31 January 2024

From childhood homemade films to national honour: Glenn Hanns' cinematic triumph

| Kellie O'Brien
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Cinematographer Glenn Hanns

Albion Park cinematographer Glenn Hanns on location. Photos: Supplied.

Glenn Hanns, who embarked on his cinematic journey at the age of 14 while filming beneath his parents’ house at the Oak Flats post office, has achieved the pinnacle of recognition in Australian cinematography.

Hanns secured Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) accreditation, a prestigious honour received during the October awards ceremony that will mean the letters ACS now follow his name.

“They said in the awards ceremony that getting your letters – your ACS accreditation – is the highest honour you can receive as a cinematographer in Australia,” Hanns said.

The accolade was accompanied by the 2023 NSW and ACT Gold ACS award for dramatised documentaries, for his work on Foxtel TV series Ron Iddles: The Good Cop.

Over the years, the Albion Park cinematographer has received several awards and nominations for TV series, plus short films such as Bleeders, feature films such as Moon Rock for Monday and music videos such as Birds of Tokyo’s Wide Eyed Boy.

He said the Ron Iddles docudrama demanded versatility due to its blend of documentary interview and true crime reenactments, working with a small crew and limited time.

“With a feature film you’ll go to the location and do a location scout and work out logistical problems,” he said.

“With docudrama, you don’t get any of that.”

Hanns said there was one storyline from the series that particularly resonated with him.

“The Bonnie Clarke episode was almost a personal story because my second cousin was murdered in her bed when she was about the same age as Bonnie Clarke was in Sydney,” he said.

“A lot of the things that happened in that story happened to my cousin as well.

“It was a little bit difficult going through and shooting that story.”

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Underbelly actor Paul Godrey’s portrayal of Iddles highlighted Hanns’ ability to devise creative solutions, with one directive being to minimise capturing Godrey’s facial features due to their disparity with those of Iddles’.

“It really makes a close-up difficult, but sometimes those sorts of restrictions push you into a very creative mode where you’ve got to really think outside the box and make it work but be creative and stylistic,” he said.

Hanns can trace his passion back to his childhood, recalling the pivotal moment at age seven when he picked up an 8mm film camera and started filming in the backyard with his brother.

“My father needed that film for a wedding he was going to, so I didn’t actually tell him,” he said.

“A couple of weeks later, he went to the wedding, came back and got it all developed and we all sat as a family and he projected it.

“So up on screen came the footage that I shot and he was very upset, but I was excited to see my footage on screen.

“It was a bit of an epiphany at that point – so at the age of seven I said, ‘I want to be a cinematographer.’”

From ages 14 to 18, Hanns and his friends spent every weekend for four years making a homemade feature-length film, with a budding screenwriter friend writing a script inspired by Indiana Jones and The Goonies.

“We had sets underneath my mum and dad’s house – they lived at the post office at Oak Flats,” he said.

“We’d built this mine shaft and lined it with tin and bits of guttering above the set with trickling water dropping down into the shot, and paddles with dust on it so, when we wanted, we could tip bits of dust into the shot.

“My mum was actually worried that the post office would collapse because we undermined the foundations.

“It was a full-on production even by our amateur standards.”

Rear projections were used to create the effect of driving in his parents’ garaged car and a toboggan chase scene was filmed at Jamberoo Rec Park.

It set the stage for a career that would lead him to study cinematography at North Sydney TAFE, then work as a cameraman at Prime TV in Wollongong and later the University of Wollongong’s production unit producing distance education for SBS.

“While I was there, I applied to AFTRS – the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School – and did my Masters in Cinematography.

“About 400 people applied for our year, with only four positions on offer from Australia and New Zealand in cinematography, so it was very competitive.”

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Hanns said the opportunity allowed him to meet and learn from experts like Dion Beebe who won an Academy Award for Memoirs of a Geisha, and John Seale who won an Academy for The English Patient.

“At AFTRS, my final year film, which was called Bleeders and shot on film, was selected to represent Australia at Camerimage, which is like the Oscars of cinematography in Poland.

“Travelling there to hand deliver my work for screening was surreal.”

However, it would be his National Award of Distinction from the ACS for Moon Rock for Monday, which was the most prestigious among his achievements.

Despite the film industry being depicted as glamorous, he said it was physically and creatively challenging, admitting to being hurt a couple of times on set.

“I lost 20 per cent of my hearing in one ear from a gunshot on set and nearly lost the skin off my leg from a pyro explosion.”

Hanns, who credits his wife Vanessa for helping support him to make his career happen, has multiple projects in progress.

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