On Thursday ABC screens The Dream Factory, a TV tribute to ABC’s famed Ripponlea studios.
Opened in 1956, the studios have been home to iconic shows including Bellbird, Countdown, The Big Gig, Kath & Kim, Spicks and Specks, Seachange, Adventure Island, Frontline, The Late Show, The D-Generation, Round the Twist, The Gillies Report, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, plus Something in the Air, Recovery, The Adventures of Lano & Woodley and more recently The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight, Dirty Laundry Live, Newton’s Law and Hard Quiz.
ABC has since relocated to new studios in Southbank with the site due to be sold for redevelopment.
Floor manager Darrin Oakley, who began in he mailroom in 1986, told TV Tonight, the corridors were a hub of activity, where the famous rubbed shoulders with crew & audience.
“You can stand here with the two studios behind you, and you’re looking directly at Make-Up, Wardrobe, Dressing Rooms you just call out for an actor and they will come running.
“At Southbank this area doesn’t exist. You’re on the 2nd floor so it’s a 5 minute elevator ride just to get up there and you have to hope the person is up there!”
He nominates Kath & Kim and Mad as Hell as his two favourite productions.
“I’ve done a lot of drama shows but you tend not to have as much fun on those,” he says.
“With the comedies you try to create a good environment for the actors.”
Oakley says there aren’t too many stars that left him starstruck.
“You name an Australian actor and I reckon I have probably worked with them. There wouldn’t be many that I haven’t.
“I was starstruck by Barry Humphries because I had grown up watching Dame Edna. So when you are face to face with someone like that you just pinch yourself,” he continues.
Sting came in for Recovery and we were live to air. We had built this elaborate set for him to sit on. But he took one look at it and said ‘I’m not sitting on that.’ We had only 2 minutes to go, so the director said ‘Put him wherever he wants to go!’ It was just chaos.”
But he also recalls stumbling onto a secret romance between Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness when he was the third A.D. on 1995’s Correlli.
“I had to pick her up at 5 in the morning. It was 5am at her house and when the lights came on there were 2 silhouettes at the door,” he recalls.
“When the car door opened she sat in the front and then the back door opened and she says ‘Not a word!’ And it was Hugh Jackman.
“I kept it a secret, but they eventually got sprung by the caterers having a pash in her dressing room!”
The Dream Factory airs 9pm Thursday on ABC.
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