Lemac – A Bit of a History
John Bowring ACS with Aaton Penelope at NAB 2011.
Lemac began officially on 8th September 1975, but the Lemac story really began way earlier with the passion and talent of one man – the late John Bowring ACS
At the age of 12, John Bowring decided that he wanted to be a cameraman for Cinesound Newsreel - unfortunately the closest he got was projecting their last newsreel! So after years of following around news crews in school holidays and weekends, John started his full time employment at Village Theatres and then later at GTV9 News in Melbourne. At GTV9 as a film editor/sometimes sound recordist and cameraman, he covered many news events, including the history making dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
In the midst of all the shooting and editing, John started a company called Lemac on the suggestion of GTV9, to supply his services outside of the limited news budget. John was ever grateful to the chief accountant at Nine at the time for his advice. His first rental item is still on display in the Lemac boardroom in Melbourne – a portable sungun.
On that auspicious day in 1975, in his lunch break, John went off to register a company name and tried all the industry based names he had jotted down only to find them all taken. He was needed back at work and he wanted to have something registered. In desperation he lodged Lemac, which was the name under which he had shot and produced all the fun home movies with his Camel smoking mates (although John wasn’t a smoker), during the early seventies whilst still at school. Thinking he would go back later to change it, he returned to work... needless to say the rest is history.
John’s career continued to build. He was poached from Nine to shoot Michael Willesee's new current affairs show on Channel Seven – Willesee at Seven. John Bowring later both shot, directed and edited many documentaries, which he loved. He also shot and edited segments for many variety and comedy programs, including the now legendary Paul Hogan Show. At the same time Lemac continued to grow and John continued to acquire, as he developed his vast technical knowledge and satisfied his need to film with the latest gear. Many a crew will remember renting the ever growing list of new kit from the house in Craigmore Street, East Malvern in Victoria and returning it to the outhouse if no one was home!
As the business grew Lemac needed a more official home and premises were rented in Church Street, Richmond in Victoria. The 80’s saw a renaissance of the Australian Film industry and as it flourished Lemac grew with it. In 1982 premises were purchased in Highett Street, Richmond and John added Sue Greenshields to the business and married her as well to cement the deal!
Lemac has always offered production services, in the early days working on such shows as Peter Russell Clarke's “Come and Get It” series and shooting and editing the film segments for “The Ossie Ostrich Video Show” all of which were lots of fun.
In 1987 the Sydney office opened in Gladesville, with Graham Jones the first Sydney team member. He is still a member of the Lemac crew today! The move to the current Punch Street, Artarmon premises took place in 1994. In 2000 the Brisbane office opened in Exhibition Street, Bowen Hills and 2012 saw the completion of a renovation and expansion into the adjoining space at 37 Brookes Street.
By the early 80’s the sales arm of Lemac was growing as a natural extension of the business. Lemac became the Aaton agent and many more agencies were to follow with other innovative suppliers to the industry. Strong relationships still exist today with many of those early suppliers. The talented cinematographer, with passion for the latest technology and production techniques was at the heart of the business, but now working with the assistance of an expanding, talented Lemac team. Technical developments introduced and developed over the years by John and Lemac have included the stretch frame shooting technique – which won John awards for cinematography and technical innovation and film negative and interpositive transfer to tape techniques. In the 90’s Lemac led the way with the introduction of SUPER 16 and 16x9 origination for television, timecode on film instant sound syncing system, MultiCam film systems on pedestals (for “Murder Call”) reverse emulsion film techniques, and the 'eyeline' device for both filming children and POV interviews. In 1999 the FACTS, Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, approached John and Lemac to shoot and post produce their High Definition Presentation to the Federal Government that lead to the introduction of HDTV in Australia.
Lemac has provided the equipment and support for many iconic Australian films such as “Romper Stomper”, “Proof”, “Muriel’s Wedding” and “Metal Skin”. In more recent times features such as ‘”Look Both Ways”, “Wolf Creek”, current favourite “Red Dog” and many, many Australian television drama productions. Lemac introduced Australia's first HD capture rental equipment in 2000 and for a long time was Australia's only HD rental equipment supplier, supporting and training DOP’s in this new capture medium. Lemac was directly involved in the HD acquisition and workflow for Australian HD features such as "Wolf Creek” and led the way with the move to 4K being the first rental house with the RED cameras in Australia. Today Lemac still leads with the SONY F65 8K cameras being the first supplied and supported by an Australian rental house.
Lemac has always been like a family and some amazingly talented individuals currently work as part of the team and many have passed through the doors and gone on to build stellar careers in the industry. John mentored many and they worked with him on the numerous programmes supported by Lemac production services. In 2011 John passed away suddenly in Hong Kong on his return from NAB. Although very shocked and sad the Lemac team has worked together to insure that the Lemac legacy left by John continues.
Today Lemac is stronger than ever as a result of his ability to impart that knowledge and passion over the years to the Lemac family past and present. Lemac continues to support the Australian industry with the best resourced and most knowledgeable team available and does so with passion.