BABE - PIG IN THE CITY
For : Kennedy Miller Media P/L - 1997/98
Art Director : Colin Gibson
Where do I begin? In sheer work turnover, this remains Artist Electronics' largest film, taking in over 12 months from pre production through to completion.
Artist Electronics carried out every possible electrical service required for the many departments of Kennedy Miller during this massive project. The completed film does little to reflect how much work was required to being this project to reality.
For over 8 months, a massive animal facility (a cross between a zoo, a circus, a farm and a film set) was maintained during this production. The Animal Department was the largest on the film.
I have many vivid and fond memories of this production. It will always occupy a special place in my heart. For although it probably doesn't show on the screen (in electrical terms, anyway), it was one of the most challenging and enjoyable productions I have ever (and am likely to ever) work on.
Colin Gibson just has to be the most experienced, most practical and most active Art Director (actually he held Associate Producer credit on this film) that exists today. I cannot speak highly enough of any production I have worked on which has been overseen by Colin.
To the right, is a test shot of the night the Backlot was lit for the first time. This set is easily the largest outdoor backlot ever built in Australia. It was in use for over 8 months, many months for continuous nighttime shoots. The backlot had over 550 practical lights spread over 158 individually controllable dimmer circuits, with all the wiring installed for waterproof conditions, and every scrap of electrics done by ArtElex.
The Backlot remains in existence today, preserved as part of the new Fox Studios Backlot tour. (refer to Babe 2.5 - Pig in Wallyworld)
To the left is a picture of the "Flealands Hotel" which at the end of the film is "sold" and converted to "Dance Lands". That's 980 Festoon Lamps on that there film set.. and typical of the electrical work carried out by Artist Electronics on film sets. The project took 1 week to complete.
To the right is an example of the many, many special location requirements needed for this film. The shot shows one section of Sydney International Airport. The flouro lights around the carousels are added. Due to location restrictions they had to be installed only two hours before shooting commenced.
"The Big City". A cool shot, I just had to include it here, even though I think it's one of the few frames in the film where you can't see one of our practical lights.
A more practical view of the Backlot (right) lit up at night, taken from the film.
The Atrium (left), or the internal set for the Flealands Hotel, was actally built in three sections, two of which had complete wild walls and the third was a full height set spanning to the very top of the Government Pavilion in the old Showgrounds. The time spent in these sets with the animals was incalculable.
The Kitchen. This was actually the old Kitchen left over inside the Members' Stand at the Showgrounds. The flouro lights (again) are typical of the work done by Art Elex. Every flouro used on this film had to have high speed electronic ballasts fitted due to the variable speed shutters used on cameras in the film.
But by far the biggest challenge for me on "Babe - Pig in the City" had nothing to do with the film at all. Kennedy Miller began to occupy the site of the old Sydney Showgrounds only 2 hours after it had been officially handed over to 20th Century Fox, and only 1 week after the final Royal Easter Show on the old site.
The site (which resembles a small city) was in a complete shambles. The RAS had taken what they could and left. There was no power anywhere, except for this old Triax Substation which used to provide power for the Easter Show.
Against all odds, Artist Elex were able to restore temporary power to everywhere it was required by Kennedy Miller. Im many cases the cables used were over 60 years old.
Using this equipment we were able to provide thousands of amperes to the Backlot and the two main Pavilions, aswell as entire pavilions filled with animals, costume departments. It was like a city within a city. The cost of providing temporary power using generators was totally prohibitive due to the long hours (months and months on the same set) required. This even included massive 300kW airconditioning units for the sets in the Summer months.
To make matters worse, we were making the film in the middle of a building site. The new Fox facilities were under constant construction, and it was forever necessary to swap and change the arrangements as roads (and cables) were dug up. There were times when we had more powerlock cable running over roads, grass and buildings, tapped into every concieveable link panel on the grounds, than one could comfortably concieve.
It was a time when I was able to be successful in handling alot of electrical challenges everybody else had considered impossible. The last stand. In the tradition of Power Rangers, which was also filmed at the Showgrounds against impossible odds only 3 years earlier. I can still feel the Tengu cries echoing through the Commemorative Pavilion, which now houses that beastly and oh..so.. Hollywood Titanic Ride (What a waste!!)
But alas that atmosphere of true Australian film-making has now gone. It used to be all about proving to the rest of the world that you didn't need politics and money to make great films. All you need is true teamwork and a dash of good 'ole bushman commonsense. And that's what we had on Babe - Pig in the City. Hollywood may aswell have been on another planet. Now that Fox is built and Hollywood has finally arrived, it's easy to dismiss the hardship of those times lot so long ago when men were real men and films were real films. But thankfully it won't be forgotten.. thanks to good 'ole George Miller. Thanks mate.
But here's to the year (s) that I spent with that blasted pig, and that wonderful crew.
And here's to the Chandelier.. which after waiting six months to see it die, finally met it's end in true filmmaking style.
It would be impossible to remember, let alone list some of the aspects of this project.. I'll try..
- 1200Amps of 3 phase from 4 separate feeds for the main
- 1200Amps from four feeds for the Backlot set
- Extensive high energy 32 volt installations for the wet sets and
anything that was to be touched by the animals or fallen o
n by the stunt actors.
- An average 50 dimmed channels of pracs on small sets,
150 on large.
- Variable speed controlled conveyor for dogs on location
at Darling Harbour
- And the list goes on.