanda Duthie, CEO and Artistic Director of the festival says: “Virtual reality is the new platform for screen content and every week we are seeing new ways this can be used to push the boundaries of storytelling.”

AFTRS chief Neil Peplow, adds: “AFTRS has encouraged Australian creatives to explore the potential of VR through a range of initiatives over the past year. There are such exciting possibilities for storytelling in the VR space. (The award) will encourage innovation and showcase the possibilities of VR to the Australian screen community.”

Hybrid World Adelaide runs from October 4-8 at Tonsley Innovation Precinct, accessed by a direct rail link. Log on to hybridworldadelaide.org