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Australian Story - behind the scenes

The following are some little stories and background that may be of interest to you if have seen Ric’s episode of Australian Story. These notes are from Ric’s recollections:

Link to some behind the scene photos (shooting on location in Byron)

The McTavish surfing shot
The episode opens with a sequence of shots featuring surf legend Bob McTavish while he is surfing. The idea is to demonstrate how I was able to help Bob patent his ideas which would be worth millions if he had done this in the past with inventions such as his short surfboard.

When we first checked out the surf for the day of the shoot the beach we chose was in an out of the way place just north of Byron Bay. Within moments the police turned up doing their normal rounds and I thought we’d get in trouble parking the truck at a funny angle in the beach car park. As soon as they saw Bob they said a cheerful hello, asked the crew in a friendly way what they were doing, and looked on for a few moments. They were really cool about it.

Next thing you know the park rangers turn up as my dog Max was frolicking around off his leash and generally making friends with everyone in the near vicinity including the film crew. Again, the rangers say hi toBob and the crew, then they had a play with Max!, had a chuckle and went off down the beach to do whatever it is they do…. So laid back… sooo easy going… its great to be back in Aus.

When it came time to shoot Bob coming out of the surf and approaching the van, they wanted me to jump out of the truck, meet Bob and head off to his surf shop together. The sight of him bounding out of the surf in his mid 60’s and me struggling to get out of the back of the van made me feel like an 80 year old. He is so unbelievably spirited, dynamic and healthy… and a real inspiration to get my health back under control.

Kaz’s interview
My wife Karen’s interview was a show stealer… these are not only my words but Kent the producers words. She was really natural and confident with an infectious humor that permeated even the crew… For example they were calling my truck the Dick van which is really irritating since I am Frederick Richardson, NOT Richard Richardson. But she calls me Dick anyway just to get a rise out of me… and somehow she convinces everyone to get in on the gag. One thing that really came across strongly in her interview was how hard going to the states was for her… she doesn’t really hold any regrets but when she said that the US was “not her cup of tea” in her interview, you know she was really being low key about it. We made a lot of good friends there and made a good living from that country… its just sooo good to be home. For us, Aus is where the heart is… Australia is home.

70 x 40 minute tapes to do half an hour
Early in our work together Kent mentioned to me that an average Australian Story takes 70 forty minute video tapes of footage to compile one half hour episode… amazing! This was in my mind when we started interviews and encouraged me to be as succinct and interesting as possible.

After 3 tapes my interviews were complete and I was pretty sure that we were doing better than normal... then Kaz did her interviews… somehow Kent and Kaz had become so comfortable that her interview went even smoother than mine.. she was natural, open, honest and fun in a situation where most people clam up. Kent was really good at making her comfortable but I think I agree with him when he said that Karen was a natural and possibly a show stealer. She did her interview in 1 tape!

Playing guitar – Smoke on the Water
The sequence showing me playing guitar is of me playing to a professional backing track that has all the instruments and vocals EXCEPT the guitar. These tracks really sound great and can be a real excellent way to relax between business sessions. Other songs that I use to have a musical break include ACDC’s Back in Black, Queens “Tie your mother down”, Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” and Van Halen’s “Panama”, all of which I have learned to play pretty much note for note.

Dirt bike riding
Just before shooting the dirt bike sequence I was warming up in my back yard and did one of the longest wheelies I’ve ever done there… it didn’t feel dangerous but wheelies always have a way of going sideways on you so it was a bit risky.

The sequence shot in the field with cows was really unusual in that the cows are never usually that close to the track through the field. Out of consideration to the cows and their sensitive natures I traveled through the field at a third of the speed I would normally be going… that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it :-)

When we got back from shooting that sequence Kent came up to me as I was putting my bike away and told me cheekily to “grow up” obviously having a go at my riding antics. My retort? “I did grow up… I went from a Yamaha 175 to a KTM 450!”.

On the next day which was also the last day of shooting, Marc Smith the sound recordist finally starting talking about himself a bit.. he’s a real quiet affable type. He really warmed to the whole dirt bike thing and told me he was a desert rider and really loved it.

He made a comment that he knew the guys at Trailzone Magazine and asked him if he knew Clubby (Andrew Clubb) the publisher and editor of the magazine. He said he knew him pretty well.

So here’s a strange coincidence. He looked pretty amazed when I explained that I used to do the computer work back in the 80’s for Australian Dirt Bike Magazine (a magazine where Clubby was a writer) and that I was good mates and a riding buddy to the publisher of that magazine, Geoff Eldridge. Geoff died in 1993 in a bike race in Nevada. His missus sold me his backup 4 day enduro KTM so that one of his mates got it rather than a stranger. Next thing you know my first wife and I were divorced and she ended up marrying Clubby! How about that for a twist of circumstances.

Francois (the Trainer) and his danger money
The physical training I did for the story was only a fraction of a normal session in length. To be honest things can get pretty ugly after an hour of panting, struggling and grunting. Such things should be kept off national television… at least in my case. On top of that while I’m sure the exercises Francois makes me do are in my best interest, I think very few of them are photogenic or flattering in any way.

While the session on film looked quite congenial, usually Francois has me stressed enough to damage our working relationship. One day we were scrambling up sand hills while he sailed up and down light on his feet and I asked him how much would his hourly rate be for me to give him a good thumping! Being Swiss, it took him a good 10 minutes to work out what this expression thumping meant. He coolly replied his hourly rate was $1000 per hour for that service but it was limited to guys at least half my size so I was out of luck. Francois is an expert at helping people with special needs. He is not cheap but he is studying physiotherapy so he knows the medical side of things.

Ric’s US Home
In the prep for the show I know that Kent tried to get some pictures of our home in the US that may not get into the show… But one of the reason’s Kent may have shown interest in it was because of how we tried to make it a little slice of Australia in the middle of a gated community in Huntington Beach, California.

Whenever the self appointed watchdog of the community went past our place to ensure the communities landscaping standards were being kept they didn’t know what to do about our garden. They could tell it was being looked after, but could not make head nor tail of the wierd (to them)Australian natives that graced our minimal front and back yards. Kaz used to call them the garden Nazi’s.

On the other hand nobody could argue with the success of the garden. Kaz had planted native Australian Grevillea’s that seemed to attract every bird and bug in the complex… especially lovely little Hummingbirds, one of the most delightful memories we have of living in that area.

Contemplative shots driving van
On the second last day of shooting the team had me driving along a lovely country road near our house. It runs across a ridge between lovely open pastures of rich green grass and sprawling native trees. It’s one of my favorite THINK SPOTS and is also the same location for the photo shoot I did for the “Man in the Van” story for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ric, his brother Raece and Rock and Roller Johnny O'Keefe!
Something that is sure to turn up in the show is a snippet from a music video (film as it was before video) my Dad did with famous early Rock and Roller Johnny O'Keefe. The film was shot in Hyde Park in the Sydney CBD and featured a small segment where my brother Raece and I are playing with a little wooden plane. We must have been around 6 or seven years old. Johnny includes us with the words of his song.

I must ask Dad where it was broadcast. It’s pretty much a sure thing that Dad has the only print of the film and would love to have a few people join me in trying to convince him to publish it somewhere… so if you have interest in seeing the video published digitally online or in some forum such as the Australian Federal Archives then give me an email note at ric.r@r2labs.com and I’ll try and get him to do something about it.

Want to read more?
Read about the people from the show.
Read about what it’s like to be interviewed by Australian Story.
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