Brian Trenchard-Smith

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Brian Trenchard-Smith
Brian Trenchard-Smith.jpg
Born 1946 (age 70–71)
England, United Kingdom
Occupation Film director, film producer, screenwriter

Brian Trenchard-Smith (born 1946) is an English-Australian film and television director, producer, writer, consultant and actor who is notable for his contributions to the horror and action genre during the 1970s and 1980s in Australia. Most of his work has been in television, and the majority of his films have been direct-to-video releases. His 1970s and 1980s Aussie films were theatrically released. He generally works in the drama, action and horror genres. He has directed 42 films and television series including Turkey Shoot, StuntRock, Dead End Drive-In, The Man from Hong Kong, and Leprechaun 3.

In addition, he also has been credited by Quentin Tarantino as one of his favorite directors.[1]


He was born in England, the son of a senior officer of the Royal Air Force (RAF), and lived for a time in Libya, where his father was stationed.[2] His family moved to RAF Odiham, Hampshire and he made his first film at the age of 15 on 8mm, a 2-minute short called The Duel. The following year he made the ten-minute The Chase about a lunatic who escapes from an asylum and chases a boy around the countryside with a bayonet.[3]

He was commissioned to make a film about his school, Wellington College, for prospective parents. He showed this around once he left school, and it helped him get work as an editor's assistant and camera assistant with a French news company in London.[4] However he was unable to get into the union so he moved to Australia in 1965 (his father was Australian).[5]

Trenchard-Smith worked at Channel Ten as an editor, doing news, documentaries and station promos. He moved over to Channel 9 to work as promotions director, then in 1968 he returned to England and went to work in London as a junior writer/producer of feature film trailers at National Screen Service.

In 1970 he returned to Channel 9 as network promotions director, and made his directorial debut with a French TV special Christmas in Australia.[6]

Documentary filmmaker[edit]

After two years at Channel 9 Trenchard Smith formed his own production company, borrowed $16,000 and made a one-hour television special about stuntmen called The Stuntmen featuring Grant Page. This was a success and enabled him to make a number other TV specials, usually with a theme of action and/or danger. Kung Fu Killers, which also featured Page, was particularly successful.[7] Throughout this decade Trenchard-Smith also worked cutting trailers.

Trenchard-Smith was going to Hong Kong to make an $8,000 documentary on Bruce Lee called The World of Kung Fu but arrived on the day Lee died. He turned the documentary into a tribute on Lee, and in the course of making it met Raymond Chow who helped fund Trenchard-Smith's first feature, The Man from Hong Kong (1975). The film was successful internationally launching his career as a feature director.

Feature director[edit]

The Man from Hong Kong was made for The Movie Company, a production company half owned by Trenchard-Smith and Greater Union. The Movie Company then made the documentary Danger Freaks before Greater Union pulled out. Trenchard Smith then made Deathcheaters (1976) which performed disappointingly and spent nine months on a proposed film that never got up, The Siege of Sydney. However he then made a dramatised short Hospitals Don't Burn Down which won a number of awards and was highly successful.[8] Trenchard-Smith then made a film in the US called Stunt Rock which he once called "probably the worst film I have made".[9]

Among his most fondly remembered credits are the cult classic Turkey Shoot (1982)[10] and BMX Bandits (1983), where he worked with Nicole Kidman.[11]

Move to the USA[edit]

In January 1990 Trenchard Smith moved to Hollywood. He says when he left Australia "I was possibly a medium-sized fish in one of cinema's smaller ponds" and when he arrived he "immediately became plankton." [12] (In 2001 he wrote "I believe I have now evolved into a sardine. My career goal is to become a dolphin, playfully cruising through a variety of genres on adequate budgets."[12])

He established himself by attaching himself "to as much material as possible. Sling enough mud at the wall, something will stick." He also earned a reputation for reliability. "Deliver the goods, above and beyond creative and fiscal expectations. Mr Reliable is a popular guy. Specialise in the difficult. No task too great, no budget too small. Work breeds work, particularly if you leave your producers smiling rather than unhappy. Low-budget genre film making does not mean you have to check your personality at the door."[12]

In 2011 Trenchard Smith says his passion project is to do a revisionist history of Richard III.[13]

Career appraisal[edit]

Trenchard Smith once said this of his own films:

There is something you always get in a Trenchard-Smith movie: pace, a strong visual sense, and what the movie is actually about told to you very persuasively. Whatever I do, I'll still be applying a sense of pace: trying to find where the joke is and trying to make the film look a lot bigger than it cost.[4]

He says his main advice for directing is:

Be a good leader, kind father, energetic brigade commander to your cast and crew; no one gives their best in an atmosphere of blame and fear, as happens on big star driven movies; humor is much more effective in team management; try to make your own enthusiasm for the project contagious to everybody. Then pick locations that have natural production value... Plan well. Shot list. Make every hour of shooting count.[3]

His favourite among his own movies are The Man From Hong Kong, BMX Bandits, Dead End Drive In, The Siege Of Firebase Gloria, Night Of The Demons 2 and Happy Face Murders.[14]

His main influences growing up were Alfred Hitchcock, Henry Hathaway, Anthony Mann, J. Lee Thompson, Robert Aldrich, Raoul Walsh, King Vidor and John Ford.[15]

Selected filmography[edit]


TV specials[edit]

  • Marty Feldman in Australia (1972)
  • The Big Screen Scene (1972)
  • For Valor (1972) – about winners of the Victoria Cross
  • The Stuntmen (1973) – one hour
  • The World of Kung Fu (1973)
  • Inside Alvin Purple (1973) – promotional film for Alvin Purple (1973)
  • Kung Fu Killers (1974)
  • Danger Freaks (1976) – 4-part
  • Hospitals Don't Burn Down (1977) – 24 minute TV short made for $90,000[16][17]
  • Sahara (1995)
  • Happy Face Murders (1999)
  • Britannic (2000)
  • The Cabin (2011)
  • Chemistry (2011)

Unmade films[edit]

  • Bad Fruit (1976) – he was to be executive producer on this proposed $350,000 Keith Salvat project about people in Sydney in the early 1950s[18]
  • Siege of Sydney (1977) – project written by Michael Cove with Trenchard Smith wanted to make after Deathcheaters about ex-CIA operatives who plant a nuclear device on Pinchgut Island and demand $5 million – the budget was $450,000 and Trenchard Smith raised $200,000 from CIC but they pulled out after the box office failure of Black Sunday (1977)[19]
  • Time Warp (c. 1980) – a $20 million science fiction film for the Disney Corporation which was to be made in 1982 but was put on the back burner after the disappointing performance of The Black Hole (1979)[20]
  • Blowing Hot and Cold (1984) – originally announced as director[21]
  • Avengers of the South Seas (1984) – $4.6 million action adventure to be set in South China seas to reunite him with the producer and writer of BMX Bandits[21]
  • Roadwars (circa 1987) – film about modern gladiators set in the near future from the producer and writer of BMX Bandits[22]


Dring the late 60s and 1970s, Trenchard Smith was one of the leading makers of film trailers in England and Australia. Among the films whose trailers he edited are:[23]

See also[edit]

  • Not Quite Hollywood
  • Brennan, Richard, 'Brian Trenchard-Smith', Cinema Papers, Dec-Jan 1979-80
  • Jones, Brian, 'A Horse for all courses', Cinema Papers, March 1986 p 27-28


  1. ^ Moore, Tony (16 August 2008). "Larrikin streak". The Australian. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  2. ^ "Brian Trenchard-Smith Interview", Daily Grindhouse accessed 8 February 2013
  3. ^ a b "Interview with Brian Trenchard Smith",, 5 August 2011 accessed 8 February 2013
  4. ^ a b Jones p27
  5. ^ "My Interview with Brian Trenchard Smith", Soldier of Cinema, 26 December 2010 accessed 24 October 2012
  6. ^ Brennan p599
  7. ^ Brian Trenchard-Smith, 'Kung Fu Killers', Australian Centre for the Moving Image – Australian Perspective Essays, August 2008 Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Complete copy of film on YouTube at Film Australia's You Tube channel
  9. ^ Brennan p602
  10. ^ Brian Trenchard-Smith, 'No Film for Chickens', Australian Centre for the Moving Image – Australian Perspective Essays, 23 June 2008 Archived 28 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ 'Check out a 16-year-old Nicole Kidman! Her first director says she had 'IT' by Chris Nashawaty, Inside Movies, 6 March 2011
  12. ^ a b c Trenchard-Smith, Brian (11 August 2001). "HOLLYWOOD SURVIVOR". Daily Telegraph. 
  13. ^ 'Brian Trenchard-Smith on 'BMX Bandits,' Forgotten Gems and the Current State of the Film Industry' by Peter Hall, Cinephone, 21 Mar 2011
  14. ^ "The Wizard of Oz: An Interview with Brian Trenchard Smith", Screen Highway, 22 May 2012 Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 24 Oct 2012
  15. ^ Bryan Van Campen, "Interview with Filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith",, 14 November 2012 accessed 8 February 2013
  16. ^ "COMPACT.". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 21 June 1978. p. 57. Retrieved 5 August 2012. 
  17. ^ Brennan p601-602
  18. ^ "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, June–July 1976 p61
  19. ^ Brennan p601
  20. ^ Brennan p603
  21. ^ a b "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, August 1984 p259
  22. ^ "Production Survey", Cinema Papers, September 1987 p66
  23. ^ Brennan p674

External links[edit]