Private Project

Midnight Oil - 1984

Midnight Oil: 1984 is the untold story of a year that would ultimately make – but nearly break – Australia’s most important rock and roll band.

  • Ray Argall
  • Ray Argall
  • Rachel Argall, Ray Argall
  • Rob Hirst
    Key Cast
  • Jim Moginie
    Key Cast
  • Peter Garrett
    Key Cast
  • Martin Rotsey
    Key Cast
  • Peter Gifford
    Key Cast
  • Stephanie Lewis
    Key Cast
  • Michael Lippold
    Key Cast
  • Gary Morris Vasicek
    Key Cast
  • Mark Dodshon
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Music, Politics, Youth culture, Social Issues
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 29 minutes 22 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 12, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    403,000 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, Super 16mm
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • Madman
    Country: Australia
    Rights: All Rights
    Country: New Zealand
    Rights: All Rights
  • ZED
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: Internet, Video on Demand, Pay Per View, Airline, Ship, Video / Disc, Free TV, Paid TV, Console / Handheld Device
Director Biography - Ray Argall
A graduate of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, Ray has worked as a director, producer, DOP, editor and writer on features, short dramas, documentaries, and established a reputation as one of Australia's most innovative cinematographers on features such as Wrong World, The Prisoner of St Petersburg and Look Both Ways.

Ray's first feature Return Home, received the AFI Award for Best Director, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, and had a successful theatrical season in Australia and was presented at numerous international festivals. He was a set-up director for the award winning ABC drama series SeaChange and MDA; and produced numerous music videos for Midnight Oil, Split Enz, Crowded House, and Hoodoo Guru’s among others. Recent work includes music doco Rockwiz at Bluesfest - behind the scenes with Henry Wagons for Renegade Films and the digital film restoration of the iconic 1987 concert Australian Made.

Ray was President of the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) for ten years. During that time he represented Australian filmmakers in many forums, and presented discussions on the Australian industry and its filmmakers at festivals around the world.

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Director Statement

At its core this film is about the power of music to reach out and touch people, and bring them together in a shared communal experience. With the camera I captured these musicians working closely together to create something that is unique and powerful on stage, and that communicates to an audience in an ethereal way. These musicians are consummate performers, and at their most successful have married their musical gifts with the underlying themes of their songs, creating anthems that inspire and energise their audience. Within that is a reflection of Australian culture, both direct and indirect.

I have grown up with music (my parents are both classical musicians) and in my filmmaking music has always played a very important part of the storytelling. With this film I have allowed the music to dictate the pace of the drama unfolding. Music acts like a character in the film, and the editing allows it to breath at its own pace, using the emotional beats and rhythms of the music to underscore the characters’ story as it evolves. Much of the storytelling comes through the music, in a lyrical way and through it’s ethereal connection to the heart and soul. It is the
driving force behind what motivates and inspires the musicians.

This highlights another important character in the film - the landscape. From the urban settings of the suburbs and cities where the musicians perform and their audiences amass, to the desert where Midnight Oil eventually mark out new directions and shine the spotlight on the indigenous communities of Australia, the landscape and the music are meshed together to create an aural/visual experience.

Stylistically I wanted to take a different approach to the coverage of the music. While filming on tour with Midnight Oil 1984 rather than choose a night or two to film a concert with a multi camera setup, I’d film solo with one camera, focusing on a different person or aspect of the performance each night. I filmed them over several months and 14 performances, which gave me a more intimate portrait of the musicians and how they worked together. Many years later when I started editing this footage this approach gave me an incredible diversity of material, including coverage of the audience that formed such a vital part of their live performance. The end result is multi- layered experience where you can see the musicians bringing their individual skills to the music, and how the audience interacts with them note for note, word for word.

So much coverage of music focuses almost exclusively on the lead singer, with a few obligatory cutaways to drum or guitar, and in particular rock music is edited at a ferocious pace, which doesn’t always work with the core of the music. In this film I wanted to allow the subjects to evolve in front of the camera and tell their stories with their own voices, so there is no third person voice over or narration attempting to analyse what is happening on screen. I have built on all my experience making drama films to dig deeper, not just with words but with the music itself, and the film is a reference to the cinematic language that evolved during the music video boom in the 80s. It will resonate with viewers that are familiar with that time in their lives, but more importantly fill in the dots for younger audiences who have grown up with the echoes and sounds of an era.