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The process diary of film director Glendyn Ivin

Filtering by Category: Puberty Blues


Glendyn Ivin

Wrapped shooting on my last two episodes of Puberty Blues during the week. I found directing this block (Eps 5 and 6) different to my first (Eps 1 and 3). The first eps were all about finding what the series was. What it looked liked, how it sounded, how the scripts translated, how the drama worked, where the performances should sit and how to work with each actor. It was such an exploratory process yet at the same time we were making the series as we went along. Which I love.

But by the second block a lot of the things I didn't know the first time, which kept my eyes open wide, I now knew. This made it a little less exciting, or because it was more familiar it didn't feel as 'special' maybe and perhaps even trickier than usual to remain aware and in the ever elusive moment. But on the other hand, because we had edited and finished the first two eps, we could refine what was working and push harder on the elements that  we wanted to see more of.

In some ways this was a little like my dream model for making a feature film. Where you shoot the film, cut for a period and then go back out and shoot more. The idea being, that the first shooting period is all about finding the film, the second is about refining and adding to what you have already discovered. Building on what the story has become rather than what you thought it might be.

The downside here is that everything that was once exciting, new and fresh, isn't so much the second time round. There is a tendency to become complacent or just used to whats going on around you. I had to remain focused and often remind myself just how beautiful it is what we are doing and within the tight schedules and budget there are wonderful opportunities still there ready and waiting and well worth exploring!



Glendyn Ivin

Have finished editing my first two episodes (eps 1 & 3) of Puberty Blues today and tomorrow I head back out for another 15 days of shooting episodes 5 & 6. I'm really happy with how the first two episodes have come together. The first introduces us to the world and the characters of Puberty Blues, set deep in the heart of mid 1970's Cronulla, Australia. And Ep 3 takes us further into that world with Debbie and Sue, two teenage girls who are most definitely old enough to know better, yet to young too care!

Big thanks to my editor Deb Peart who very quickly tuned into our collective sensibility and approach to the show. As always I've really enjoyed the collaborative and explorative process of editing. I feel like we have made something really special here!


Glendyn Ivin

Tonight while having a break from the edit we watched an episode of Australian Story about the very different lives led by Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey who wrote Puberty Blues (a truthful account of their teenage exploits growing up in Cronulla in the 70's) The book was published when they were only 18 years old. Soon after the book was published they had a huge falling out and haven't really spoken since. While I understand that people can grow apart it seems strange that two friends that were so close and shared so much could not have spoken for over 30 years! Regardless I find their stories really fascinating. Especially Gabrielle who has had one incredible chapter after another.

I must say it breaks my heart to think that the Debbie and Sue in our version of Puberty Blues could ever 'break up' with each other. They are so beautiful onscreen together. And it's been an absolute pleasure as a director bringing it to life on screen.


Glendyn Ivin

I can't show too much from the shooting of Puberty Blues just yet... but here are some photos taken on set over the past few weeks. They kind of remind me of postcards. I've just finished directing Episodes 1 and 3, I'll edit them for few weeks and then head back out to shoot episodes 5 and 6. The wonderful Emma Freeman is currently out on the front line directing Episodes 2 and 4.

If there was a hand scribbled note on the back of each these 'postcards' it would read...

"I'm having an absolute ball! Wish you were here! x"

Running to stand still

Glendyn Ivin

Mid way through my first block of Puberty Blues. Long days and nights battling schedules, budget, time, the sun and the surf and the rain. Not that I'm battling against those things, it's just the reality of production. I guess the trick is (and I'm constantly reminding myself this) is to try and remain flexible and work with it and around it as you go. Push as much as you can, but allow yourself to be pulled when you have to. 'Time' even on the most luxurious and well organised of shoots is rarely on your side and I'm reminded each day of the reality 'it's not how good a director you are, it's how good a director you are while under the pump and having to make things work, with very little time'.

Some days I feel like I get it right, others times I spend the drive back home to Newtown from Cronulla wondering how I could have made it work better, more efficiently, given better direction, revealed the drama and/or the onscreen relationships better. Each day on set brings it's own unique set of challenges, you win some and enivitably you lose some. But hopefully it balances out.

Luckily for me I have an incredible cast (and scripts!) I can rely on to make the job a whole lot little easier! I am constantly amazed and full of gratitude when actors bring out their best in pressured situations. It does more than make it easier, it makes it a privilege!

We have had more than a few 'ambitious' shoot days. A mass of extras, large interior and exterior locations, all period dressed and set for 1977. Throw in some horses (girls riding bareback), shooting day for night and night for day, stunts, low loaders, fireworks and all the safety and restrictions that brings, so they are full on days to say the least.

In my limited experience, it seems most TV drama is designed around and works most efficiently when you have one, two, maybe three people talking in a room together. If you have the right script and cast and you are prepared, you can work through those kind of scenes pretty quickly. Making the drama work and make it look good as well. But the moment you involve anything else, it takes more time than you have. And by 'anything' I mean an extra person, an effect, or a stunt. Or the moment you go outside (or underground) or rely on weather or natural light, a fight, surfing(!!!) involve a car, water, freaking horses or anything other than two people in a room talking. It slows down really fast.

Which is why I guess a lot of TV consists of a couple of 'people talking in a room', then it cuts to more people talking in rooms etc. After all it is an almost limitless set up for story and drama.

Regardless, I do love finding myself amongst the organised chaos of shooting. Surrounded by talented artists and technicians, I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else. Stealing shots, racing against the clock and making every second count. In fact somehow using the sense of urgency to create an atmosphere on set that despite all the push and the nessecity to be 'moving on' will feel alive and very much in the moment when on screen.


Glendyn Ivin

Couldn't wish for a better beach location to set Puberty Blues. Although I think it's insane that anyone would cut into such a beautiful coastline and build a refinery, I just love the way that it forms this beautifully industrial backdrop to the natural beauty of the beach. I love how it was featured in the film and it's perhaps one of the few visual consistencies between it and what we are doing with the series. It serves as a not so subtle geographic metaphor for much of the 'casual brutality' that features in the scripts.


Puberty Pre 4 (at the drive-in)

Glendyn Ivin

You can't do Puberty Blues without a trip to the 'Drive-In'. We needed to find a fully operational drive-in and luckily for us the one in Blacktown (below) is not only one of the original but also one of the last remaining drive-ins in Australia. It's still pretty much untouched looking and feeling much like it always has. From our recce the other night it appears to be a popular option for 'first dates' and 'double features'. Tuesday nights, 2 films for 10 bucks! Bargain!

I couldn't help but think of the transformative power of that giant outdoor screen. I wonder how many people may have been moved or who's lives have been changed while gazing through their windscreens up towards the flickering image.

Have any of you got a great drive in memory?


Glendyn Ivin

Head down in pre-production. Locations, script, camera tests, casting and more. Location scouting and recce-ing has been the main focus, but all the elements including wardrobe and make-up are coming into play. Because we are recreating 1970's Australia, everything we see through the lens has to be considered and designed.

We have houses, businesses, streets and a whole high school to lock in. Luckily the ocean and parts of Cronulla beach are the same as they've alway been : )

It's actually quite amazing how many houses are out there essentially 'untouched' and still 'living in the 70's'. Homes where newly weds built the house, moved in, bought all their stuff and then were just content to keep it that way. Quite nice really. So far removed from the consumerism of today. It says something about the period as well. Things were built to last then and why replace it, if it isn't broken?


Glendyn Ivin

Moved to Sydney this week to begin pre-production on Puberty Blues! We are making eight, one hour episodes inspired by the original book. I say 'the book' as opposed to 'the film', not that I don't like the film, I think it's great! But it's a different approach to take when going back to the source material, rather than 'remaking' a film. The book doesn't necessarily tell a great story (although it does), nor is it beautifully written (although it is), I guess to me what is unique and special about the book is that it provides a wonderfully blunt and extremely honest recollection of what it was like to be a teenager, growing up on the beaches south of Sydney in mid 70's. Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey wrote Puberty Blues when they were only eighteen years old. It's a detailed autobiographical account of their shared misadventures of when they were just thirteen years old (!!!). It's the authenticy that leaps off the pages. No-0ne else but those two girls could have written such a vivid account of the highs and lows of the sex and drugs and surfing with such detail, naivety and the unbridled enthusiasm of youth.

Puberty Blues 'the series' (produced by John Edwards and Imogen Banks and written by Tony McNamara, Fiona Seres and Alice Bell) will still be set in the seventies and although it will feature many of the details, characters and narrative beats of the book, essentially it's a 're-imagining' of the world documented in the book in all it's sad, funny and at times brutal truths.