When Arthur Stace began chalking Eternity on Sydney’s footpaths in 1932, little did he know that this small, daily endeavour would have a continuing legacy that would impact many generations to follow.
Written in Chalk is the next chapter of the Eternity story, examining how the word has been used in Australia and around the world since it appeared on the Harbour Bridge as part of the Sydney Millennium Celebrations.
With input from a broad cross-section of well-known television and media personalities, internationally recognised theatre and opera producers, multi-award-winning writers and authors, independent community artists, street artists, university lecturers, and social, political and environmental activists, the documentary explores and celebrates the surprisingly diverse ways in which the word Eternity has been embraced and adapted as an indelible vehicle of personal, social and cultural expression.
Nearly a century since it first appeared on a footpath, Eternity still captures Australia’s imagination, generates headlines, and continues to play a part in our cultural story.
When I started the journey of making this film, I could not have imagined the diverse and eclectic mix of people who I would be privileged to meet, speak with and interview.
I started out wanting to tell the life story of Sydney eccentric, Arthur Stace – better known as Mr Eternity or The Eternity Man who wrote the eight letter word, Eternity, in copperplate script on streets, sidewalks and pavements for 35 years and more than half a million times.
As the project developed and I began to see the wide-reaching impact this one man has had across a broad cross-section of people, vocations, groups and interests in Australia around the world, the story I wanted to tell seemed somehow too small and linear.
Earlier films by Lawrence Johnston (1994) and Julian Temple (2008) have previously told Arthur’s life story with superb storytelling and creativity, focusing on his early life and influences, his radical conversion to Christianity, and his obsessive writing of Eternity on sidewalks and pavements.
Throughout the research and writing phases of this documentary, I found myself speaking with television personalities, politicians and social activists, composers, singers, actors and songwriters, clergy, graffiti and street artists, amateur painters, academics, social researchers, teachers, poets and world renowned creative directors and personalities.
Their passion and enthusiasm for the word Eternity, the impact the word has had and continues to have on them, and their diverse interpretations and presentations of the word took a hold of me.
I soon realised that this story tells itself, and my role was to strap in for the ride as this story needed to be managed and curated in a brand new way.
More than 20 years after Eternity was shared with the world at the Sydney millennium celebrations and the Sydney Olympic Games, Arthur’s life story would be best told through the impact he is having today – through the stories of people who are celebrating, using, adapting and re-presenting his story and his copperplate script Eternity to people in Australia and around the world today.
Written in Chalk is the next chapter of the Eternity story, and builds on the work of Arthur Stace, Martin Sharp, Remo Giuffre, Lawrence Johnston, Ignatius Jones, Ric Birch and Jonathan Mills.
It has been my privilege to produce and direct this film, to catch the passion and drive of the diverse range of people who I have met , and by the way this eight letter word written in chalk by one individual continues to reverberate through the lives of so many people today.