John Morris, one of the pioneers of the modern-day Australian film industry as both a filmmaker and an administrator, died of cancer April 19 in Sydney. He was 69.
Sydney native cut his teeth at Film Australia, the government’s film production unit, where he directed and produced more than 50 docus.
In the early 1970s, he joined the South Australian Film Corp. Under his watch, the SAFC produced or co-produced many acclaimed films which boosted the careers and reps of directors such as Bruce Beresford (“Breaker Morant,” “The Club”), Peter Weir (“Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “The Last Wave”) and Henri Safran (“Storm Boy”).
From Adelaide, where SAFC is HQ’d, he moved back to Sydney in 1989 to take the helm of the New South Wales Film & Television Office, and the following year was head-hunted to be CEO of the Australian Film Finance Corp.
In his seven years at the FFC, the agency helped to bankroll film and TV productions and docus with aggregate budgets of about $600 million. Among the FFC’s successes in that era were “Muriel’s Wedding,” “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “Shine.”
Although never one to suffer fools and blessed with a sharp wit, he nonetheless made many friends and few enemies in posts that often involve industry infighting and jealousies.
After he retired in 1997, he spent some time in his beloved France, honing his language skills. When he returned to Oz he was occasionally sent scripts and asked for his ideas on projects by filmmaker friends.
He is survived by Ray Paterson, his partner of 37 years.