Jonathan Dawson

Jonathan Dawson

] Jonathan Dawson (born 24 November 1941) is an Australian academic, filmmaker, film and literary critic and broadcaster.

Dawson was born in Melbourne. At Melbourne University he graduated in English Honours and won awards for acting and two One Act Playwriting Competitions (The World Record Club Award). Published many poems and short stories and, later, as a poetry performer.was often accompanied by guitarist Glen Tomassetti at "La Mama". His play, "A Cup of Tea with Mrs Groom" was performed at La Mama directed by Graeme Blundell. He also created two of the most successful university revues of the decade (1960s).

After graduating, Dawson joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a Trainee Radio and TV Producer/Director and directed many radio dramas and education programmes as well as dramas and documentaries. He left the ABC to join Crawford Productions as a young writer director on Homicide and later Division 4. He then went on to Channel 9 in Sydney to direct The Link Men and write for other series including Rush and The Box.

He continued to publish poetry and short stories, but left the fulltime film industry to set up the new media studies department and screenwriting courses at the University of Canberra, leaving there to help set up Griffith University’s Foundation Year in 1975 where he worked to create the then new screen studies and production courses now internationally acknowledged , a series of pioneering new degree and postgraduate programmes that has produced many of the leading film scholars on the international media and screen studies scene today.

In the 1960s, he wrote key policy essays (Overland (literary journal) etc.) on setting up a film industry , as well as becoming Victorian Chair of Australian Writers Guild on a platform of strong lobbying for local industry. He also began his long career as a public speaker on media and film policy issues, lecturing widely in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

While in Canberra he was made Art Director for the much praised 36 screen audio visual at the Australian Pavilion for Expo '74 in Spokane, Washington. At this time he also began reviewing films for the ABC. He also started a weekly crime and thriller review column in The Canberra Times (1972), and still reviews crime, thriller and cinema reference books in the Hobart Mercury.

Dawson continued to work as a writer director, primarily on commercials for clients like Qantas, Nestle, Volvo, as well as for many government election campaigns, creating a new style of "presidential" launches for the Federal Labor Party’s successful campaigns in 1983 and 1985 as directing TV commercials well as for Premier Neville Wran in New South Wales.

He also wrote and directed documentaries and documentary specials for the ABC and commercial networks and the feature film "Ginger Meggs" [] in 1982. He was selected for the ABC’s first National Advisory Council after the Incorporation of the ABC in 1983, serving for three terms until 1990. While on the Council, he produced many papers for working parties on various programme areas and audiences as well as helping prepare and edit the new Charter produced by the ABC Board. He has continued to present papers and publish widely on Public Broadcasting and the ABC as well as convening and addressing rallies supporting the ABC and ABC staff.

In addition to teaching film and media studies he continued to publish critical essays and present learned papers at symposia and conferences internationally , with a particular and critical focus on empire building in film bodies and government policy along with many essays son Public broadcasting. He also published and co edited several books on film and the media including the Oxford University Press Screenwriting in 2000. As a film maker who welcomed emerging writers, directors and students on his film shoots he made a huge contribution to the growing film industry of the 1970s right thought to his pro bono political commercials on his retirement to Tasmania.

With his 1980 Film Australia documentary "The Myth Makers", and later the Japan Prize-awarded TV Open Learning series "Images of Australia" he opened up debate in the 1990s on national identity and the interconnected effects of literature, painting, cartooning, film, propaganda and the arts to constructing a national self-image. This work later translated into many university programs nationally as well as several TV series following up the intellectual leads sketched in all his earlier work as a teacher and film maker.

At Griffith University, after eight years as Vice Dean of the Arts Faculty, he helped plan and then headed up the multi campus Film School (now the Griffith Film School) rising to Associate Professor in 1992 and serving as the School’s Foundation Chair until his retirement in 2000. From 1972 he had also been a film reviewer for the ABC and occasionally commercial and radio and TV, hosting his own Film TV programme, Cuts, on ABC TV Queensland from 1975. A remarkable number of his students are now active in Universities from the Sorbonne to UCLA and work in the film industry worldwide.

After retiring to Tasmania Dawson started a radio film chat show on ABC Radio with Tim Cox as well as writing for the ABC website and contributing popular weekly pod casts ( on film. As an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Tasmania he created a number of new cinema studies courses.

He continues to give many public lectures, addressing the Royal Australian Institute of Architects annual awards as Keynote Speaker (2004) on film and architecture as well as creating a series of new adult education courses on screenwriting and contemporary film. In association with Screen Tasmania and The State Cinema he has curated and lectured on film theory and history, hosting movie seasons with themes from Independent Movies to new French Film , Australian Film and Documentary. His regular audiences for these short lecture/film screenings include government ministers,department heads and many film professionals. He also wrote a weekly column (2002-5) on popular culture for the Hobart Mercury and contributes key essays for the online journal www.senses of, voted (2007) by The Times as the world’s finest international online film journal) and contributing major essays to the Dartmouth Medal award winning "Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film" by Ian Aitken, Routledge/Taylor & Francis (2006) .

Feature fims by Jonathan Dawson

*Final Cut, writer, 90 mins, 1980<>
*Ginger Meggs', director, 100 mins, 1983

elect Feature Documentaries

*Horse on the Seventh Floor,(writer/director,1978)

*The Myth Makers,(writer/director, 1980)

*The Legend of Fred Paterson, (writer/ director,1996)

Books by Jonathan Dawson

*Media Production (1974) Melbourne: Thomas Nelson.ISBN 17 004978 7
*Queensland Images (1990) Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.ISBN 0 7022 2331 X
*Screenwriting: a Manual (2000; repr: 2001) Melbourne: Oxford University Press.ISBN 0 19 550832 7


*Debrett’s Handbook of Australia and New Zealand, (1984 and all subsequent editions), London: Debretts.See page 234.
*International Who’s Who of Authors, (1983) Cambridge.
*Documentary Film in Australia,(1982) Carlton: CP/VFC.
*Encyclopaedia of the Documentary Film (Ian Aitken, Editor). 3 Vols. New York, Routledge Reference. Essays by Jonathan Dawson:Volume 1:pp 42-45, 56 -61,105-106, 337-338.
*Producers and Directors Guild Handbook.
*Film Appreciation Society to Academic Industry: Screen Studies in Australia.Metro,No.157.July 2008.pp 132-136.
*Who’s Who of Australian Writers, (1991) Melbourne: D.W. Thorpe.See page 132
* [ IMDb] Online Film Criticism (examples):

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