Woman Long, Joan (1925 - 1999)

Rushworth, Victoria, Australia
Filmmaker and Scriptwriter
Alternative Names
  • Boundy, Joan (Maiden)

Written by Nikki Henningham, The University of Melbourne

Joan Long was born in 1925 in Rushworth, Victoria, one of five children of Katherine and Frances Boundy, a Methodist minister. After attending Geelong High School she completed a BA (hons) in history at the University of Melbourne. Upon graduation, desperate to work on films, she moved to Sydney in 1948 to work for the Department of Information's Commonwealth Film Unit as Producer-in-Chief, Stanley Hawse's secretary. 'Film was the art of the twentieth century,' she said and she was determined to 'learn its grammar'. By the end of her career, the significance of her contribution to the Australian film industry was recognised and awarded many times over by the industry she served. Chris Noonan, who directed the hit movie Babe, once described Long as 'the closest thing to royalty in the Australian film industry' (Independent, 1 March 1999).

Only the second woman to direct films for the Commonwealth Film Unit (Catherine Duncan was the first) Long was encouraged to 'go out and make films' by a director who read her script about the Australian explorer Edmund Kennedy, who was speared by Aborigines at Cape York in 1848 and described it as the only one in the pile which showed 'a real understanding of how films were made' (Independent, 1 March 1999). She moved from secretarial work to production work, writing and directing, getting a complete education on the job. She directed numerous films for the unit throughout the 1950s and 60s during the height of the Cold War when, she says, 'we were at Canberra's mercy … how we hated them' (Interview with Albert Moran).

Long's talent for scriptwriting was noticed by producer, Anthony Buckley, when he was looking for a scriptwriter to adapt Caddie, the autobiography of a woman forced to take menial jobs, at the height of the depression, to support her children. With a budget that would support six weeks of filming and a script that required eight weeks, the production challenges were significant. 'Each week, after six days of shooting, the seventh day would be spent by the director, Donald Crombie, and Long tearing pages out of the script to fit the shooting schedule we could afford,' remembers Buckley. 'She described each weekend as like having one's right and left arms being taken off simultaneously.' Caddie premiered to critical acclaim in 1976, capturing the public imagination, according to Buckley 'in a way no other Australian film had done before' (Independent, 1 March 1999). Three years after the film's release, Long observed that the popularity of Caddie showed that 'the Australian public has a craving for seeing their past on the screen' (Interview with David Stratton, 1979).

Caddie's success encouraged long to take on the dual roles of writing and producing, the second woman to do so in Australian feature films in more than 45 years. She followed up with The Picture Show Man in 1977 and co-wrote and co-produced (with Margaret Kelly) the box office success Puberty Blues in 1981. The further her career progressed, the more she moved solely into production. Silver City in 1984, an important film dealing with Australian post-war migration, and 1989s Emerald City a screen adaptation of David Williamson's play, were two of her best known. Long's features films received a total of 23 Australian Film Industry (AFI) nominations. Her documentary scripts were also acclaimed, with some receiving screenings at Cannes. In 1981 she was awarded the Academy of Italian Cinema's Vittorio Di Sica prize in recognition of her excellence in scriptwriting. She cared so much about writers and the craft of scriptwriting that she served a term as president of the Australian Writers Guild in the early 1970s and was one of two women who were witnesses at the 1972 inquiry into the Australian Film Industry. In 1991, she received the Australian Writer's Guild's Dorothy Crawford Award, in recognition of her contribution to the craft.

Long received an AM for her services to the Australian film industry in 1980. When the National Film and Sound Archive came into being in 1984, it was fitting that Joan Long, the history graduate who lived the history of filmmaking in Australia in the postwar period, should be made its first chair. She was the inaugural winner of the Women in Film and Television Venus Award. A wife to Martin 'who always encouraged' and a mother of four, Long was variously described by those who knew her 'stubborn and tireless' (Independent, 1 March 1999), 'a ball of fire' (Boddington) and 'straightforward and articulate'. She refused to tell anyone her age, arguing that there was 'a prejudice against women in careers as they get older that doesn't happen to men' and she wasn't prepared to contribute to her own demise (Angly). She died in 1999, having lived her life with accomplishment 'making the jigsaw pieces of her life and work all fit together' (Angly).

Archival Resources

National Film and Sound Archive

  • Long, Joan : Papers and Related Documents - Long, Joan : Biographical Information, 525446; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
  • Long, Joan: Documentation - Long, Joan: Head and Shoulders Portrait, Sitting on a Striped Lounge, Wearing a White, Wide-Collard Blouse, 1978, 638207; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
  • Long, Joan: Interviewed by Albert Moran, Part 2: Oral History, c. 1991, 467533; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
  • Long, Joan: Interviewed by David Stratton, 2 August 1979, 368373; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
  • Long, Joan: Interviewed by David Stratton, 5/12/1989, 5 December 1989, 368377; National Film and Sound Archive. Details

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Long, Joan, 'Caddie Goes to Silver City', Cinema Papers, vol. 15, no. 2, 1985, p. 1; 10. Details

Online Resources

See also