The Set (film)

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The Set
Directed by Frank Brittain
Produced by Frank Brittain
Written by Diane Brittain
Roger Ward
Kenneth Johnson (special material)
Based on a story by Roger Ward
Starring Sean McEuan
Rod Mullinar
Hazel Phillips
Music by Sven Libaek
Cinematography Sándor Siro
Edited by Bob Ritchie
Mawson Continental Pictures
Distributed by David Hannay Productions
Release date
  • 4 February 1970 (1970-02-04)
Running time
102 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget $60,000[1]

The Set is a 1970 Australian drama film directed by Frank Brittain and produced by David Hannay. The film depicts homosexuality within Australia, and was the first feature film in Australia to have homosexuality as a main theme.[2]


Paul Lawrence is a working class man who dates Cara, sells shirts at a Sydney department store, and dreams of attending art school. Cara leaves for London and Paul becomes the protege of designer Marie Rosefield. Through this he enters the 'set', the world of Sydney art society.

Rosefield is friends with Mark Broniski, an artist who commissions Paul to design a set for British stage director, John L. Fredericks. Paul is helped by art student Tony Brown, who is dating Paul's cousin, Kim Sylvester. Paul and Tony begin a homosexual affair. Kim's mother Peggy has an affair with Boronoski.

Paul and Tony break up and Paul attempts suicide. He is reunited with Cara.


  • Sean McEuan ... Paul Lawrence
  • Rod Mullinar ... Tony Brown
  • Hazel Phillips ... Peggy Sylvester
  • Dennis Doonan ... Mark Bronoski
  • Amber Rodgers ... Cara
  • Brenda Senders ... Marie Rosefield
  • Ann Achel ... Leigh Radford
  • Michael Charnley as John L Fredericks
  • Bronwyn Barber as Kim Sylvester
  • Elsa Jacoby as Baroness Baronski
  • Tracy Lee as Theo
  • Les Berryman
  • Murel Hopkins
  • Hugh Sawkins
  • Ken Johnson


The script was based on an unpublished novel written by Australian actor Roger Ward in 1960, based on diaries he had kept since 1954 reflecting on sexual mores in Australia.[3] He showed it to Ed Devereaux who suggested Ward take it to American producer Frank Brittain, who had just made Journey Out of Darkness (1967) and wanted to direct. Brittain asked Ward to rewrite the material and emphasise the homosexual content.[4] According to Ward, the script was rewritten by Brittain's 24-year-old third wife as well as novelist Elizabeth Kata.[3]

The movie was shot in early 1969. No sets were used, with filming taking place in private houses on Sydney's north shore and in Paddington. Production was highly publicised, in part due to a nude appearance by TV personality Hazel Phillips.[1] Roger Ward later said he was unhappy with the experience:

I was devastated to see the ruination of a previously polished and highly tuned script and spent my short time on set leaping in front of the cameras yelling, “Cut! That is not the dialogue”. It got to the stage that the actors were ignoring the director and coming to me in a clandestine manner to ask for interpretations and the correct lines to say. Understandably the director was angered by this and I was packed up and sent out of town on a phony publicity tour so a lot of the film went through without my input or salvaging and ended up in what I thought at the time was a ‘cringeworthy state’. So the risks I faced at that time, and they were real risks and they did eventuate, was one of being a laughing stock, of being embarrassed for creating such a badly written script.[3]


The censor demanded a dozen cuts before the film was passed for export. The producers appealed and in the end only four words were deleted. The film was refused registration as an Australian quota production under the quality clause of the New South Wales Film Quota Act.[1]

The film was not a success at the box office.[1] However, it has since come to be regarded as a cult movie in part because of its depiction of homosexuality.

Ward's original novel was finally published in 2011.[5] He claimed he was working on a sequel.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Andrew Pike and Ross Cooper, Australian Film 1900–1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998, 246.
  2. ^ 'Queer Sydney’s cinema locations', Sydney Star Observer, 26 April 2012 accessed 11 September 2012
  3. ^ a b c d 'The Set: An Interview With Roger Ward', Spike Magazine, 15 August 2011 accessed 11 September 2012
  4. ^ Richard Kuipers, The Set at Australian Screen Online accessed 11 September 2012
  5. ^ Cara Nash, "Back On Set", Filmink Magazine, 9 June 2011 accessed 11 September 2012

External links[edit]