on location in coollawarra

By Producer Vincent Sheehan

Mullet was shot on location in Kiama and the Illawarra district of the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia over 4 weeks in June 2000.

We had a film that was essentially a character piece set in a small coastal fishing town, where the character of the town - the world of the story - needed to be of equal weight as any of the human characters. The South Coast of N.S.W. is a beautiful part of the world. For a long time during the development of Mullet we always thought we could not afford the costs of shooting the entire film on location. Ironically, in the end we couldn’t afford not to.

Like most productions, the original shooting schedule combined some location shooting on the South Coast with all the interiors (and some exteriors) cheated in Sydney to save costs - this is a standard approach. However once the film was financed, it became increasingly clear to the filmmakers that post MI:2 & Matrix, Sydney was an expensive city to shoot in.

The fresh air, stunning coastal and rural locations and enthusiastic people of the Illawarra beckoned us like sirens. Almost overnight, the cost of relocating the entire crew to Kiama (and reducing the shoot to four six day weeks) became a necessity rather then an option. David Caesar found the inherent level of production value enormous. As he would say, “You could shoot in any direction!”

With the assistance of Film Illawarra (an organisation formed to encourage film production in the region), we were able to secure considerable support from the local councils as well as the Chamber of Commerce. But it was really the warm welcome and enthusiasm shown by the locals that sealed the deal. The people of Kiama and the Illawarra region gave us open access and offered new insights into the real world - the real people of the South Coast - and you can feel it on the screen. The variety in locations was quite extraordinary.

The locals got involved at every level. The Kiama Knights rugby league football team (lead by coach Richo) brought an authenticity to our team, the ‘Coollawarra Crows’. And who better to show Belinda McClory the technique for pouring a beer with a good ‘head’ than Parramatta football legend and local publican Mick Cronin. Robbo, larrikin Australian jockey and infamous roving reporter for ‘The Footy Show’ played the ref in the scene where the Kiama Knights play the Coollawarra Crows .

Then there is Val Blunker, a netball legend in these parts. She started the Kiama Netball Incorporation in 1986. Within a year she had 10 teams and now she has over 70. And Val was on hand with players, uniforms and tips about technique for Susie Porter and Peta Brady.

Steve Starling, respected fishing journalist, presenter from ‘Rex Hunt’s Fishing World’ and resident of Gerringong joined the cast as the local trawler fisherman. He also came to the rescue with a few mullet on the last day of the shoot - you can see them in the dream sequence. Punters will be pleased to know that the hero mullet which features flapping in the red bucket was saved after the shot and returned to the estuary to suck mud for another day.

Tiny Murphy, long time local since the 1940s was glad to help out with her back yard for the barbeque scene. David Caesar describes Tiny’s yard as “an iconic, big, broad, mowed rectangle, a boat with a VB sticker on the side and a shed with baby mullet in a tank. I’m not sure if it’s uniquely Australian but certainly unique”.

During the entire production locals were able to follow the production by my diary entries posted daily on the web site www.mullet.net.au. Fans were encourage to log-on and email us, with many opting to visit the set. The site gave many of the locals an insight into what happens on a film shoot and then they could walk down the road and have a look and a chat. It was an invitation to the people to feel that they were a part of the production.

The Illawarra people should feel as though they own it as much as the filmmakers do.