Woman Lovell, Patricia


Film producer, Radio actor and Television actor

Written by Kathryn Mcleod, National Film and Sound Archive

Having produced the films Picnic at Hanging Rock (Weir, 1975) and Gallipoli (Weir, 1981) Patricia Lovell is regarded as one of Australia's most successful film producers. She has also had a successful radio and television career.

Born in Sydney in 1929, Patricia was one of six children who spent their early years living in Sydney's western suburbs before the family relocated to Moree in country New South Wales. Her childhood was marred by the deaths of three of her siblings, which ultimately led to the fracture of her parent's marriage. Patricia worked in a variety of roles at the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in the early 1950s before winning a position as a junior broadcaster in children's programs. It was in this role that she joined the cast of the Argonauts Club. During her time at ABC, she met and married actor Nigel Lovell and they quickly started their own family. It was a chance offer to 'try television' that led to Patricia's weekly appearance on ABC Children's TV. Despite having no formal training and working under the pressure of live television, the floor manager described her as 'a natural' (Lovell, p. 64).

In 1960, Patricia accepted one of her most fondly remembered roles as 'Miss Pat' in the children's television program Mr Squiggle and Friends. Patricia was a staple actress and compere for a variety of television programs during the 1960s and 1970s; Mr Squiggle and Friends from 1960-1975; Beauty and the Beast from 1964 to 1973 and ATN7's morning show Sydney Today from 1969-1975. While her television career was taking off, things were not as happy in her personal life; by 1971 Patricia and Nigel had divorced. Recalling life in television during the late 60s and the early 70s, Patricia remarked;

It was token women time then. There were very few on camera jobs for women unless it was a women's program, a children's program, or if it was a presenter of commercials, or a cooking program. Women had to keep their place and I got very angry about this (Lovell, Patricia. Oral History interview by Brendan Horgan).
By 1973, Patricia had her eye on a career in film and sought credibility by producing the made-for-television film Monster or Miracle? Sydney Opera House (Beresford, 1973). Working as an anchor-woman on Sydney Today gave Patricia the opportunity to interview many of Australia's up-and-coming film industry talent, including Bruce Beresford, Allan Finney and Tim Burstall. It was during this time that she met emerging filmmaker Peter Weir and happened to read a novel that ignited her career in feature film production. The novel was Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock.

Patricia's imagination was immediately sparked by the filmic potential of the novel. She recruited Peter Weir as director and won the option on the film, investing her savings as surety. Peter and Patricia brought producers Hal and Jim McElroy to the team, and though they didn't always see eye to eye, they managed to secure funding from the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), Greater Union Theatres and the Australian Film Development Corporation. Patricia fought to ensure that their vision for the film remained on track, and that she was not pushed out of the production. Her fortitude, tenacity and unwavering belief in the project demonstrates why she is regarded as a pioneer for women in the film industry. Looking back on her career and on the challenges that face women, she has said 'If a woman has talent, she'll get there. But she has to be willing to fight'.

After the critical and commercial success of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Patricia went on to produce Break of Day (Hannam, 1976), Summerfield (Hannam, 1977), Gallipoli (Weir, 1981), Monkey Grip (Cameron, 1982) and The Perfectionist (Thomson, 1987). Gallipoli was a major critical and commercial success, and it remains one of Australia's top grossing films of all time. In 1997 Patricia was appointed Head of Producing at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School and she remained there until 2003. Her success as a film producer and as a teacher can be attributed to her belief, commitment and dedication to her work. Patricia has been recognised for her contributions and services to Australia's film and television industry, winning several awards over the course of her career. These awards include an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours list in 1978, an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in 1980, the AFI's Longford Life Achievement Award in 2004 and the NFSA's Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award in 2010.

Archival Resources

National Film and Sound Archive

  • Lovell, Patricia: Interviewed By Brendan Hogan: Oral History, 1999, 403166; National Film and Sound Archive. Details

Published Resources


  • Lovell, Patricia, No Picnic, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, New South Wales, 1995. Details
  • Mitchell, Susan, Tall Poppies: Successful Australian Women Talk to Susan Mitchell, Penguin Books, Melbourne, Victoria, 1984. Details

Online Resources

See also