Film director, producer, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor.
Tom Cowan began as a trainee with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. During that time he directed The Dancing Class, which won both the AFI's Best Film of the Year and a First Prize at the Commonwealth Awards in Edinburgh. He spent a number of years in England during the late 1960s and early 1970s, associating with a group of expatriates who became known as the 'Larrikins in London' - notably Germaine Greer, Robert Stigwood, Martin Sharp, Arthur Boyd, John Weiley and Richard Neville among others. During this period he made the documentary Australia Felix about ex-patriots' rosy view from afar of their homeland, and worked on various film and television productions as a cinematographer, including Philippe Mora's Trouble In Molopolis (1969 After meeting Indian director Pattabhi Rama Reddy Cowan was offered the position of Director of Photography for Reddy's film Samskara (1970). It went on to win India's Best Feature (President's Award) and many international prizes including the Silver Lion at Locarno. Cowan later returned to India to co-write and direct the feature, Chanda Maruta (1977, aka Wild Wind).
After returning to Australia Cowan wrote, co-produced and directed four feature films, these being The Office Picnic (1972), Promised Woman (1975), Journey Among Women (1977), which won the AFI's Most Creative Feature Film Award, and Sweet Dreamers (1982). During the same period he was also engaged as Director of Photography for a number of films, notably: Pure Shit (1975, aka Pure S), Love Letters from Teralba Road (1977), Third Person Plural (1978), Mouth to Mouth (1978), Dimboola (1979), Winter of Our Dreams (1981), Dead Easy (1982), One Night Stand (1984) and Emma's War (1986).
Cowan's first IMAX film as Director of Photography was Antarctica. It won the Prix du Jury at the Festival de la Geode - the major award for giant screen films. One of the most successful investments ever made by the Australian Film Finance Corporation the film has taken over US$100 million at the box office. Another of Cowan's IMAX films, Africa's Elephant Kingdom (1998), won him the Australian Cinematographer Society's Gold Award. Cowan's script for On Fire was a screenplay award winner at the Telluride Festival in 1999.
In 2000 Cowan directed the Yukatan section of Journey into Amazing Caves and sequences for China - The Panda Adventure. His filming assignments extend the long, long way from Survivor 2 - Down Under to Taj - The Magic of India in Imax. He gained an Emmy nomination in 2001 for his work on Survivor. In 2004 Cowan shot Disney Corporation's The Young Black Stallion - their Christmas release. His other film credits since 2000 include: Horses: The Story of Equus (2002), Orange Love Story (2004), which was well-received at the 2004 Melbourne International Film Festival, The Ballad of Betty and Joe (2009) and The Devils Bed (2010).
Filmography (as writer and/or director):