Stephen Priest -obituary
STEPHEN Priest, 37, music video and TV producer/director, died on October 20 in Greenwich Hospice, Sydney, of AIDS. Stephen leaves behind a body of work which bears witness to 20 years of pioneering concepts and technologies, many of which are now standard practice in film and television production. Acknowledged as one of the first producers in the world to seriously investigate the art of the music video clip, Stephen Priest leaves a priceless legacy of over 400 clips synonymous with the careers of artists such as Elton John, David Bowie, Duran Duran, INXS, Meat Loaf, John Farnham, The Little River Band, Eurogliders, Noiseworks and Mi-Sex.
In the process he was responsible for fostering the development of directors Russell Mulcahy, Steve Hopkins, Kimble Rendall and Alex Proyas and, at one stage or another, employed a veritable who's who of the Australian industry. As far back as 1968 Stephen was involved in TV specials. By the time he was 13 years old Stephen Priest was already exhibiting boundless enthusiasm and innovative genius. In 1966, the townspeople of Gunnedah (NSW) were privy to their first (and last) pirate radio station transmitting from his bedroom. Life there could not contain Stephen's insatiable curiosity. He was fascinated by both the technical and the artistic intricacies of film and television production. In 1968, he arrived in Sydney, fresh from Gunnedah High School, rotund and cherub-faced, ready to work as a trainee technician with the ABC. He soon moved to TCN 9 and established himself as head tape operator, editing Bandstand, Sound Of Music and The Godfathers. One of his enduring contributions to TCN 9 was his design of the famous nine-dot logo for then station owner Clyde Packer.
By 1972 he had served an extraordinary apprenticeship, contributing significantly to television events ranging from the outside broadcast of the opening of the Opera House to major music, sports, drama and current affairs programs. That apprenticeship blossomed into a period of creativity and entrepreneurial activity. He worked as a technical director at Video Tape Corporation (1972-74) and as general manager of Enterprise Colour Video (1975-85). It was an era in which Stephen was the right man in the right place at the right time. Stephen established ECV's commercial production division and pioneered the rise and rise of the music video clip on the world arena. His ground breaking work with director Robert Guillemot on the early Mi-Sex clips ("You Just Don't Care" and "Computer Games") revolutionised local industry perceptions of the possibilities of the genre. When he was not helping create headlines for artists Stephen was often making them himself. In 1979 he was on the front page of every Australian newspaper in what has been subsequently referred to as the"great Australia Day gaffe.' Perhaps in a premonition of Malcolm Fraser's trousers going missimg in Memphis, the then Prime Minister's Australia Day 1978 address to the nation was inadvertently repeated on 26 January 1979!! As general manager of ECV, who had been commissioned to produce and distribute the 1979 speech, Stephen, in his own inimitable style, explained the one-in-a-million mix-up as "human error, lovey" and was promptly nominated by sections of the press for an OBE. By 1988, when he formed Priest Productions, he was acknowledged as a master producer. The last chapter of Stephen's career was marked by his close association with the "Get Real" drug and AIDS awareness projects. Whilst his contribution as director of the International Year Of Youth's project "music change the world" video clip (1985) for world peace was indicative of his generosity of spirit, his contribution to the get real project was substantial and significant. Between 1986 and 1989 Stephen worked in three national drug and AIDS awareness campaigns: Everything To Live For (1986), Never Ever Share Needles (1987) and Communication (1989). He acted as both producer and patron, employing former "street kids" from the project, speaking at youth forums on drug and AIDS education, and giving unselfishly of himself. Stephen Priest is survived by his father Alex, twin sister Sue, and brothers Gary, Chicka and Phillip.