Skip to content

David Batty


David Batty is a Director, Writer and DOP with Rebel Films. His career spans 35 years of writing, producing, directing and shooting documentary throughout most parts of Australia. David’s love for the bush and remote Australia has provided an array of great characters and a rich palette to ply his storytelling skills. His films display empathy and rapport derived from deep trust and local knowledge.

Based in Alice Springs for 13 years, then Broome for 12 years and now living between his studio in Melbourne and his property on the South Coast of NSW, Batty has a long and distinguished history of making programs with and for Aboriginal people. His filmmaking career began around 1982 in Alice Springs where he established the TV production unit at CAAMA. David is well known for his hit television series made with the Warlpiri Media Association and Francis Jupurrurla Kelly, Bush Mechanics, which reached an audience of over three million viewers. Recent projects include co-directing Coniston, the story of Australia’s last massacre of Aboriginal People in Central Australia (also with Francis Jupurrurla Kelly), and the Web Series “Black As”, which tracks four young men and their wild adventures across Arnhem Land.

His interview for Satellite Dreaming Revisited was recorded in Alice Springs in November, 2011.

'You had to film it…' (interview with full transcript & links)

00:10 Coming to Central Australia and making The Look Show:

"..when I was about…I moved to Alice Springs…"

02:09 Yuendumu: Francis Jupurrurla Kelly & Eric Michaels:

"Francis Kelly came in from Yuendumu at a very early, early stage…"

06:19 Making Manyu Wana (the Warlpiri language programme):

"He's a showman Francis. So, he wasn't so interested…"

10:05 Making ‘Coniston’:

"Well the Coniston massacre story is… is very important to the Warlpiri people…"

14:07 Is there a particular Warlpiri/Yapa way of making TV (as Michaels thought)?:

"Look, it’s our technology… it's whitefella technology…"

15:23 Changes over the last decades:

"…I don't know, sort of sad what's happening…"

At the time David was interviewed for Satellite Dreaming, he had been making a series of educational videos in the Warlpiri language with the Warlpiri Media Association (now PAW Media).

There was no script at all – just a list of material, and kind of areas that we know we want to cover. It just evolves, and…someone’ll arrive in the community out of the blue, and they’re an expert in making puppets. So we say ‘…It would be great to have a few puppets, and they make these puppets out of old bits of tyre…We just do things that are funny and make kids laugh, between all the serious kind of counting, all the literacy, numeracy stuff, and the stories. We just have kind of funny things too, to make it all interesting: when we’re filming, the kids just love it, and they’re really in there and they’re kind of…they know what to do, they know what to do, and they …say ‘Look up like that!” and they kind of look ‘Aaaaah!’

We’ve made this sort of sound booth and they all jump in the sound booth when we need them, and they look at the screen and they make the noises, pop things on and make car noises like ‘Wheeeeeee’, and all this kind of carry-on…so they’re all really…it’s very much a home-grown thing… I saw these kids out on their oval, playing golf one day: the teacher must have brought his clubs out from town, or something. And I just thought ‘Ah, it would be a really neat thing to do…golfing!’ We like to throw in what we call ‘magics’: and our star of the show, Gordon, he’s doing all these magic tricks and jump on top of theses…and appear and disappear. So, he has all these kinds of supernatural powers. Even the music, we have the local band, and local musicians..

One of the original concerns was that ‘OK, people out there are going to get bombarded by all the soapies and all the rubbish culture…