I was deeply devastated to hear of the passing of my mentor and friend John Bowring. John, or “brolga” as he was known to some of his friends had no equal when it came to passion and knowledge of the craft of cinematography.
I had my first ever full time job when I managed to land a job working in the prep department at Lemac in 1995. You were a terrifying presence to me back then. But you encouraged me to shoot….encouraged me to use short ends and use the secret Lemac processing code for cinevex that meant the processing was cheaper. Then you’d transfer the film yourself on your beloved Marconi telecine….judging for yourself if I’d done a good job or not. It was a tough way to learn my craft but it also made me want to impress and surprise you with what I was shooting.
You were always hungry for knowledge and so passionate about the craft of cinematography. You had so much energy and enthusiasm. I thought you would just go on forever.
I often used to work the Saturday shift at Lemac, and was never surprised to turn up in the morning to find you at the controls of the Marconi having being transferring film all night. You’d be literally swaying in the seat as you reminded me without taking your eyes off the screen that film origination could be just as fast to turn around as video. You’d stayed up all night to prove it.
I also never seemed to be able to leave on a Saturday at 12, the nominal closing time. You’d always be there with some quick test or little shoot that you wanted help with. It never occurred to you that it was past knock off. There was stuff you wanted to know about and you assumed we’d want to know as much as you did. You were so driven to learn and so driven to educate. I remember you giving away light meters to students from VCA who’d dropped in to pick up a camera and happened to ask you a question about exposure.
Your famous NAB wrap-up’s and little “presenter” videos for SPAA, the ACS and SMPTE were as entertaining as they were informative. And you were always so generous with your knowledge.
Your passion for educating producers about the intricacies of 16×9 origination, timecode and 3 perf would be lost on most, but I saw the fire in your belly fuelling a constant striving to improve the craft of cinematography and production efficiencies, as well as getting better production value on screen.
You were also a genuine innovator, creating a unique 16mm multi cam camera system for “Murder Call” that brought about the introduction of longer 800′ magazines and return video monitoring on a film camera. I saw you build those from scratch. Your on-board audio recording system using mini-dat when digital audio wasn’t even being used by locations sound recordists.
Whilst in pre-production for Offspring Season 2, just a few weeks ago, I happened to bump into you at the studio’s at Lemac. You noticed I’d lost a bit of weight.
“geeze brawlster, don’t you know elephants have more friends than snakes.”
John, you have more friends than anyone else I know. No one has supported more young and old cinematographers and filmmakers than you. You were always humble in the way you supported people and encouraged others.
I’m going to miss you and your friendship. I’m going to miss dropping into Lemac for 5 minutes to drop something off and leaving 5 hours later, well after the doors had shut.
Enjoy your Auricon PRO 600’s, crunching the ice from your drambuie and may the 3 perf penelope mags never run out.
Thank you for making me the cinematographer I am today.