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FRONT UP

WHY, WHERE, HOW, WHEN AND WITH WHOM
THE FRONT UP ROUTINE

Andrew L. Urban talks about the show that took him from print journalism to television, without knowing a thing about the medium.

The first idea I had that became Front Up was vague and unformed: I would roam the streets and strike up conversations with strangers, hoping to elicit stories or anecdotes that would be amusing or entertaining, offering perhaps a glimpse into the ordinary soul, the everyday life of suburban Australians in all their diversity. In my profound ignorance of television, I imagined this would be enough to make a half hour program.

I subsequently discussed this idea with Margaret Pomeranz, a fellow film journalist and critic who was also Executive Producer of the Movie Show at SBS. A producer in a network! I felt safe talking to her about it, having a shared interest in film. If it wasn’t going to go anywhere, we would just carry on seeing films and nothing would be lost.

After several meetings with Margaret and with Geoff Cawthorn, an admired documentary maker an editor Margaret knew (and who had worked on the first few Movie Shows), we discovered that my idea was just too simple to put into traditional tv language, and we just had to go out and shoot a cheap pilot. We did that, after Andy Lloyd James, then head of TV at SBS, had made enthusiastic noises. Andy and the executive, then headed by managing director Malcolm Long, looked at the pilot and the proposed cost (very little) and said we could make 10 episodes. It was 1993. That first series was shot by Geoff (on a Video 8), but Greg Kay has been the Front Up cameraman for all subsequent series, developing the unique, off the shoulder style. (Most cameramen go pale at the thought of shouldering a Betacam for up to seven hours a day!)

Everybody asks me: "How do you get people to open up about their private lives?"

The following year they asked us for 13, then for 19, then for 26, and in 1997, another 26. In the nine series we shot for SBS, we have travelled all over Australia, from Darwin and Humptydoo in the Northern Territory to Hobart and Huon in Tasmania, and even shot one entire episode on the Ghan between Adelaide and Alice Springs.

Everybody asks me "how do you get people to open up about their private lives?" All I can say is that there were always three golden rules (never written or even articulated, but deeply felt):

1. Never judge people
2. Never make fun of people or manipulate them, never make a freak show
3. Always make them the centre of attention

But the most important element has always been the willingness of people that I meet to talk, to be willing to share some of their life experiences. We are all the same but different – and we all have a life full of good, bad, love, loss, pain, joy and many other things. Even those who we least suspect.

The most important thing Front Up has taught me about people is

NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING.

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Andrew L. Urban

Front Up can be seen on SBS television Tuesday nights at 7.30pm; Repeats on Thursdays at 4pm.

Series 7 x 26 episodes, from December 7, 1999.

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AWARDS:
GAY & LESBIAN MARDI GRAS AWARDS, 1997:

Best Mainstream Media Coverage Award - episode February 25, 1997. (Runners up: The Australian & Variety.)

SCREEN MUSIC AWARDS - Australian Guild of Screen Composers, 1997:
Best Original Title Theme for a TV series, serial or mini series – Guy Gross

FRONT UP LETTERS

THINGS VIEWERS HAVE SAID ABOUT FRONT UP:
The concept is inspired, your execution masterly and the program quite unexpectedly moving. I walked to work today looking at people in quite a different light."
Storry W.

"You managed to get things out of me that really no-one else has heard."
Daniel M.

"Congratulations ….a world class programme in my opinion."
Ashley S.

"Thank you for Front Up; over the past year or so I have found it to be one of the most amazing and enjoyable programs that I have seen probably to date."
Vicky W.

"Front Up I feel is the most real programme on television….it is too the most important programme on television…"
David J.

"I’m a 19 year old university student who comes home from work each Tuesday and realises I’m in for a treat. I sit in front of the television for half an hour and relish each minute …"
Harry H.

"In my old age I’ve decided to tell people what I think, regardless of how unimportant I am…thanks to SBS for a whole swag of good programmes – with Front Up as a little jewel!"
Ross C.

"It is the best thing on television."
Necia P.

"Front Up is a wonderful programme and complete breath of fresh air for television."
Lucia E.

"I have watched much television in the last 45 years and your program is without doubt some of the best television that I have ever seen."
Richard B.

"Your program … has been my must not miss program for some time…."
Sean K.

"I’m completely addicted…"
Jenny F.







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