Selecting trainee staff at ABV2
Around 1959, John Cameron, Studio manager, ABV2 Ripponlea, Victoria, asked me round to his office. He said that it was to be Commission policy to take on two trainees in the Film Department every year. They would be allocated to each department in turn and then be assessed on their suitability for one of the departments.The problem they had was that they did not know how they could select the two trainees without a time consuming process. He said that he had been in touch with a Melbourne college which had some eighteen students leaving the school at the end of each year. These would be the bright students who would be given an examination and that we would be advised of the order in which they passed the exam. John Cameron asked me if I would think it through and see if I could come up with a suggestion.
I thought for a few days and then went back to see him with my idea. It was this: during our viewing of films from the Melbourne Film Library, we had come across a film produced by Thorold Dickinson, and directed by Gian Luigi Polidoro. It was called “Overture” and had been made for the United Nations. It was a Public Relations film and showed what the U.N. were doing about the World’s troubles in the aftermath of the Second World War. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
There was no commentary. The opening scene showed the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Egmont” overture. They were located in the General Assembly of the U.N. The music of the overture went through the entire film uninterrupted.
I told John Cameron that we should show this film to the eighteen candidates and ask them fifteen questions about the film. One of the questions was “Why is there no commentary?”. What was common to all the questions was that there was no correct answer. We did not ask a question that referred to a specific incident or ask them to recall it.
So, we had a questionnaire which required the candidate to give an opinion, a reasoned answer. Their response to each question, I thought, would give us a clear insight into the mind of the candidate and his or her suitability to join us at the A.B.C.
John liked the idea, he put it to the education authorities who also liked it. Even the candidates liked the idea. They sat and watched the film. The papers were handed out and they wrote them up.
The result was amazing. Some of the answers had to be seen to be believed. When we got the papers back, we started to place the students in order of preference. Eventually, we made up a list numbered one to eighteen. This was compared with the order of merit produced by the College. The difference between their list and ours was that our No. 14 was their No. 15 and vice versa. We chose the two candidates at the top of the list and they were willing to come.
One of these was one Scott McLellan, who became an assistant Editor and eventually an Editor, he was most successful and went on to work at the B.B.C. in London, later he would be principal film editor on a number of Australian feature films and some television series.
It was a good idea.
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