Kev stands by an old accomplice, a 35mm Bell & Howell 2709, a camera that recorded over half a century of our cinema history
CinemaWorks at Kenilworth is a place that preserves the past for the future. Kev Franzi, owner and custodian of CinemaWorks spent 72 years in the film industry, including editing Homicide and working for Joh Bjelke Petersen. The 2011 Sunshine Coast Senior Citizen of the Year’s career as a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker led him to celebrate and showcase the works of Australian filmmakers.
“I started off as a young man with the Department of Information, Films Division at the end of the war. I worked with a lot of famous moviemakers who captured the Second World War and beyond. This gave me a very good grounding in Australian documentary film.
“At CinemaWorks we feature the stories of what Australians have achieved over the last century.
“Documentaries are neglected in Australia. We have this amazing heritage that few people get to see and it’s not celebrated the way it should be.”
The dream of creating an Australian Image Hall of Fame has been with Kev Franzi for the past 20 years, and has now come to fruition.
“I have a massive collection of 35mm and 16mm film that is now transferred to digital format often with improved quality.
“My focus is also on the craftsmanship of the people who made the films. It’s important to tell the stories of those achievements or they will be forgotten.
“A brilliant little Australian film called The Picture Show Man perfectly captures the atmosphere in the late 1920s. Suddenly the whole industry was thrown into chaos because of the introduction of talking pictures.
“Sound had arrived and if you couldn’t buy a sound plant, you were in big trouble. Many Aussies couldn’t afford to buy the ‘you beaut’ British or American talking systems so they built their own.
Australian cinema history for all to enjoy
“I worked for 13 different production companies. Every one of them had somebody who had a lathe and was making some piece of vital equipment,” said Kev pointing to a homemade animation stand built under a house in Norman Park by a motor mechanic. He referred to it as a brilliant piece of precision engineering.
“I learnt enough to be able to make a fully working replica of an 1895 model Lumière Cinématographe, the first practical motion picture system. It was a camera, a printer to make positive prints from the negative, and a projector all in one. It could be taken anywhere in the world and used for making and showing motion picture films.
“The history of Australian film goes back to 1896. The first surviving film is the Melbourne Cup of that year. It was shot and then presented to the public on a Lumière Cinématographe.”
As I sat opposite the consummate film historian I was in awe of the fact that I was in the presence of a living treasure.
Kev showed me his first camera, a 1917 Best Pocket Kodak given to him by his father when he left school at the age of 14. When the young man began work in the film industry he soon discovered he could use his camera to tell a story.
“I just loved the possibility of what I could do with my little camera. I could photograph the world, my world…and I did.
“I went out with my uncle who drove a milk tanker to Gippsland every day. The story was called ‘Milk Every Morning – from the Cow to the Consumer’. It paid off handsomely.
“I was working in the film industry but film was so expensive it was beyond my reach. However, I used the techniques to capture the stories on my camera. I still have some of those pictures,” Kev reminisced.
My visit to the CinemaWorks theatre was an experience of being immersed in history. I sat in a velvet covered chair from Brisbane’s Wintergarden Theatre which closed in 1973. The red patterned carpet is also a remnant of theatre history.
“The seats with rattan backing are from the back-stalls of the Regent Theatre in Brisbane. When they refurbished we scored more seats and so we’ve got the old and the new Regent seats.
“We can seat 45 at the moment or 55 with an extra row in front,” said Kev.
There was a time up until ten years ago when coach groups were entertained in Kev Franzi’s Movie Museum and Electric Theatre. More recently local groups came regularly to see the old films and then it was time for refurbishment.
The outdoor section was expanded to make an alcove for displays. New carpet, repainted sections of walls and additional displays complete the makeover.
“We have a new show, Moments, Memories and Magic that runs for two hours. It’s been very well received.
“So, we have one successful show ready to go but the one I want to feature, is Capturing the Australian Image – Past, Present and Future.
“This is what I’ve been dreaming about for half a lifetime and it’s just all fallen into place. I realised that everything was encapsulated in telling the story of the Australian image.
“We finish the program by talking about the future, illustrated with the digital camera. I encourage people to start telling their stories creating a capsule of visual history.”
Kev Franzi’s motto is: To entertain, to inform and inspire.
He said, “In capturing the Australian image, we also captured the Australian spirit and that’s what it’s all about.
“This is my most exciting project yet. Let me show you!”
CinemaWorks will open every weekend commencing with its launch on Saturday, May 27, 2pm. Bookings essential: phone (07) 5446 0341. (Groups – weekdays by appointment.)