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Frankly – A Life in the Circus | Documentary Feature | Melbourne, VIC

It was a kind of out-of-body experience to wander onto the set of Robert Chuter’s documentary about my life, entitled “Frankly – A Life in the Circus.” So many talented crew members assembled together, cinematographer Kuran Dhillon, production manager Marcus Matthews, and sound recordist Andrew Alcock, all under the assured and experienced hand of director Chuter, in a brave bid to make sense of my life. There I was walking through huge projected images of the many lives I’ve lived. The dutiful son. The young tap dancer. The school failure. The office boy. The teenage pop singer. The theatrical actor. The husband (3-time failure). The songwriter. The film director. The film producer. The author. The painter. The father. The exile. The restaurant manager. The prodigal son. The comeback kid. I’m fortunate that Robert Chuter knows more about my life and work than I do. If anyone can piece together the jigsaw it’ll be him. As for me, I’ve tried to stay out of the creative kitchen of this doco as much as I can. Why? Because I didn’t want to influence in any way. I didn’t want it to be a Disney whitewash version of what happened to me. But rather, the truth, based on facts. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Far more interesting and revealing. If nothing else, it’s been an extraordinary life. Looking back, I don’t know how I survived it. Nor do others.

During my interview on the set and on location, I recalled my early years. Growing up in St. Kilda. Reflections on my family. Being sent to a Catholic school only to have my faith in God beaten out of me. The influence of my parents who were both true originals. It’s funny, but I’ve talked about my father to many people on many occasions during my life and told the stories of his troubled life in an objective and unemotional way. Yet, in front of the camera, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness for him and had to fight back the tears. Standing outside our old family home at 51 Fawkner Street, with the crew, I heard the voices of many ghosts, as well as their footsteps up and down the inside corridor. Perhaps they too are trying to make sense of it all. Most of us live complex lives. Usually made complex by our stupidity. It’s best to leave it to others to determine that. The objective jury. But the most significant question is – should we be judged by the best we did, or the very worst? Hopefully, some will bear witness to who we really were. – Frank Howson

Frank Howson has had a long career in entertainment. He directed Flynn (1996) on the early life of Errol Flynn starring Guy Pearce and Hunting (1991). Howson, with Peter Boyle, helped establish Boulevard Films which produced thirteen films from Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1988) to Flynn; besides producing for Boulevard Films, Howson often wrote scripts and directed. Howson was on the Crystal Prix Jury for the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. From 1997 to 2005 Howson worked and lived in Hollywood. 


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