Harbourside Media had an impressive operation, which we soon realised as Guy gave us the Five Minute Special. Behind the new administration area at the front of the old warehouse there were several studios, offices, production suites, make-up rooms and even a canteen.
We met a few of the staff, who all seemed to be quite busy, as well as watched a few minutes of something that appeared to be an advertisement being filmed in one of the studios.
‘We can do just about everything in-house,’ Guy proudly told us. ‘Depending on what the project is, sometimes all we have to do is the location shots outside, then come in here to do the interiors, then just edit it all together.’
‘I’m impressed,’ I said to him, truthfully.
‘So, what type of things can you actually do here?’ Harry asked.
‘Anything from company training videos, or a television commercial, right up to providing outside broadcast units, producing television specials or even a movie, if we had to. Admittedly we haven’t actually worked on a movie just yet, but theoretically we could handle it. Hey, maybe we could do one of yours one day?’
‘That would be pretty cool if it could ever happen,’ I replied.
‘So, what about you income sources?’ asked Harry. ‘I presume your clients all pay for your services?’
‘Mostly, yes. Clients hire us and our facilities, whether it’s a corporate client or a television network, and that pays the wages. But sometimes we also do stories and other pieces on spec and try to jump the gun on the networks by beating them to it; then we sell it to them.
‘If, for example, it’s a local news item or story and they don’t have a crew handy, it can actually save them both time and money by taking our film and paying us, rather than sending a crew out. We have a pretty good relationship with all the main networks, as well as the pay TV companies, so we do okay. Human interest stories, like your story, are the interesting ones. We often do these on spec, even if it’s just a five minute intro to show the big boys what it’s about. If it gets picked up we will get paid for it, but oftentimes they just fall by the wayside.’
That didn’t exactly have me brimming with confidence, but by this time our five minute tour was up and we soon found ourselves back at the conference room door.
I had wanted to ask Guy what his gut feeling was about what we were asking of them, but before I had the chance he had knocked on the door and we were being ushered inside once more.
I put both Martin and Craig as being in their mid-fourties, with both of them being good looking guys. If I had to choose a single word to describe them both I would have said ‘solid’. Not as in build, but in the general air of success that they both seemed to exude. I also noticed that Martin was wearing a wedding ring, but not Craig. It got me wondering about him.
‘Gentlemen,’ Martin began. ‘How was your tour? I hope that Guy gave you the royal treatment and showed you through the place and explained what we do?’
‘Yes. And I have to say that we were suitably impressed,’ Harry replied.
‘Thank you. We like to think that what we have here is equal to anything available in the capitol cities, and that what we’re doing here is right up there with what the bigger firms and studios can offer.’
We nodded in agreement.
‘Having said that, however,’ Craig continued. ‘I’m sure that Guy would have also explained that we often work with the major studios and television programs when good stories come along … especially those that we believe would be of national interest. When we find such a story we tend to run it by the producers of the major current affairs shows, like Sixty Minutes or A Current Affair or Sunday Night, and offer them a chance to run with it, for a slice of the action, so to speak.’
‘I can understand that,’ I said.
‘We think that your story would be worth running by these guys,’ Martin said. ‘The idea of a well known author helping out a worthy cause that is close to his heart would appeal to many, especially when that author is a personable, good looking young guy who is giving back to the community he came from.’
‘But it shouldn’t be about me,’ I pleaded.
‘Maybe not. But whether you like it or not, your doing this makes it just as much about you as it is about the memory of Nathan and what his mother is trying to achieve. It’s your support that makes it the story it can be, and that’s what will ultimately appeal to the masses … and more importantly, to the powers that be in the big television studios, who are really the ones that need convincing if you want this thing to be as big as it can be.’
I sat there shaking my head. This wasn’t really what I had in mind. I didn’t want any story to be focused on me. I wanted this to be about Shelley, and Nathan’s legacy.
‘So, you’ve obviously got some sort of a plan in mind then?’ Harry enquired, quickly sensing how I was feeling.
‘We do,’ Craig offered.
‘Which is?’ I asked.
‘We start out small, doing a small news feature about the local boy who made good,’ added Martin. ‘It will just be a small piece that we can slip into the local news broadcast, in which we get you to talk about coming home and about things that are close to your heart.’
Harry and I exchanged glances. I think we were both wondering just where this was going. Guy seemed unconcerned, so I guess he either knew what was coming, or this was a common way of handing these things.
‘Then,’ Craig continued, ‘we follow that up a week or so later, with you handing over the cheque to Shelley, at which time we do another small feature on what it is that they do. That then gives us a couple of things that we can show the big guys, to see how they react. That story will also, of course, already have had positive feedback on a local level, which we then need to show can be replicated on a national level.’
‘And that,’ said Martin, ‘is where Sixty Minutes or one of the other shows picks up Shelley’s story and the fact that she has this generous supporter who wants to spread a message of love and understanding. We show them a story that features both you and Shelley, by editing the two smaller pieces together. If they pick it up, that takes it national, with, at the end of that story, the details of the appeal to raise more money for an additional facility being splashed across the screen and featured on their website.’
‘What do you think?’ I asked Harry directly.
‘I think that these boys know exactly what they are doing, so we should let them run with it.’
Nodding, I turned back to Martin. ‘Okay then, so what’s next?’
‘Well, we need to get some footage of you doing something locally, like visiting a school, or something like that,’ he said. ‘That would be a start.’
‘You could check with Anne Rummery from the Writer’s Centre. I’m sure they had a video camera there yesterday when I was doing the talk with them.’
‘That sounds excellent.’
‘And it’s Australia Day tomorrow,’ Guy offered. ‘I know that he has an engagement in the afternoon, but maybe we could talk him into dropping in on the festivities in Thompsonville for a short while around lunch time and we could get some footage of that,’ giving me a wink as he mentioned the afternoon engagement.
‘Splendid, splendid,’ Martin cooed. ‘We’ll talk to the Writer’s Centre and see what they might have that we can use, and we’ll see if the powers that be in Thompsonville could do with another guest at tomorrow’s event as well. We can send a presenter and a cameraman out there to catch some footage and ask some questions.’
‘What sort of questions?’ Harry enquired.
‘Nothing too intense,’ Craig promised. ‘Just questions like what are you doing back in town, which was for your Writer’s Centre event, of course. Do you miss the place? When is your next book coming out? What’s it like seeing your book up on the silver screen? That sort of general fluff stuff.’
‘I see. I reckon I can probably handle that.’
‘We’ll put young Guy here in charge of the whole operation, so he’ll handle everything once we have the details confirmed,’ Martin added.
I glanced at Guy who gave me a reassuring nod.
‘That sounds great then,’ I replied.
‘Excellent, excellent,’ Martin repeated, a habit he seemed to have which left me slightly bemused. For some reason it reminded me about the joke about why Irish men wear two condoms … you know; to be sure, to be sure.
‘I think this will work out quite well for all concerned,’ Craig added. ‘Just leave it with us and I’m sure that over the next couple of weeks it will all fall into place.’
* * *
When we finally left Guy and Harbourside Media I was feeling quite upbeat about what lay ahead. The whole concept of helping this cause not only excited me, but also filled me with a sense of satisfaction, in as much as I now knew there were others who were willing to get behind me and my ideas. I wasn’t just going it alone, and nor was it a pie in the sky pipe-dream.
We could actually do some good here, and in that, I felt a certain pride.
‘So, what do you really think?’ Harry asked me as we set off for the airport.
‘I’m quite excited,’ I replied. ‘I know that it’s not a done deal yet, but I really didn’t expect that sort of a response.’
‘No, neither did I, to tell you the truth. I think, provided of course that Shelley is happy with the concept and is keen for it to proceed, that this could well take off.’
‘Before today I had my doubts, but now, yeah, I think you’re right.’
‘We had better not get ahead of ourselves though. Just get tomorrow out of the way first, and also see what sort of reaction the guys get from Shelley, before we plan the next move. I have a good feeling about this.’
It was a curious thing watching Harry switch modes from friend to manager, seeing his eyes light up as his mind change gears, then narrow slightly as he focuses on whatever it is he was thinking about. I had seen it often, and as I glanced across at him now, as we cruised around the edge of the harbour toward the airport, I was seeing it again.
If I was right, he would be going through all the pros and cons of what this venture would entail, and ultimately, how I would benefit from being involved, which of course, might just benefit him as well. Perhaps that was the cynic in me rearing his ugly head once more, but hey, I knew the guy better than just about anyone else in my life, and as good a friend as he had become, he was also a businessman. He was no fool; he knew the value of a dollar.
At one stage he looked across at me and saw me grinning at him.
‘What?’ he asked.
‘Oh, nothing. I just thought I could hear some cogs turning or something.’
‘Well, someone has to keep coming up with ideas if this little empire of yours is going to flourish,’ he teased.
‘Empire? Oh, geez, give me a break!’
‘You may jest, but, whether you realise it or not, you’re on the verge of something monumental here. I keep telling you that!’
‘So you do,’ I said. ‘And so where do we go from here? What other ideas have you come up with that I don’t know about yet?’
This time it was his turn to grin at me.
‘What is it?’ I demanded.
‘Two things,’ he said. ‘First off, I think that it could be worthwhile telling the story of Shelley and Nathan and their family, if they would agree to it. A factual, first hand account, in print, as told to Tony Scott. Then, I’m thinking that there could be a movie script in this as well … either an adaptation from the story, or a fictional story that is loosely based on their story.’
‘Bloody hell. You don’t waste any time, do you?’ I joked.
‘Not if I can help it,’ he replied.
‘And is all this before, or after, I finish the next story?’
‘That’s entirely up to you … unless our American friends say otherwise. With them involved now you’re going to have to take that into consideration with just about everything you do, but given the money they want to throw at you, that should be a no-brainer.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘I think that you’ll still be able to write other stuff that won’t fall under their contract … in fact, I’ll make sure of that … but let’s just take it all one step at a time and see where we end up, okay.’
By now we had arrived at the turn-off into the airport terminal and so I put my indicator on to turn, before soon afterwards slowing and then exiting the main road.
‘Looks like I’ll be just in time for check-in,’ Harry said, after glancing at his watch.
‘As if there was ever going to be any doubt,’ I replied.
‘Yeah, whatever,’ he chuckled.
Moments later I pulled into a parking space close to the terminal and switched off the ignition, then sat there for a few moments with my hands resting on the steering wheel.
‘You okay?’ Harry asked when he looked across at me.
‘Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been better,’ I answered. ‘But a thought just crossed my mind …’
‘I don’t think I’ve thanked you yet.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t be too worried about that, if I were you,’ he said. ‘I’ll get all the thanks I need when I take out my ten percent.’
‘Yeah, I figured that … but still, all the same, I want you to know that I do appreciate everything you do for me, even if I don’t often say it.’
‘I know you do, kiddo. I know you do.’
* * *
By some standards the airport wasn’t a particularly large one, though it was definitely bigger than most other regional facilities. There was one main runway, which jutted out into the bay, with a smaller secondary runway that intersected it on the land. At the southern end of that runway the terminal stood, a new and modern looking building, long and spacious and housing counters for checking in, car hire, ample passenger seating, amenities and a coffee shop.
There was half an hour between when the luggage needed to be checked in and when the aeroplane boarded, so after handing Harry’s luggage over at the counter we headed for the coffee shop.
Over cappuccinos and a slice of home-made lemon meringue pie we briefly went back over the events of the morning before Harry then brought up the American contract.
‘I’ll have this new contract scanned and sent off to them this afternoon,’ he said, ‘and courier the original to them as well.’
‘That sounds good.’
‘As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll also send off a draft contract for the new deal. They’ll dissect that one themselves and will, no doubt, send back something that’ll be totally different. Once we’ve got that you and I will sit and talk again to go through it all, okay?’
‘Okay. That sounds like a plan.’
Just then we heard his phone ring and he reached into his shirt pocket to retrieve it.
‘Hello, Harry Preston,’ he said. ‘Oh, g’day Steffan … No, I’m still in Macquarie Harbour, but my flight boards in ten minutes … You have? That’s great … Yeah he’s still keen … Okay just keep me posted … Great. Thanks. I’ll talk to you soon.’
After he had disconnected he looked at me and grinned. ‘That was Steffan, the real estate guy,’ he said.
‘So I gathered.’
‘He’s managed to track down the owners and has finally spoken with them. They’re considering their options, he said.’
‘Which means what, exactly?’
‘Well, they know they have a possible buyer, if they decide they want to sell, that is, so they’re thinking about it, I guess.’
‘I’ll take that as being a positive, then, shall I?’
‘At least it’s better than a straight-out no!’
‘True that,’ I answered.
As we finished the last of our coffees the public address system crackled and an announcement came over that the 11:15 flight to Brisbane was now boarding.
‘I guess that’s me,’ Harry said, standing up and slinging his carry-all over his shoulder.
Through the tinted glass windows of the terminal we could see the aeroplane sitting on the tarmac with the door open and the steps already in place, awaiting the passengers. Harry and I strolled the short distance to where the gates were and where people were already gathering, waiting their turn to go through the security checks, as flimsy as they were for domestic flights in this country. When we reached them we turned and faced each other.
‘Thanks, for everything,’ I said to him, thrusting my hand out. He smiled and took it, then pulled me to him and embraced me.
‘You’re more than welcome, Tony,’ he said quietly into my ear. ‘You are like the son that Maggie and I never had and we’re both very proud of you.’
I was truly touched and when we separated I thought I could see a little sparkle in his eyes that hadn’t been there moments beforehand.
‘I … I don’t quite know what to say to that,’ I said to him. ‘That means more to me than you will ever know.’
‘Yeah, well, not a word of this to Shi-Anne, or my fee doubles!’ he threatened, while wiping at his eyes using the back of his hand.
‘Mum’s the word,’ I chuckled softly. ‘You have a good flight back, and I’ll be talking to you.’
‘There’s every chance of that,’ he replied, then with one last wave he joined the line of passengers strolling out across the tarmac to the aeroplane. I moved over to the large windows where I could get a better view and watched as he climbed the stairs, one of the last passengers to do so.
Soon the door was closed and the mobile stairs were towed away, then one by one the two engines of the aeroplane roared to life. The sound was deafening, even from where I was standing inside the terminal, but as the brakes were released and the aeroplane started to inch away from us the noise eventually died down to a dull roar, especially once the doors which opened onto the tarmac had been slid shut and the double glazed glass was able to do its job, blocking out some of the sound.
I continued to watch as the Dash 8 taxied away from us, along the shorter runway, until it reached the main one, then turned and taxied to the end of that. It slowed and then turned again, until it was finally facing eastward, out to sea, ready to run the full length of the black-top.
By now the sound of the aeroplane was little more than a buzz in the distance, but I continued to watch as it sat there on the tarmac. I knew that the pilots would be running through their final checks and that they would now be building up their revs before letting their brakes off and allowing the sparkling machine to hurtle down the runway and lift off.
Even as I thought those very thoughts I saw the aeroplane suddenly lurch forward, its brakes having been released and it starting its long run. Quickly it gathered speed as it hurtled along, a silver and white flash with a blue tail, hell bent on reaching for the skies, and before I knew it the wheels had left the tarmac and the machine was climbing skyward, up, up, and finally away.
* * *
Before leaving the airport I decided to give Aaron a call, partly to see how he was going with the clean up, partly because there was something I wanted to ask him, but mostly because I just needed to hear his voice again.
‘Hey babe,’ he said as he answered his phone. ‘Have you left yet?’
‘Hey, yourself. No Harry has only just flown off into the wide blue yonder, so I’m just about to head in and pick up the stuff that Luke asked me to collect. Then I’ll be on my way.’
‘How did you go with your job?’
‘Not quite finished yet. Man, it’s a jungle out there.’
‘Yeah, I saw it. Listen, have you got any camping gear stashed away back at your little cabin?’
‘Camping? Well, I’ve got a couple of sleeping bags, but that’s about it. Why?’
‘I just had a thought. I’ve got to give up the guest house for Luke and Matt’s families, and rather than have to go all the way back to your place after the party I thought we could just join the big camp out. What do you say?’
‘Just like old times, eh? Man, I don’t think I’ve been camping out since you and me went out into the national park that last time. Do you remember that?’
‘How the hell could I forget? You came home with a broken wrist. I tried telling you that branch wouldn’t hold you,’ I teased.
‘It wasn’t that I was remembering,’ he said quietly.
‘Oh, yeah. It must have been everything else we got up to, like getting busted by that family while we were skinny dipping below the waterfall.’
‘They saw us doing more than just skinny dipping, if you’ll remember?’
‘Yeah, they did, didn’t they?’ I chuckled. ‘I can still remember the eyes almost bugging out of that kid’s head.’
‘It’s the look on his mother’s face that I remember best. She didn’t know what to do or where to look. We were bad, weren’t we?’
‘As I remember it, you were pretty damn good.’
‘Only because I had a good teacher.’
‘I think I learned more from you than I ever taught you,’ I offered.
‘I was just making it up as I went.’
‘I think we both were,’ I laughed. ‘So, what do you say? Want to camp out and pretend we’re seventeen again?’
‘Why the hell not!’ he laughed.