Our Role in the movie AUSTRALIA.

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B Visual Media Company Director, Vicky Biorac, was involved in finding

the location for Faraway Downs, Lady Ashley’s homestead

 

In December 2005 I received the phone call that put me on my way to four wheel driving through some of the most rugged terrain of the East Kimberley, scouting for potential locations for the Baz Luhrmann film ‘Australia’.  I’d had a meeting with the film’s Location Supervisor, Phillip Roope, to discuss how the surrounding ranges of Kununurra was to set the scene for the biggest movie ever to be made in Australia.  I had to pinch myself for this was surely the best job in the world, travelling through bushland around my home of 33 years scouting locations for the biggest movie in Australian history, and to be made by arguable the best Director in our country. 

It was the start of a 18 month adventure which had me travelling through the Ragged Ranges, Keep River National Park, Cockburn Ranges, bush bashing around a million acre cattle station, boat riding down the mighty Ord River and helicopter flights over the most beautiful parts of the East Kimberley.  We were scouting for cattle stampeding locations, a landscape suitable for erecting a grand 1930’s style homestead and landscapes that looked beautiful but desolate to set the scene for Lady Ashley first impressions of this country.  We also searched for locations that would enhance the romance developing between Lady Ashley and the Drover. 

 

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Vicky Biorac with Location Supervisor Phillip Roope in front of Lady Ashleys homestead


The first time I met Phillip Roope he handed me a map showing the location of two hills on a million acre cattle station.  He asked me to photograph them from absolutely every angle conceivable to man.  It took me two days, no mean feet considering it was the start of the wet season and the country was black soil and boggy.  At this stage I have to brag that I never got bogged.  One of the hills became the splendid range that was the backdrop to Lady Ashley’s homestead.  The first time I photographed House Roof Hill I knew that the range had grandeur suitable for an epic film of this scale.

 

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House Roof Hill, the backdrop to Lady Ashley’s Homestead


As well as assisting the Location Supervisor with scouting I also helped with the negotiations to establish the locations Baz wanted in the film. This was very involved as it required a number of things; gaining permissions for filming from lease holders, WA government for crown land, as well as permission from the Aboriginal Traditional Owners. It also involved building roads, organising salt water crocodile survey’s on the mighty Ord River and the lowering of the water level of the Ord River. The movie involved hundreds of cattle crossing the river and we sure didn’t want to loose cattle or actors to crocs or fast flowing currents! We were inundated with suggestions from various locals telling us of other places that we could film at where there was shallow water and no crocs…but ofcause this wasn’t to be, for a great film needing a great scenic location and Sandy Beach was just that – never mind the crocs and the current, we were going to find a way to cross cattle here. 

I also assisted Phillip in managing the locations once the filming started.  This involved creating location maps for the crew and cast, communicating with heads of department, letting them know where the locations were and what to find out there, signposting our roads to keep the crew safe, and organising the watering of the dirt roads on a daily basis to keep the dust down. Once I even had to find someone to shoot a poor station cow who had its jaw bitten off by a crocodile while it was taking a drink at the river.  We also kept searching for last minute locations during the filming and making them accessible.  This involved burning a hectar of sugar cane and building a road to a billabong in the middle of a salt flat in the middle of nowhere.

The beauty of this film was the positive ‘Can Do’ attitude that the Producers and heads of department had.  ‘We cannot do it’ was never an answer.  Where there was a will there was a way and I found this refreshing and inspiring.  It was a great job because it required me to focus on best outcomes involving negotiation skills that would leave all parties in a win/win situation.  The team had a great way of doing business that made the locals involved feeling a part of something great, and I feel honoured to have been a part of it.

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