Cinematographer focuses on island home

AN award-winning cinematographer who has worked with some of the biggest names in the film industry describes his retreat on Comerong Island as his own piece of paradise.

David Gribble has owned 13 acres on the island for 20 years, using it as his getaway from the high pressure world of filmmaking.

A career he set out on as a 16-year-old in Brisbane has seen him travel all over the world shooting films and commercials.

Along the way he has worked with Sir Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Sammy Davis Jnr, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Tom Selleck on various movies.

“It can be a high-pressure industry. Commercials may only last for 60 seconds but the clients are pumping the money into it and they want it to look good,” he said.

“With movies now, the pressure is on the speed of getting the project done while still ensuring it looks good.”

He shot The World’s Fastest Indian with Sir Anthony Hopkins in 2005 and his work on that movie as well as a number of commercial jobs led to him being named 2007 Australian Cinematographer of the Year.

“Anthony is a lovely man, he is just like the character he portrays in that film – a really nice man,” he said.

“He is a real English actor. Nothing fazes him. I think that comes from the time they spend on the stage – they are used to working in front of an audience.

“They cope with the chaos going on around them, unlike some US actors who sometimes can’t work with someone in their eye line or other distractions.”

He has also worked with Tom Selleck on the Jesse Stone series of movies directed by Robert Harmon, with whom he also worked on The Hitcher.

“Selleck plays an ex-LA cop who moves to a country town as the law man,” he said.

“It was all shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.

“Tom is very professional but pretty guarded.”

Highly regarded for his lighting and composition, Gribble was also nominated for an American Society of Cinematographers Award in Hollywood for his work on the Jesse Stone series.

He said working with martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme on Nowhere To Run and The Quest was an incredible experience.

“I know he has often been portrayed as a hot head in the media but I never found him that way,” he said.

“He’s a nice guy – you can only take people how they treat you.

“He had so many hangers-on – it was almost a tribal thing. A lot of the time people would goad him to try to make him react and he had to put up with a lot.

“He was incredibly fit but surprisingly not really that tall.”

He also shot Tap with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jnr, another Gregory Hines movie, a Vietnam War saga with Willem Dafoe in Bangkok and Cadillac Man with Robin Williams.

He has also worked on Australian movies Monkey Grip, The FJ Holden, Fast Talking and Running on Empty and TV series like

Skippy, which he said was a “fun experience”.

On Comerong Island he has spent the past 19 years building his home, Bird Haven Cottage.

“It’s been a big job and not having a lot of time to spend on it has been a challenge but I’m getting there,” he said.

“It is just such a special place.

“You can sit here in the morning and so many varieties of birds come in, it’s just a short walk to the beach where you can see dolphins surfing in the waves or giant sea eagles soaring over head – it’s a great retreat.” 

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