Byron Kennedy - Producer
Byron Kennedy was always interested in film making, and had been making movies since he was at school. He began with an 8mm camera, which he built with spare parts from other discarded cameras! He used this camera to make short dramas, enacted by his high school mates.
While still working as an amateur, Byron won several international awards with short films he had made, and began producing documentaries and television commercials. In the early 1970's he lectured at various student film schools, and it was through this work that he first met George Miller, at a summer film school in 1971. They teamed up, and began making short features and experimental films, including "Violence In The Cinema, Part 1", which Byron produced, photographed and edited. It won two Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards, and became one of the first independent short films which was distributed commercially within Australia.
Byron's resourcefulness on previous projects slotted him nicely into the role of Producer on Mad Max. It was a highly demanding, complex production, and had Byron performing such activities as driving stunt vehicles, operating cameras (for which he had also acquired the free use of the Todd AO lenses), and acquiring a variety of other services and items in whatever way he could, given the low budget of the film. He even provided a 'live hand' for a special effects dummy, and had a hand in making the final soundtrack for the film.
Byron at the start of Mad Max 2
Following the success of Mad Max, Byron Kennedy and George Miller travelled to the US for more than a year, to develop their skills as film makers. After much studying they felt that they had finally learned the elements which had made Mad Max the success it was, and although initially they had not intended to follow the film with a sequel, the eventually returned to Australia to begin production on Mad Max 2.
Again, Byron took a very hands on approach in the production. As much as George Miller was driven by telling the story, Byron was driven by the action. As well as his skills in stunt driving, Byron had also become a qualified plane and helicopter pilot. His love of high energy, high speed excitement obviously contributed strongly to the action seen on screen in Mad Max 2.
Byron and crew, examining the aftermath of the truck wreck.
Tragically, his love of flying would also lead to his untimely death. On July 17, 1983, the helicopter which Byron was piloting crashed into a lake while flying at low altitude, and Byron was killed. Although initially hesitant to continue the Mad Max story without Byron, George Miller ultimately went on to create one more film in the series, dedicating it to the man who had started the Mad Max journey with him.
To see some more about Byron, download the AFI tribute to him, found on the trailers page.