Phil Avalon

Cafe Reporter issue 1, June 2015, J Howard Rich

“I had to hustle friends and family to help raise the finance to produce the film, which starred two young actors in their first year of drama school – Mel Gibson and John Jarrett.”

The successful 40-year career of writer, actor, director and producer Phil Avalon is classed as a leading light in the domestic and international film community. His book, From Steel City to Hollywood (New Holland), is a lively portrayal of his life in movies, his love of surfing and his time as a male model. “I wanted to show how I lived the dream, had fun along the way and made a career against the odds,” Phil explains.

In the late 1970s, combining his passion for film and his hobby of surfing (which was to eventually result in a World Masters Surfing Championship win), Phil wrote, produced and starred in arguably Australia’s most successful independent film Summer City – set in the 1960s and around the theme of surf culture. “I was used to hanging around the beach, riding the waves and chasing the girls. It was a pretty idyllic life. At drama school, I discovered there
weren’t any dramatic films about surf culture, so I decided to write a script. I had to hustle friends and family to help raise the finance to produce the film, which starred two young actors in their first year of drama school – Mel Gibson and John Jarrett. The movie ended up being a hit in Australia. Then, when Mel Gibson starred in Mad Max, some key people from overseas started looking at his earlier movies like Summer City and Tim.”

“There were not a lot of home grown movies being made then. Most of us had second jobs just to pay the rent. I was doing some male modelling work, including being the centrefold for Cleo
magazine, and the exposure – no pun intended – actually assisted in getting me a part in the movie Inn of the Damned, and helped pay for the cost of making Summer City,” Phil recalls. “Modelling taught me a lot about working in front of the camera, as I was doing two-to-three commercials a week. Hollywood, however, was tough because I still had to audition and screen test for various movies.”

“I was fortunate to have a great agent and I got to meet a lot of movers and shakers. Eventually I began asking actors such as Elliott Gould, Linda Blair and Christopher Atkins to come and play roles on some of my films.”

“I was also lucky enough to also meet the likes of Jack Lemmon, whom I often lunched with, Gregory Peck, who invited me to his Christmas party – what a gentleman – and Jane Fonda, an amazing woman.”

These days, Phil is working on two films, The Killer’s List and Hot Rain. Both are in the latter stages of development and will be shot in Queensland. Phil also maintains his love of surfing, and happily resides on the Gold Coast.

And what advice would Phil give to potential actors, writers, directors and producers in today’s competitive world? “Believe in yourself. Do the courses, learn the skills, meet and mix with others who are doing something similar to you. Maybe you can all put a film together, even a short film – don’t give up!

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