July 20, 2012
Winton in demand as a movie location.
NATALIE POYHONEN: The stirring vistas of the outback have inspired generations of story tellers. The vastness of the landscape and the colours of the country work in tandem to bring this corner of Australia to life. It’s a relationship which has firmly caught the attention of film makers.
IVAN SEN, DIRECTOR: You can point a camera almost anywhere around here and it’s just like a photograph.
NATALIE POYHONEN: Ivan Sen went in search of the perfect location for his latest feature film and he found he couldn’t go past the town of Winton.
IVAN SEN: Once I got here the landscape just opened up and it just felt like it was the perfect place to set this story. You head out of town to the north here and it’s like this it’s all flat, flat fields but if you go south you’ve got these amazing mesas, red mesas and Spinifex country and so it’s such an amazing diverse range around here and it’s a murder mystery and it involves these things going on, kind of in secret and this base I think it just allows, you know it just has this mystery to it, this landscape so it was perfect for Mystery Road.
NATALIE POYHONEN: The film encompasses a number of genres from murder mystery to western but it’s also a story which is told from an indigenous perspective.
AARON PEDERSEN, LEAD ACTOR: Murder mystery’s about the mysterious murder of these young Aboriginal girls and it just so happens that my character Jay is just come back home and been at detective school for 10 years and all of a sudden this young girl turns up and it just starts the ball rolling and in a profound way I believe the land’s opened up and it believes that somebody’s in town to take care of this really serious issue.
NATALIE POYHONEN: While the subject matter of the movie is quite serious there’s a lighter side to this story too. For Winton residents it’s a chance to get some of their town’s character onto the big screen. And in this community there’s an abundance of talent.
BUTCH LENTON, WINTON SHIRE MAYOR: There’s plenty of actors here already (laughs) but there could be some new young ones coming through after this so it’ll be interesting to see.
NATALIE POYHONEN: There are challenges to making movies away from the major centres.
DAVID JOWSEY, MOVIE PRODUCER: It does cost money shooting in a remote location and there’s no question that you know you have to allow for that in your budget I guess one of the saving graces for us was that predominantly our crew is Queensland based.
NATALIE POYHONEN: But the residents have tried to offset any issues.
DAVID JOWSEY: You come to a community you have a big impact on the community you close roads, you build stuff, you’ve got a lot of people in the town buying stuff and asking for help on sorts of different levels so you really need a town that’s film friendly and you hear the term film friendly and really Winton is, it’s been amazing and it’s very humbling and it’s been moving in fact that people are so willing to go out of their way to help you just at every level.
NATALIE POYHONEN: The town is usually home to about 800 people but that’s been boosted with the addition of 30 members of the cast and crew.
BUTCH LENTON WINTON, SHIRE MAYOR: What it does for the economy of Winton is terrific it’s just something on top of the industries that we’ve got here the grazing and the transport and the mining with opals and gyps it’s just something on top of that as well as tourism that makes it great for the little town and makes it prosper.
PAUL NIELSEN, HOTEL OWNER: At this time of year the hotel accommodation is at a premium because of the tourism industry that’s here and the infrastructure but when you get a crew in like this on top of that yeah everything becomes a premium.
NATALIE POYHONEN: The room issue also means one of Mystery Road’s major sets at the back of town, the Dusk till Dawn Motel, has become an unlikely tourist spot of its own.
DAVID JOWSEY: Because there’s a shortage of accommodation in town a lot of people have tried to move in there and asked if it’s available even to the point that some people think it might be a new brothel setting up.
NATALIE POYHONEN: From the town’s perspective it’s just another part of film production.
BUTCH LENTON: People get right behind it and they want to make it happen and usually they put every bit of effort in to make sure it can happen and go along with it.
NATALIE POYHONEN: Local businesses and the council are keen to attract even more movies to this region but they’ve got their eye on one film in particular, Banjo and Matilda, which will tell the story of Banjo Patterson.
BILL LEIMBACH, PRODUCER, (BANJO AND MATILDA: Our film’s about three times the size of Mystery Road, so this is a massive Hollywood sized picture, so it’s going to have a big financial impact.
NATALIE POYHONEN: For the town though it’s about more than just the money.
CRAIG TEMPLEMEN, WINTON TOURISM FACILITIES MANAGER: I think the community here and all of the residents are very pro-Patterson if I can put it that way and he’s very very dear to our hearts out here and the whole region.
NATALIE POYHONEN: Winton has been lobbying hard to secure the story which is entwined with the town’s heritage.
CRAIG TEMPLEMEN: It’s purported that Banjo wrote the words to Waltzing Matilda of course out at Dagworth property either late January 1895 or early February. We think the words the song was then first performed at the very historic North Gregory here in Winton on the 6th April 1895 or thereabouts.
NATALIE POYHONEN: They’ve been in competition with New South Wales to attract the film’s producer Bill Leimbach.
BILL LEIMBACH: We went out there, they invited us out, they said you cannot make this film in Broken Hill it has to be done in Winton, so the council invited me out put me up there with my writer showed us all around we had the first morning there we had the full council, 11 council, we had mayor, ex-mayor, the four publicans, people involved in transport, everyone saying what can we do to make this film here?
BUTCH LENTON: It’s the people of Winton they like these things to happen and they’re in there giving it their best shot trying to make everyone feel comfortable.
NATALIE POYHONEN: It’s that enthusiasm which continues to impress film makers.
BILL LEIMBACH: But I tell you, maybe we should even use this program to announce that we have made a decision that we are going to Winton, that we’ll be doing a press release, they have won our hearts and our wallets, we are going to make the film in Queensland.
NATALIE POYHONEN: A move which will enshrine the town’s place as the home of iconic Australian stories.