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In loving memory of the wonderful Jenny Barty

David Tiley

ABC Production Manager Jenny Barty died suddenly, so close to retirement, leaving us to realise just how much she is loved.
In loving memory of the wonderful Jenny Barty

Jenny Barty. Image: from Every Cloud Productions Facebook page.

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The death of Jenny Barty touched many people deeply. I asked some of her colleagues to contribute memories, and reached into a well of love and respect. Their stories also turned out to be a history of the film and TV industries across a whole generation. 

It seems that Production Manager Barbi Taylor started Jenny’s career in the industry around 1974, by introducing her to Antony I. Ginnane, who needed a PA and production secretary for his new production company, FG Films Productions. She was with the company for the next ten years. 

He provided a note for her memorial celebration in Melbourne on July 3rd which was read by Helen Watts.

I can still remember Jenny walking up the stairs at Ferrars St and coming into the office.  We chatted and I hired her and she worked with us from 1975 – 1985.

The feelings that I formed about her that day proved consistent over our working relationship.  She was competent, efficient, diplomatic, a great people person and full of respect for detail.  She could run with a project or work through project directions.

They are all good work attitudes – but more important than all of that – she was loyal and committed and a true friend and confidant over that decade.

We made a lot of movies over that period.  We shot in every state and in Auckland and Queenstown in NZ.

Jenny would head the advance team setting up our production offices and yet still manage to find time to manage the logistics at the Ferrars St HQ.

When Sylvie Walker Wilson and Ann Lyons joined the team in 1978 and 1980, it was a well-run machine.  Of course, the additional staffing up reduced pressure on her and enabled her to be 100% involved in our production activities - working with David Hemmings and Brian Cook - two tricky customers whom Jenny managed to - largely - keep on track.

She was a lynch pin of each production from Patrick and Snapshot through Thirst, Harlequin, The Survivor, Race for the Yankee Zephyr, Dead Kids, Turkey Shoot, Prisoners, Second Time Lucky and Mesmerised. She was cheerful and efficient and in both smooth and difficult circumstances was a welcome face and a generous smile wherever she was located.

She was a great advocate for Melbourne crews in Victoria and in other states and was much loved by the units with whom she engaged.  When she left FG and moved over to the ABC, I was initially disappointed but quickly realised what an asset to the industry she would be there – and indeed she was.

It is hard to come to grips with the fact she has been taken from us - so young and so suddenly.  But like all of us in this business that we love, she will never be really gone as her name will roll forever on the credits of the films and TV shows she managed as celluloid and digital imagery continue to entrance us.

Jenny was a great lady and will be sorely missed. 

After some seventeen 10ba films, she moved to the ABC studios at Ripponlea in Melbourne as Production Co-ordinator. It was a continuous role, but she was credited on Phoenix, Janus, Correlli, Mercury, Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies, Raw FM, Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude, and SeaChange

The she was rechristened as Production Manager on Something in the Air in 2000. 

Her work tracked the evolution of external production deals through Kath & Kim, Silversun, MDA, Summer Heights High, The Librarians, Very Small Business, Rake, Bed of Roses, Angry Boys, The Slap, Outland, Please Like Me, The Time of Our Lives, The Secret River, MIss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Divorce, Luke Warm Sex, Newton’s Law and Seven Types of Ambiguity.

The ABC had a long-running arrangement by which facilities were traded for equity, which meant that production company crews were working closely with ABC staff.

Jenny Barty’s job was to create effective, economical productions which enabled both parties to draw as much as possible out of each other. Two cultures were rubbing together as the winds of change blew back and forth. Would the ABC rely on its own staff? Retrench its own crews and tender out? Rely on short term contracts? And what about the endless pressure to close the Melbourne facilities and centralise in Sydney?

The fear, discontent and passion for the work were all in Jenny’s files. 

Casting Director Martine Gow worked alongside Jenny for seventeen years. 

Jen was always the ‘Go to’ person for anyone that needed anything!  She seemed to have all the answers, and helped out all the time.  She knew the ABC inside out!

Jen had so much respect for all her work colleagues, and was passionate about the industry.  Always going that extra mile to make sure things ran smoothly for everyone.

Jen was warm, caring and fun, excelled at her job and was respected by all who worked with her – she was the best!

When work became stressful or overwhelming, you could always visit Jen in her office, sit on the couch and have a de-brief…often having a laugh, finding the brighter side of things.

Jen LOVED dogs, they were her favourite thing of all!  You could just show her a picture of a puppy, and she’d tear up…such a softie!

Jen also loved to travel, and loved trying new restaurants.  I looked forward to hearing her review on Mondays after the weekend feasts!

Jen was an absolute pleasure to know and work with, respected and much loved by all her work colleagues and friends. I feel so blessed to have known her.   She will be missed dearly, and forever in our hearts. 

Michael Palmer worked with her from 1997 to 2015 as the Art Department Co-ordinator and then Supervisor Production Facilities. 

It seems almost dismissive to sum up someone as being “good”. Good tends to be a way to describe people we don’t know that well. But Jenny Barty was different - she was genuinely and innately good.

Yes, she was kind, warm, supportive, nurturing and a generous. But it went far deeper than that. Knowing that Jenny included you in her life allowed you to believe you had great value, that she recognised some of her own wonderful characteristics in you.

Jenny’s friendship was stealthy. Without fanfare she created strong bonds. And each of these relationships was individual. Ask a hundred different people what her friendship meant to them, and you will get a hundred unique responses. All of them overwhelmingly positive.

Jenny made each and every person in her life feel that she was focussed on them, and that she was grateful they were in her life. I’m not at all sure that Jenny knew the reverse was true. Jenny was, and remains, special to all that had the good fortune to have her in their lives.

My immediate response to hearing of Jenny’s passing is to grieve the loss of someone who only left a positive footprint on the world. And then I am reminded how lucky I am to have shared her time. It isn’t a time to be sad for what I no longer have, but a time to celebrate the joy Jenny has given me over the years. That can never be taken away. So rarely do we have the great blessing to meet someone who’s life can actually be defined as genuinely “good”.

Alex Baldwin and Sean Ryan from ABC Sydney sent this note to the Melbourne tribute. 

So sorry we couldn’t make the journey to celebrate Jenny’s life with you all today. Knowing the type of person that Jenny was I am sure there is a lot of love and happiness in the room right now. 

We both had the great pleasure of working with Jenny for many years in the Drama department at the ABC. During that time she made us look good, made us look like we knew what we were doing, saved our butts on numerous occasions and worked tirelessly on all our Melbourne productions. Jenny was so proud of our Drama slate and the success of the ABC’s drama output over the years is in part down to her unwavering commitment and passion for what she did. No matter what was put in front of her, no matter the hours she had to put in she always did her job with good humour and without complaint. Jenny is simply irreplaceable. 

We will miss sharing a glass of white wine over lunch at the Goat House and listening to your travel adventures Jenny. We will miss your positivity and good nature. We will miss you.

You were one of the good ones. 

Love

Alex & Sean (TV Fiction Sydney)

Chris Oliver-Taylor was her boss inside the ABC, and worked with her again as Managing Director of Matchbox Pictures on shows like The Slap and Glitch.

I had the pleasure of working alongside Jenny as a Production Manager and then she worked as part of my team at the ABC, as I became the Head of Production. Jenny was always the first PM you would turn to for any major show that the ABC was producing. She had the ability to make the production happen, she was someone who knew the independent sector incredibly well, understood the nuances of co-productions and bridged the somewhat cavernous divide between independent production and ABC production. She simply made ABC shows better than they would have been without her involvement. 

She was also the nicest person I have probably ever met. Proving that you can be supremely talented, highly effective and delightfully wonderful and they not be mutually exclusive. Jenny was a star and will be incredibly missed by all of us.

Michael McMahon is the Executive Chairman and Commercial Director of Matchbox Pictures.

Jenny Barty was an industry colleague who became a friend because of her professionalism and good humour in the way she approached her work as Production Manager at the ABC’s Selwyn Street Building.  I am sure that every producer who has worked on an independent production out of that  building would agree that your occupancy of the production office started with a visit to Jenny’s office at the end of the ground floor.  And you knew you would be returning to that office many times during the course of your production for advice on how to navigate the ABC requirements for your production, for help in finding solutions to problems.  Her advice was always solution focused and peppered with lots of common sense.  Knowledge and common sense that can only be gained by time spent embracing work that you loved and cared about.  And with people you cared about.

Jenny will be sadly missed by her family and colleagues.  I will miss running in to her from time to time on Glenhuntly Road Elsternwick and having a chat.  I hope that in some small way I was able to express to her through our chats my gratitude for all the help she gave me over the many years I knew her.

Julie Eckersley is a Producer for Matchbox.

Jenny always had a sense of calm about her. In and around the hubbub of production she had a quiet certainly. From budget to filling the water tank in the kitchen she would just get it done in the loveliest of ways. 

Glitch Season 2 was the last show she worked on. She was about to  retire and chatted often and with great joy about the things she was looking forward to doing in those years ahead. I feel so incredibly sorry that she never got to enjoy all that was waiting before her. 

Just before I left the ABC building for the last time I popped my head in and returned the ABC pass as she had been reminding me to do all day. Looking around that incredible office with all it's memorabilia and memories I told her how incredibly grateful I was to have had the opportunity to work with her. I suspect I was one of many exiting producers who had said the same thing. In the credits of episode 6 of Glitch we have written the following, "In loving memory of the wonderful Jenny Barty." A final credit on her final show. RIP Jenny, and thank you.

And here this tribute develops a historical kick in the guts, as the story of Jenny Barty turned out to rhyme with the loss of the Ripponlea Studios, while the ABC is abandoning those facilities and equity deals which created at least thirty years of production.

Deb Cox is a writer and proprietor of Every Cloud Productions with Fiona Eagger. They made Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Newton’s Law with the ABC.  

For Fiona and I, Jenny Barty and the ABC Drama Department in Selwyn Street have been synonymous for so long that her passing, along with the sale of that building, really feels like the end of an era.  There were times over the last twenty years when that architectural monstrosity was depressingly empty, and times when the place was buzzing - but Jenny was the constant.  Of course her title was Production Manager but she was the matriarch, patiently inducting us all, time and time again, in safety procedures, parking places, sorting out lost security passes, and quietly keeping an eagle eye on everyone’s comings and goings.

She knew every inch of Selwyn Street and Gordon Street and was the one who helped us find the secret stash of chairs you could actually sit on, phones that worked, and bizarre solutions to the lack of studio space, as we turned old sheds into police stations and court-rooms and morphed the canteen into a bar. Turning the car park into a fake car park for us, with a lift to the non-existent office towers above and rostering the staff cars to fill out our frame, was probably her piece de resistance. By then, we could move walls, create walls, paint walls… with impunity, as we all knew the place was on the way out. Jenny knew it. But she would have told everyone what she told us - that she wasn’t moving, that she never wanted to leave that place.

And who could blame her? Her office was more a work of art than a work station - with her photographs and memorabilia of all the shows she welcomed and farewelled. It should be reconstructed piece by piece like Margaret Olley’s house. How could anyone face a hot desk after creating that? How sad that it’s gone. How dreadful that Jenny’s gone.  What a heart-breaking loss.

Deb Cox & Fiona Eagger - Every Cloud Productions.

 

About the author

David Tiley is the editor of Screen Hub.

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