The AFI was saddened by the sudden death of actor, director, producer and writer Esben Storm at the age of sixty yesterday.
The Australian screen industry has lost one of its great, but perhaps quietest, achievers. Esben Storm worked across film, television and documentary, both behind the camera and in front of it.
Esben Storm and producer Haydn Keenan were in their early 20s when they made their first feature 27A in 1974. Based on a true story 27A followed the experiences of an alcoholic man in the Queensland prison system. Storm would return to similar terrain two decades later in Deadly. 27A starred Robert McDarra, Bill Hunter and Richard Moir. Richard Moir would go onto be a frequent collaborator, appearing in In Search of Anna, Deadly, Winners and More Winners. 27A won the AFI Award for Best Film and Best Actor for Robert McDarra, who died the following year. You can read Paul Byrnes’ commentary here.
While some will remember the multi-AFI Award nominated feature In Search of Anna (1979) that won Esben Storm an AFI Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1979, it is his taut 1992 thriller Deadly, about Aboriginal deaths in custody starring Jerome Ehlers, Frank Gallacher and John Moore, that left a lasting impression. Deadly tackled the issue of racial tension in a frank manner and was one of the first screen explorations of the often harsh treatment of Indigenous people by the police and authorities. Deadly was nominated for two AFI Awards.
Esben Storm’s greatest legacy, however, was his extensive work in children’s television drama, often in association with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, notably on one of Australia’s most loved children’s series Round the Twist. Based on the books by Paul Jennings, Round the Twist starred Richard Moir, Mark Mitchell, Jeffrey Walker and an engaging young cast. A generation of Australian children was entertained and inspired by the tales of a family living in lighthouse where strange and exciting things happened.
Esben Storm also directed episodes of other significant children’s television series, most notably Touch the Sun: Devil’s Hill (1988) based on Nan Chauncy’s classic novel and the teen drama Winners (1985) and More Winners (1990) – all of which were screened in many a middle school classroom. More recently Storm directed the SBS drama series Kick (2007) which helped launched the careers of actors Zoe Ventoura, Firass Dirani and Natasha Cunningham.
Also a gifted character actor, Esben Storm was last seen in All Saints and has more than 26 films and TV series to his credit.
AFI Chair, Alan Finney said:
I am saddened by Esben’s passing but have fond memories of his energetic passion since first meeting him in the early 1970’s when he was part of an exciting time that created a revitalized local production industry.
Esben remained as enthusiastic about making films all his life and would unashamedly and delightfully share his latest project plans with me, never allowing the reality of the difficulty of getting films made to deter his commitment to achieve this.
He will be missed and will be remembered as a role model for future generations of Australian filmmakers.
Esben Storm is survived by his wife and two children.