Future of film in sound hands

Flinders University’s long association with South Australia’s film industry has seen the SA Film Corporation officially name its Adelaide Studios sound mixing theatre after Michael Rowan.

Mr Rowan oversaw the construction and maintenance of the SAFC’s world-class sound facilities, and has been involved with the design of sound mixing and Foley facilities at the SAFC’s subsequent locations, including its current home at Glenside.

At the naming ceremony for the Michael Rowan Sound Mixing Theatre, the Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni praised Mr Rowan’s role in establishing SA as a global leader in the post-production sector, saying: “Michael Rowan is one of the many expert technicians and unsung heroes that have made South Australia’s post-production facilities celebrated the world over.”

In the early 1970s, Mr Rowan was the technician for Flinders University’s fledgling film studies program, which was then part of the drama major.

He looked after motion picture cameras and built sound reproducers when students like filmmaker Scott Hicks were studying film and drama at Flinders.

In 1974, Mr Rowan was headhunted by the SAFC, which had been established two years earlier by former premier Don Dunstan as Australia’s first state-based film production company.

By the mid-1980s, Mr Rowan had established the Studios’ mixing theatre to compete on the international stage – with a console he built himself.

Flinders University graduate and distinguished alumni James Currie, himself an acclaimed sound recordist and sound mixer including Rolf de Heer’s films Bad Boy Bubby, The Tracker and Ten Canoes, dubbed Michael Rowan “the godfather of film sound”.

“Without Michael there would not be an international standard facility in this state,” he says.

“Michael’s generosity of spirit and calm and thoughtful approach to all is well known, his modesty and relentless pursuit are legendary.”

Mr Currie, who was the subject of the late Flinders Screen Studies lecturer Andrew Zielinski’s 2010 book Conversations with a Sound Man, says “this naming goes a small way to recognise and celebrate Michael Rowan and his gift to South Australia and ensuring the future of sound practitioners, producers, and filmmakers Australia-wide.

Heesom Casting’s Angela Heesom, who won the Flinders Mercury Award for her outstanding contribution to the local screen industry at the 2019 South Australian Screen Awards, says: “Mike is a favourite of so many of SA’s professional filmmakers. He has brought not only great prowess and skill, but enormous heart to his work amongst us.”

Over the years, many Flinders graduates and current students have found acting, production and crew roles in the domestic film industry, with more in the pipeline with the $70 million blockbuster Mortal Kombat soon to enter production at Adelaide Studios.


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