At the end of the first week of the shoot, my husband (screenwriter and co producer David Roach) came home clearly very impressed with the remarkably competent women on the set.
‘What am I, chopped liver?” I thought to myself.
Just exactly what kind of competency did these women have?
‘Oh you know, they fix generators, they climb rigging, they drive trucks,’ he said with undisguised admiration.
So I decided to go and check them out.
And sure enough, they are Hill 60’s Secret Weapon.
Leader of the pack is unit manager KIM GLADMAN , aptly named because she is always cheerful, no matter how tough the conditions. A self-confessed nurturer whom others call Earth Mother, you‘ll see Kim sweeping floors in punishing heat, happily cleaning toilets in a dusty paddock, doing anything that needs doing around the place to keep it ticking over smoothly. She is the only female unit manager in Australia and while her work uniform is shorts, boots, and a number 55 Rough Rider Akubra she replaces every year, she wears a different pear of earrings every day ‘as my one concession to being feminine.’
Her most important equipment on set is the coffee machine on the back of one of her trucks. ‘That is top priority’ she confirms. ‘Without that, the shoot would grind (forgive the pun) to a halt. She gets her coffee from a company in Albany called The Naked Bean and makes a mean latte.
Kim started in the film business twenty years ago as a driver, having grown up on the family gold and sapphire mine near Cooktown. (Her father, Graeme ‘Snowy’ Bostock, is Hill 60’s on set security guard.) Growing up around machinery from an early age, it was inevitable that she would end up driving trucks. ‘The mining industry likes hiring women because we are generally gentler on the gear, there’s less wear and tear,' says Kim who enjoys a bit of bush mechanic tinkering with engines.
In 1993 a film called The Penal Colony, starring Ray Liotta, came to the Atherton Tablelands. The production company used skips hired from Kim’s father’s business. ‘I had to empty out the rubbish’ says Kim ‘and when the unit manager, Tic Carroll, needed a driver for one of the trucks back to Sydney, he asked me and gave me my break into the business.’
Now Kim’s company, Ironbark Holdings, owns 8 trucks that she and her husband Ron built together, including Hill 60’s make up and wardrobe trucks.
Kim’s biggest gig so far was working on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. “I was second in command on that, with forty five trucks at base camp. I ran the set in Bowen, then Darwin, then Cunnunnurra and I had to provide shade, water and toilets for everyone. It was massive. I love the big productions like Mission Impossible 2 and Wolverine,’ says Kim who loves logistics and admits that at home she is a fierce list maker and neat freak, which can’t be easy as the mother of four children under the age of thirteen (two of whom accompanied her to Albany for the recent shoot of Tim Winton’sLochie Leonard, where they were extras).
Fool’s Gold, a romantic caper starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey presented special challenges.‘ We were on water virtually the whole time for a fifteen week shoot. We slept on cruise ships off Lizard island and had barges of food, and had to freeze all our rubbish and take it off site.’
Phil Noyce’s The Quiet American was the only time when she’s cried on set
‘ because suddenly I could not communicate with my crew, who were all Vietnamese and it was terribly frustrating, as we did not have enough interpreters.’ she says.
And the film she wishes she’d worked on ? ‘Braveheart!’ Kim says, without hesitation.
‘I’d like to work with Mel just once, so I am holding out for Mad Max Four!’
As if all this were not enough, Kim has a hydroponic lettuce business and a barramundi farm above Port Douglas, where she and her family live on one hundred and fifty acres. To relax, she loves taking the children camping at Lake Tinaroo. ’ We catch yabbies and cook in camp ovens. I love teaching the kids that stuff, it’s the nurturer in me coming out again,’ says Kim, who is looking forward to going home for a few months when Hill 60 wraps. ‘I never know what the next job is until the phone rings’ says Kim, before being summoned to go and check out a power problem. Before I know it, she’s round the back of a truck, checking cables and the generator. All is right again within minutes.
Competent. It’s the understatement of the year.