Herbert Pinter is an award-winning Perth-based production designer who has worked on some of the most iconic Australian and international film and television productions of the last four decades.
Born in Austria in the mid 1940s, Herbert had not considered a career in film until he moved to Australia as an 18-year-old. Though he loved watching films as a child – particularly American westerns – Herbert never gave any thought to a creative career. It was not until he was working as a carpenter in Adelaide in 1973 that he stepped onto his first film set, picking up work with the Australian Film Corporation constructing and decorating sets.
After his first job with the Corporation he was offered a permanent contract as a construction manager and fell into a life with film, working on productions like Storm Boy (1976) and The Last Wave (1977). “After I started I didn’t want to do anything but work on films.” Herbert learned by working hands-on in the industry and observing his peers, graduating to the role of art director in the early 1980s. In 1981, he landed a role as art director on Peter Weir’s Gallipoli.
Herbert was nominated for an Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for Best Achievement in Production Design for Gallipoli, and still refers to it as “the scariest film” he has ever done. His work on Gallipoli boosted his career significantly and the phone began to ring only days after he returned from shooting. His next big film was The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), for which he was again nominated for an AFI award for his impressive production design. Throughout the 1980s, Herbert proved his talent in the diverse productions he worked on. From historical dramas, to modern action, Herbert prides himself on his ability to transform the most difficult location into a set from any era or world.
In 1987, Herbert travelled to Western Australia for the first time to work on a children’s television production called A Waltz Through the Hills. While shooting the series, he met and fell in love with the production’s location manager – now his wife. At the same time, he fell in love with Perth and never returned to Adelaide. He jokes that when he first made the move, directors like Bruce Beresford would call him up and ask why he was living in faraway Western Australia, and he would reply that it is “the best place in the world.”
During the 1990s, Herbert continued to design major productions around the world from a range of genres. He travelled to Canada for Black Robe (1991) for which he was awarded Canadian Film and Television Academy’s Genie for Best Art Direction. He also worked as production designer for action movie Sniper (1993) in Queensland and on creating World War II scenes for Paradise Road (1997). Throughout the 2000s, Herbert worked on action movies Texas Rangers and The Marine, and on two major Australian children’s television series: Parallax and Wormwood.
In 2004, Herbert was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for his work on the telemovie And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself. For the same production, Herbert won an Art Directors Guild award for Excellence in Production Design. The film, an historic Western recreation starring Antonio Banderas, took Herbert and his family to Mexico in the early 2000s where his daughter worked on set as a horse wrangler. Herbert has travelled the world throughout his career and often takes his family with him, exploring locations not often seen by tourists.
In 2009, Herbert worked on critically acclaimed film Mao’s Last Dancer, and was again nominated for an AFI award for Best Production Design. In 2011, Herbert worked on the intricate television adaptation of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet. The following year, he won the APDG Award for Design on a Television Drama and the esteemed Australian Academy Cinema Television Arts Award for Outstanding Achievement in Television Screen Craft for his production design on Cloudstreet.
In recent years, Herbert worked on the ABC production Serangoon Road and mini-series The Secret River. He is still incredibly passionate about his job and thrives on the challenge of creating new worlds. “Who else gets to build a whole village or city, then knock it all down?”
Herbert Pinter lives with his wife on a property on the outskirts of Perth. He continues to take on new film projects.