Andrew Plain Obituary


Andrew Keith Plain, 1953-2013

Standing at two metres, Andrew Plain was a very tall man but he was also a towering figure in other more important respects. One of Australia’s most distinguished film sound designers, he gained a national and international reputation through the high quality and innovative nature of his work on feature films, documentaries, shorts and television dramas.

Andrew was born in Melbourne in 1953, the first of three children. He was educated at Marion High School (Adelaide) and attended Macquarie University, Sydney, from 1974 to 1976, graduating with a BA (Psychology). He practised as a government psychologist for two years but his long-held interest in working in film gained impetus when the New South Wales Institute of Technology (now the University of Technology) implemented the BA Communication, the first degree of its kind in Australia. He was in the initial intake, completing a BA Comm. in 1980.

The directors whom Andrew worked with amounts to a ‘Who’s Who’ of the eminent figures in the Australian film industry, while the high esteem in which his peers held him is evident in the number of nominations and awards he received from the film industry. He played a significant part in shaping Australian film culture. While he was someone with a huge interest in and knowledge of film history and global cinema, he was also (famously) unwaveringly committed to keeping the Australian film industry strong and on-shore. Thus, while a career elsewhere would have allowed him to enjoy much larger budgets, he chose to support the Australian film industry by gathering around him at Huzzah Sound – the company that he created and co-directed with his partner, Adrienne Parr – a group of highly talented and award-winning film sound personnel.

Andrew was known not just for his superb technical expertise and his prolific output but also for his ability to speak extemporaneously and for the width and depth of his general knowledge. The idea of the ‘Renaissance man’ is often glibly evoked but in this instance, it can be rightly applied. He was constantly in demand for lectures and master classes at universities and film schools all over Australia and despite a daunting and relentless work schedule, he always managed to find time for such engagements. He gained a legendary reputation for the wit, clarity and substance of his teaching and it is no exaggeration to say that he inspired a generation to go on to specialise in film sound.

Andrew’s formidable intellect and his ability to communicate indicated that if he had chosen to pursue an academic career it would have been a highly distinguished one. As it was, he crossed with ease the film sound practitioner and film theorist divide, co-writing with the film academic, Helen Macallan, on film sound for various publications, including the MIT book, Voices.

His vision was of a society in which creativity, critical thinking, technical skills and professional integrity, along with commitment to issues of social justice, are highly valued.

In 2001 he received the Centenary Medal in the New Year’s Honours, ‘For service to Australian society and to Australian film production’, a fitting acknowledgement of his high public and professional standing and his dedication to Australian film.

Andrew will be remembered as an important film sound designer, innovator, writer, educator and advocate for the Australian film industry. He was also generous in the extreme. He never succumbed to self-pity once diagnosed with cancer, approaching the illness with his customary mix of equanimity and black humour. Until the end he remained vitally engaged with the issues and events of the world and interested in the lives and welfare of others.

Andrew is survived by his partner Adrienne, their daughter, Isra, and his two siblings, Lisa and Rose.