When Academy Award winning cinematographer Dean Semler received a selection of handwritten invitations from schoolchildren in his hometown of Renmark, he knew it was time to visit. The result will be seen this coming Saturday on SBS.
Mr Semler invited fellow cinematographer and journalist friend David Brill along to capture the trip, which has resulted in the documentary, Dean Semler’s Road to Hollywood, described as being “an intimate look” at the life of the cinematographer who, after the glamour of Hollywood, returns to his humble beginnings in country South Australia.
“It was perfect timing – I’d just wrapped on Maleficent when the invitation came through via letters from the children of St Joseph’s School. My old friend David Brill had told me he wanted to make this documentary so we were able to get a real sense of Renmark and the Riverland into the story,” said Mr Semler from the United States.
“I was also invited by the Chaffey Theatre and Country Arts SA to host a couple of screenings, which was a great way to bring my Hollywood experience back to my hometown. It was also nice to get a decent beer.”
The experience led to Mr Semler taking on the ambassadorship of the Chaffey Theatre in 2014 with movies screened throughout the year accompanied by recorded introductions from him.
First trained as a camera operator at a local Riverland television station, Mr Semler later made the switch into movies, which resulted in him accepting the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for the Kevin Costner film, Dances with Wolves in 1990.
David Brill, who made the documentary and is himself an acclaimed cinematographer and journalist who has covered every major war since Vietnam, is happy with its outcome.
“This has been a great labour of love. I went to Renmark the day before Dean arrived and got beautiful footage of the town – the River Murray, the boats and the landscape. The documentary kicks off with that and has insights into all the events that took place around Dean’s visit, from making the film with the children at St Joseph’s School through to being greeted by locals on the street and presented with the keys to the city by the Mayor,” said Mr Brill.
“It really shows that side of Dean’s life and gives the viewer an insight, especially when you then get to see people like George Miller, Hugh Jackman and Mel Gibson talking about him. He is one of Australia’s great successes and I’m glad we’ve been able to bring the story together.”
Dean Semler’s Road to Hollywood (PG) will air on SBS this Saturday, 23 January from 5:30pm – 6:30pm and will be available for viewing afterwards online at SBS on Demand.