AN INSIDER’S VIEW: PRODUCER TONY CAVANAUGH SHARES WISDOM AT SEPTEMBER’S QLD FILM AND TV EVENT
Written by Jackie Smith
Australian film and TV producer Tony Cavanaugh will delight audiences with tales from his extensive career in the industry when he headlines Queensland’s Film and TV Events’ latest exhibition in September.
Now in its eighth year, the event, held at EAST Broadbeach, gives aspiring filmmakers, writers, editors, producers, directors, and actors the chance to mingle with and learn from the best as they take the next step in their career. In that respect, there is perhaps, no better teacher than Cavanaugh, who has worked in the film and TV industry since the 1970s, climbing through the ranks to become a primetime producer. ‘I’ve done pretty much everything there is to do in the film and television industry,’ he says. ‘I’m going to talk about how I got into the industry and try and offer some pointers … so people can hopefully get some kind of guidance and some sort of idea as to how they can break through.’ He will also invite audience members questions so he can provide case-orientated advice.
Throughout his career, Cavanaugh has worked on a number of highly acclaimed shows including The Flying Doctors, Fire and The Sullivans to name but a few, before going overseas to crack the US market, and over that period of time he has seen the industry change and evolve quicker than any other. ‘I went over to LA for the first time many, many years ago and I was of the belief – mistaken as it turns out – that they’d all be pretty stupid. America is a parochial country and was shocked at how little they knew of the outside world, so I expected the same would be the case in LA and Hollywood but that wasn’t the case at all. They’re hungry for talent, for stories. You get a really high level of sophistication, intelligence, and of course, ruthlessness and greed, he says. The experience has provided him with a unique insight into an area of the industry of which most creatives can only dream. The landscape [of the industry] changes twice a year. It changes in terms of audience wants – what is appealing to an audience, why people are going to go spend money at the cinema – and it changes based on the cultural environment in which people live. The interesting stories that we once saw on the screen, we’re now seeing on TV, hence we’ve got shows like Breaking Bad and Fargo.
As well as being a renowned producer, Cavanaugh is fast becoming well known as a prolific writer of crime novels, having recently released his fourth full length novel Kingdom of the Strong. His character, Darian Richards, and style has garnered him comparisons to crime writing greats Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly, something about which he remains rather humble. ‘Those guys are awesome. It’s very kind of people to make those comparisons but I certainly don’t make those comparisons myself.
But in an industry full of sharks, be it publishing or film and TV, it’s not as simple as simply workshopping an idea and having it accepted. Like many others, Cavanaugh is no stranger to rejection, something which forced many an aspiring creative to turn their back on the industry altogether. ‘The advice I always give is: it’s not easy, but nothing is. Be persistent and passionate. If you’re not passionate, it’s not going to happen and if you’re not persistent, you will always get knocked back – that’s just part of the game in the creative world. Think about JK Rowling, who got something like 26 knockbacks before someone said, “OK, I think we’ll publish this book called Harry Potter.” It’s very easy to think, “I’m just not going to do this anymore, it’s too bloody hard.” That just comes with the territory and you have to be prepared for that,’ he says.
Tony Cavanaugh appears at Queensland Film and TV Events on September 8th 2015. Tickets are available through https://www.stickytickets.com.au/28413 or at the door. Kingdom of the Strong is out now through Hachette Australia.