Chapter 14: The Sales and Management Services (SMS) Sojourn

Sales and Management Services was a small company that had specialised in making film strips mainly for staff training purposes, although some of their film strips were product knowledge packages.

They also marketed the equipment for showing these production to an audience.

The most common and most popular projector was a device called a “Lucky” Projector. They were a Japanese import, and privately we thought the name “Lucky” was appropriate, as you were bloody lucky if they worked.

The film strip was advanced frame by frame by a series of 1000Hz pulses on one track of a two track cassette. The other track contained commentary, music and effects.

All the recordings were made here at 50 Belgrave Road.

The S.M.S. staff were a group of the nicest people you could meet and work with.

Robin Byrne was the Manager. He was ex-ADC to the former State Governor, Sir Dallas Brooks. I don’t think that aided him at all in his work at SMS — although perhaps it opened a few doors for him when he was negotiating a production with a rather “uppity” client.

John Merrick, a slightly elderly Englishman, was the accountant. Behind his back, he was known as the Earl of Merrick, because that was what he looked and sounded like. But he was a nice fellow.

Neil Murray was a business director of the company. In other words, he had some money in it. Neil knew absolutely nothing about making film strips, or making anything else for that matter. He was not a “hands on” man.

He never tired of telling us that prior to joining SMS he had a top level job with Ansett Airlines — was virtually one of Reg Ansett’s right-hand men.

But on one occasion when Neil and I were flying to Sydney on an Ansett flight, Reg Ansett happened to be on the plane. Neil made a point of saying hello to him, but Reg Ansett seemed to have some difficulty in remembering who we has. Perhaps he was having an “off” day.

Then there was Lewis Smith, the man who took all the stills for the film strips. He was a true artist with the camera — every shot he took was as near perfect as it could be.

His assignments were not easy, covering as they did a wide range of situations and moods — from heavy industrial to fashion and pastoral.

He was a master at coaxing “action-like” poses from the many people we employed as models.

I often wondered just how good he would have been with a movie camera. I have no doubt that he would have striven for the same perfection that was the hallmark of his stills.

From time to time S.M.S. had on-staff salesmen whose task it was to ferret out clients who were in the market for an audio-visual, either to instruct their staff or sell their product.

One of these salesmen was Colin Pym, son of Walter Pym, well known radio actor and one time Chief Announcer and Studio Manager at 3UZ.

Colin Pym was a delightful person — a true gentleman.

His job was not easy, for he joined S.M.S. at a time when the video-tape revolution was gaining momentum, and film strips were a thing of the past.

He didn’t make many sales, and eventually was asked to leave. If Robin Byrne had been able to foresee the sequel to that dismissal, I think he might have made every effort to retain Colin’s services.

A few months after leaving S.M.S., Colin Pym, who had not been successful in finding another job, and whose wife had displayed a lamentable lack of support by leaving him — found life a little too tough to bear.

He solved his difficulties with a revolver to his head.

It was an option which another of our salesmen would not have considered, no matter how tough the going. Pat McDonnell was a gregarious, ebullient fellow, who likewise didn’t sell a great deal, but didn’t let it worry him.

After his short sojourn at S.M.S., he had several jobs in public relations and insurance. So long as he could round off the day with a dram or two of Scotch, Pat was content. Pat McDonnell was a nice fellow and good company — and he was no slouch as a writer.

My most exciting assignment at S.M.S. was to accompany a Qantas public relations man, a Qantas ground hostess Helen Nance (as a model) and a Qantas cameraman on a round trip taking in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

S.M.S. had landed the job of producing an audiovisual promoting Qantas Jetabout Tours, and I was the writer/producer on the project.

From time to time, S.M.S would employ freelance writer/producers. One of those was the very talented Barry McQueen. Barry began his career with the A.B.C. in Melbourne, then went to London where his talent gained for him the prestigious assignment of chief television news-reader for the B.B.C.

But when he eventually returned to Australia, the A.B.C. didn’t want to know him, and after a frustrating period, he joined the S.M.S. team as writer/narrator/producer.

With the demise of S.M.S. he formed his own production company. Barry McQueen — a talent and a great person to know.

With the ongoing decline of S.M.S., eventually I was informed that Sales and Management Services could get on very well without me, but I didn’t leave them until we had completed an assignment for T.A.A. (Trans Australia Airlines) promoting their Queensland holiday resorts.

This was shot on 16mm by David Haskins — an artist with a movie camera if ever there was one!

We covered Surfers’ Paradise, Wanderers’ Paradise at Airlie Beach, Great Keppel Island and Dunk Island. We call the opus “In the Steps of the Pathfinder” — the “pathfinder” being Captain James Cook, who called at all those places and named several of them when he sailed the “Endeavour” up the east coast of Australia. Of course, this was before T.A.A. had control of the tourist market in that area.