On 28 June 2017, Robert Herbert, an AFTRS alumnus and the much-loved film programmer at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, passed away. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him, but also by the cinephile community of Sydney. What follows is a heart-felt tribute to Robert from AFTRS’ Head of Directing, Rowan Woods –
“Robert Herbert had great love and appreciation for all around him. He was special. He was gentle and wise. He had strong and passionate opinions about art and films but he was never stupidly judgmental. Always open. He was an amazing, supportive, brilliant, intuitive director of actors and camera. As a close friend, he directed me and co-wrote with me. I loved my friend Robert and I was in awe of him. He taught and reinforced everything in me that is good and beautiful about making visual art. He inspired all he worked with as a leader and as a coworker. With meticulously planned control of preproduction design and a visual style gleaned from his incredible knowledge and passion for cinema and art making of every description, Robert fostered amazing relationships with his fellow artists, all of whom became his friends for life. He engaged us and got us on board in way that got the best out of all of us. Whether it was his careful wording of a direction to actors or to camera. Or his incredible trust and creative bond with Nick Meyers in the edit suite. Or an encouraging note regarding tone or style. Or whether it was a lovely home cooked meal or a fun discussion about the form and beauty of a classic modernist chair or the whip smart tongue lashing of a cheaply made contemporary knockoff.
Several art school and AFTRS students were lucky enough to work with Robert on HE AND SHE – Robert’s master work from AFTRS in 1991. Robert inspired us all on that film and on many other super8, 16mm and video works of the eighties and nineties. We will never forget. The stuff and the joy of Robert’s art making. A process and a life experience that made us all better for it.
Robert, even when you looked at us through the veil of a cruel disease, you still had that twinkle. That curious thoughtful wonderful repose that you had when we were all together helping you craft your masterworks. You will always be with us.”