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Each Department had a                                              winter kerosine heaters on which we
          representative on the Club committee,                                warmed up our supper of the new taste
          to which I was soon elected. Three                                   treat, chicken noodle soup.
          main functions were held each year - a                                  In this way we saved our two
          Christmas party for disadvantaged                                    shillings and sixpence tea money for
          children, which included a film, and the                             more important purposes.
          Staff Christmas Party on Christmas Eve                                  Paul Terry of Terrytoons offered a
          when work ceased at 1pm. What an eye                                 bonus to any international office which
          opener for an 18 year-old; I had never                               could exceed his pre-set quota, and for
          seen drinking like it!                                               the first (and I think the only time)
            The third event was the annual Fox                                 Australia won the award.
          Ball, a glamorous black-tie event, open                                 I later discovered that the Managing
          to all who could afford tickets. On my                               Director pocketed 500 pounds, the
          first or second attendance the Managing                              Sales Manager 100 pounds and the
          Director’s wife Madeleine invited me to                              Branch Manager 50 pounds. Cedric and
          dance with her, which I perceived as                                 I, the ones who had done the work,
          outstanding democracy at work.                                       were given ten pounds each! But at
            Before the age of 20 I was                                         least we were getting many hours of
          promoted to Assistant Booker, a                                      overtime each week, and in my case I
          position at the heart of distribution.  Every theatre had its own Service  saved enough to get married.
          How rewarding it was to be a film  Card, which showed the bookings and  Each Thursday morning the shorts
          booker - more than a job, it was a  the price to be invoiced. Frank’s cards  bookers were invited to a screening of
          creative discipline.              matched his Long Book - more a     all the newsreels, plus any new shorts
            I believe great film bookers are born  Pakapoo Ticket than a financial record -  and cartoons. As the booker was in
          not made, and many people have    whilst the careful Perry never     touch personally or by phone with his
          elected to stay in that role rather than  committed such sins.       exhibitor clients, this frequently
          accept promotion. Why? Because it    After a six weeks apprenticeship -  enabled a fast update. In case of an
          offers multiple challenges and demands  installing Long Book pages and storing  emergency at least one booker was
          accuracy.  Juggling the complexities of  these ‘Bibles’ each evening in a fire  rostered for work every Saturday
          multiple prints, knowledge of time and  proof strong room, retrieving them for  morning and public holiday.
          distance between hundreds of theatres,  inspection each morning and learning  Newsreels were really a piece of
          and switching decisions for nearby  the complexities of a service card  - I  cake. They followed a predetermined
          theatres, are tasks which permit no  was made Shorts and Newsreel Booker.   pattern each week, to the point where I
          mistakes. Above all, only film       Doesn’t sound too much? Think of  had my Long Book pre-printed.
          despatched is revenue earned - prints  an International and an Australian  The challenge of the Australian
          are nothing sitting in a vault; they are  Newsreel each week, fifty-two shorts a  Movietone News came in November at
          only alive when projected on a cinema  year, twenty-six new Terrytoons  Melbourne Cup time. That night
          screen.                           annually plus thirteen episodes of the  Movietone and Filmcraft (later
            The only job I found more       March of Time - and those nine     Colorfilm) staff worked all night.
          demanding was as Head Office Print  hundred theatres to service. And in the
                                                                                  After the negative arrived from
          Controller in the first days of   days of Saturday matinees, up to two
                                                                               Melbourne in the late afternoon or early
          simultaneous Sydney-Melbourne splash  hundred repeat Terrytoons per week,
                                                                               evening, it was processed immediately,
          releases - city and suburbs - with  taking care not to repeat one too soon,
                                                                               and the release prints slowly became
          Adelaide and Brisbane a week later and  because kids who attended each
                                                                               available. One year an aircraft was
          no more than eighteen prints.     Saturday matinee had long memories.
                                                                               chartered, processing equipment
            As an Assistant Booker I benefited  No wonder I was given an assistant,  installed and the developed negative
          from the craftsmanship of two disparate  because as I have already pointed out,  arrived at the lab for prints to be struck.
          but equally talented professionals,  in film booking mistakes are not   The booker’s task was to allocate
          Frank Manning and Perry Erskine.  permitted.
                                                                               prints to the most important theatres in
          Frank had flair and took risks to oblige  My assistant was Cedric Gurner and
                                                                               each State for exhibition as soon as
          his exhibitor friends, whilst Perry did  together we devised a chart  for
                                                                               possible, a job that entailed detailed
          everything by the rules. I like to think I  organizing the cartoons. Having timed
                                                                               knowledge of airline schedules, travel
          found a reasonable balance between  the main feature and support for
                                                                               time to Sydney airport, and
          both philosophies.                Saturday’s matinee, the bookers from
                                                                               coordination of transport. All this to
            Frank did the unthinkable and even  Hoyts, Greater Union and Snider and  bring a great Australian event to the
          wrote in his hard-cover Long Book in  Dean would phone with the number of  maximum number of viewers in the
          ink. For anyone else pencil was   cartoons required for each theatre.   shortest possible time - and beat
          mandatory due to the possibilities for  The volume was such that we had to  Cinesound to the nation’s screens.
          last minute changes. The Long Book  work back at least one night a week.  Needless to say, next day the office
          was just that; long pages for each title,  This was a period of power shortages  mood was one of mental exhaustion.
          and a line for each print of that title.   and frequent blackouts in Sydney, so
                                            we had standby pressure lamps, and in

                                                                                       CINEMARECORD 2006 11
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