John Hughes’s research interests focus on Australian film history, critical theory and practice, industry policy, media activism and digital culture. His current project is a history of Filmmakers’ Co-operatives in Australia (1966–1986).
An independent producer, writer and director for film, television and on-line media, John has underaken work engaged with Australian cultural and political history and issues over a number of decades. His documentary output is formally innovative and research driven. Australian labour history, native title and Indigenous rights are prominent topics among his films. Over recent years, a number of his films and an online documentary focused on Australian documentary film history, in particular the early post-war and Cold War years. Find out more at John's website Early Works (www.earlyworks.com.au).
Work as a producer and director
John's work as a producer and director for television has included a number of projects made with cultural commentator, writer and presenter Betty Churcher AO (Take Five, 1998, ABC; Hidden Treasures series 1 NGA: 2005, Hidden Treasures series 2: NLA 2008, ABC; The Art of War 2007, SBS; John Olson: An Unstoppable Force 2008, ABC1). John’s professional practice has also demonstrated his interest in works for gallery settings, including video and film work presented at the ICA London, ARC Art Museum Paris, Biennale of Sydney, Ewing Gallery, University of Melbourne and ACMI Melbourne.
His feature drama, What I Have Written (1995) (from John A. Scott’s novel), was invited into Competition in Berlin and Stockholm and won Best Film, Mystfest, Bologna (1996). It was released theatrically with Globe and internationally with Beyond Films.
Recent independent documentaries as producer, writer-director include Love & Fury (ABC, 2013, 2014), Indonesia Calling (ABC, 90 minutes, 2009), The Archive Project (ABC, 98 minutes, 2006). John was the recipient of the Stanley Hawes Award (2006), Joan Long Award, achievement in film history (2006), Australian Writer’s Guild Best Broadcast Documentary (2010), NSW Premier’s History Prize (audio-visual) 2007, Critics Circle Best Feature Documentary (2006). See John's full filmography.
John Hughes’ Ph.D. ‘After Indonesia Calling’ concerns documentary filmmaking in Australia in the early post-war and Cold War years, its relations with governments and policy change both then and in the early decades of the twenty-first century. His MA (Monash 1993) included an essay documentary, One Way Street (54 minutes, 1992), on the work and life of philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin, marking the centenary of Benjamin’s birth. The film was released theatrically and broadcast on ABC TV (1993).
In 2014 he was appointed Honorary Fellow, School of Film and Television, Faculty of VCA & MCM, University of Melbourne.
John Hughes is an award-winning producer, writer and director and was appointed as Adjunct Professor (Media) School of Media and Communication in 2014.
PhD. RMIT (2013)
MA Literary and Cultural Theory, Monash University (1993)
John has been active in contributing to policy development and debate through direct engagement and publishing over a number of decades. Other industry engagement includes voluntary work with industry guilds, the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) and the Australian Writers Guild (AWG) (e.g. judging panels).
His industry experience crosses over from media production to teaching and mentoring.
Consultations in screen education include assessment, lecturing and short courses with the Film and Television School, Faculty of VCA & MCM, University of Melbourne.
Following participation as an advisor with ‘Headlands’, an innovative multi-agency documentary project development program convened by the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), he was appointed Director of the Headlands program for 2007.
Recent participation with decision-making funding panels with the Australian Film Commission, the Film Finance Corporation, South Australian Film Corporation, Screen NSW and Screen Australia. He was Commissioning Editor Documentary with SBS Independent (1998-2002) and invited to international festival jury duty at International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), November 2002; ‘Pacific Meridian’ International Film Festival, Vladivostok, Russia, September 2004; international jury FIFO Pacific Film Festival, Tahiti 2011.
2014 December, Panel, ‘Eavesdropping on artists’, Melbourne Festival
2014 December: Industry Assessor, VCA University of Melbourne
2014 November: Panel, ‘Sightlines: filmmaking in the academy’ RMIT University
2014 September: ‘Documenting Dissent: ‘Realism’ and Resistance in Cold War Australia’ ‘The Cold War; then and now’, German Historical Institute, Moscow,
2013 December: Honours examination, Media and Communications, RMIT
2013 December: ‘Archive Fever’ Panel presentation, Screen Cultures Group, RMIT
2013, November: ‘Directing the Feature’ presentation, ADG Conference, Sydney
2013 October: Melbourne Festival, Panel: ‘Future in ruins: Wang Bing documentary’
2013 July: MIFF (Melbourne International Film Festival) Forum moderator ‘Resistance=Futile? The Activist Film in Australia’, Wheelers’ Centre, Melbourne
2013 Students Industry Consultant, VCA Masters of Film and Television
2012 December: ‘Filmmakers Co-operatives in Australia’ presentation, Visual Evidence Conference, ANU Canberra
2012 ADG Awards, Documentary Features
2012 Industry Assessor, VCA Masters of Film and Television (Narrative)
2012 Industry Assessor, VCA Masters of Film and Television (Documentary)
2012 ‘Awgie’ Awards, Feature Documentary (AWG)
2012 April: ACMI Screening Program, ‘On Borrowed Time’ in conversation with David Bradbury & Paul Cox, ACMI
2011 October: Panel presentation, ‘Interviewing for film’, ‘Communities of memory conference’, Oral History Association of Australia, State Library of Victoria
2011 August: Presentation: ‘Echoes of Indonesia Calling’, Visual Evidence Conference, New York
2011 ‘Awgie’ Awards Feature Documentary (AWG), July-August 2011
2011 February: ‘Beyond the facts’ paper, AWG Conference, Melbourne
2011 February: ‘Times Arrow/Times Cycle’ paper, AIDC (Australian International Documentary Conference), Adelaide
2011 January: Jury FIFO Pacific Documentary Film Festival, January
2010 Industry Consultant SA Film Corporation Documentary Innovation Fund 2010
2009 Industry Assessor FFC Special Documentary Fund (2006 & 2009)
2008 Director Headlands Documentary Program, AFTRS
2008 Project Producer: ‘My Favorite Australian’ ABCTV Arts / National Portrait Gallery
- Hughes, J. (2016). New life for old bones: moving image collections at the National Archives of Australia In: Studies in Documentary Film, 10, 252 - 272
- Hughes, J. (2015). Trespass In: Adelaide Film Festival Adelaide, Australia
- Hughes, J. (2013). Love cand Fury: Judith Wright and 'Nugget' Coombs In: Finalist 'Best one-off broadcast documentary' Australian Director's Guild 2014 Finalist 'Science Technology & Environment' ATOM Awards 2013 Finalist 'Best Broadcast Documentary' Australian Writer's Guild AWGIE 2013 Melbourne, Australia