By Zona Marie Tan

Atlab’s managing director, Murray Forrest has announced his decision to retire after 43 years of service to the Australian film industry. From his beginnings at Colorfilm to his current position at Atlab, Forrest has had a long devoted and illuminated history with the industry.

Forrest was the founding chair of Ausfilm, a director of Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA), a past president of the Australian Cinema Pioneers, a past Board Member of the Federation of Producers of Asia, a former Chair of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) based in the USA; and he is also a Fellow of both the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the British Kinematograph, Sound & Television Society.

“It’s been a long lifetime in the film industry, so to remove oneself away entirely would obviously be most difficult,” says Forrest, who adds that he would continue to contribute to the industry by continuing his chairmanship of the Motion Picture Industry Benevolent Society, which he has held for 12 years.

Having watched the industry evolve and been responsible for developing Atlab from a small black and white lab operation servicing newsreels, TV and Film Australia docos, to the broad-based creative services and distribution business it is today, Forrest leaves with a heavy heart wishing he could still be involved in the fascinating change technology is bringing.

“In many ways I wish I were 40 years younger,” muses Forrest. “Although I had a wonderful blessed time [at Atlab], if I were young again, I’d be delighted to be sitting in the film industry where Atlab sits because it has a very exciting future.”

Despite that, he’s confident that Atlab is in capable hands. “We’re equipped and prepared to carry on. Not only with the technology but also with the people that we have. We have people with the expertise and the desire and enthusiasm to do what I like to think I was charged with doing 40 years ago.”

Although Forrest doesn’t have specific retirement plans other than spending more time with his family, he says that he will definitely continue watching more films.

“I’ve had great admiration for anybody who produces films, very much because if I had been a film producer 40 years ago, I would’ve been an abject failure,” jokes Forrest. “I would’ve been sweeping the streets, I guess. And that’s why I’m content to be in admiration and [have an] affinity with filmmakers.”

Forrest’s last day at Atlab is Friday September 12.

Murray Forrest was the recipient of the AFI’s Ken G Hall Award in 2001, for his contribution to the preservation of Australia’s film heritage, and in the same year named Australian Cinema Pioneer of the Year. In 2004, the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association honoured him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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