MULLET: The Shoot Scrapbook

 

November, 1992

David Caesar writes short story. "What are you looking at ya stupid ugly c___."

 

November, 1994

The short story has turned into a first draft feature film script entitled "Mullet". David and Vincent Sheehan meet at Bar Italia in Norton Street Leichhardt and exchange stories about growing up in coastal NSW towns - David in Moruya, Vincent in The Entrance. They agree to make the movie.

 

May, 1997

Vincent travels to Cannes with Mullet under his arm. No real takers. Hooks up with Andrew Mackie from the Globe Film Co. They party, go to Dennis Hopper's birthday party and get glared at by Charlie Sheen. Globe gets interested in Mullet and by late 1998 the Globe Film Co and SBS independent commit to the project.

 

Wednesday 6 May, 1998

David Caesar, Vincent Sheehan and Ben Mendelsohn meet Morgan's on Victoria Rd, Darlinghurst to discuss Mullet (the film and the character.) Ben agrees to star.

Monday 24 April - Pre production begins

A public holiday. No make that two public holidays in a row, right at the start of pre production. When you have only got 5 weeks, loosing two days in pre production can be quite a delay. Solution, we kick things off today with a Bar B Q at David's - Beer and burnt meat, to introduce the creative heads of Department and set the tone for the shoot. A Bar B Q is always a good way to crack the ice, more poignant in this film then others, but I guess you'll just have to see the film to really understand where I am coming from.

 

Day 1, Monday 29 May, 2000

Gerringong, shoot day 1. Bitterly cold. It is snowing in Canberra (100kms west) and the wind is stinging. Snow is falling for the first time in history in many inland areas of Australia. A crew car was stolen overnight, but found next morning a few hundred metres away. Fortunately First Assistant Director John Titley's dog Bella steals everyone's attention at breakfast outside the first location, Mick Cronin's pub. Bella helps us forget about the cold. Turnover at 11.45am - Ben and Belinda scenes 14 and 45 INT PUB NIGHT. By lunch at 3pm the wind is knocking people over. Ben entertains at lunch with real stories about being cold; naked on top of Mt. Cook in NZ for the filming of "The Vertical Limit". Peta and Wayne arrive for scenes 61 and 65. Wrap at 20:15. We wrapped on time and have shot the call sheet.

 

Bella. Shoot Mascot.

Day 2, Tuesday 30 May, 2000

Wrapped at 19:20 - Cian O'leary, our champion runner, is battling the elements to get rushes (scenes shot the day before) to the South Coast. We watch mute rushes using an old 35mm projector in the 'as new' Gerringong Town Hall (circa 1940), courtesy of Harry Waghorn and his projectionist son Gary. Harry is the local independent exhibitor who has been screening summer films in the town hall since 1954.

David Caesar and Ben Mendelsohn

Bar scene through video split

 

Day 3, Wednesday 31 May, 2000

A pig dog called Rocco, and one dead pig are the feature art department props for today. Today we shoot the early scene on the outskirts of Coollawarra where Mullet is traveling back into town. Coollawarra is the small town where our film is set - just south of Kiama and not far from Gerringong, 150km south of Sydney on the NSW south coast. The weather has eased up a little and lunch is in a peaceful and picturesque bush location - today it feels more like a picnic then a film shoot.

Director of Photography Bob Humphreys in action on location at Coollawarra.

 

Day 4, Thursday 1 June, 2000

Except for yesterday, most of this week has been interior pub scenes. We were unable to find a pub in Coollawarra so the location is the Gerringong pub owned by Mick Cronin - an ex-Australian Football Representative. Mick played centre's for Parramatta for most of the 1980's and still holds the record for most points scored in a career. The Cronins have owned the pub for decades and Mick runs it with his sister and brother. This is the pub that Belinda McClory's character Kay run's. Like many actors Belinda has spent her time serving behind the bar and she knows how to pull a beer. Nevertheless Mick gives her a few pointers on the nuances of the taps in his pub. This is Andrew S Gilbert's first day on. We shoot scene 84 one of the final scenes in the film, which is always tough for an actor.

 

Day 5, Friday 2 June, 2000

It starts pouring at lunch and we are scheduled to be outside for the afternoon. Wet weather cover is called and we are off to Jerra for an interior night scene that has Ben and Belinda also scheduled. The crew is very much up to speed and we only shoot 15 minutes over the schedule.

 

Day 6, Saturday 3 June, 2000

What does every crew dread? Answer; a dawn shot. It is 4:30am and the shock to the system is softened by the magic of the location. We are at an old farm house on Jambaroo Rd Jamberoo, Breakfast is under the stars and the sky is clear for a very beautiful sun rise. The property is owned by Cedric Rutledgee who is 84 years old, a confirmed bachelor who lives by himself. The house was built in 1912 and he has lived there since he was born. He is a photographer, and self educated and knows every bit of this valley where he lives, as you could imagine. The area is rich in Aboriginal sites and there is a few within 100 metres of his house. Cedric tells no one because he says they should be left as they are. I wanted to get a photo for the scrapbook but Cedric wanted to remain anonymous. The art department have transformed Cedrics place, but by the end of tomorrow everything will be back to normal, except the chock shed, which Cedric wishes to keep.

 

Day 7, Monday 5 June, 2000

Night shoots this week and despite the freezing winds we shot a scene tonight in which the actors had to look like they were enjoying a football training session (in shorts and t-shirts) until 3 am - folks, the acting profession isn't always as glamorous as it sounds, though our professional cast did a great job. If Ben was any more accommodating he'd be manning the catering truck which, by the way, served a killer Indian beef curry today. Clare caterer moved away from the usual seafood and chicken dishes with salad in favour of beef considering the additional extras - The Kiama Knights. Yes, a real football team, complete with real facial scares and bruises. Our actors Aaron Blabey and Ben, who both grew up in Melbourne, had a bit of trouble remembering not to hand pass. However, actors Steve le Marquand and Wayne Blair (who once played for Canterbury under 19s) gave the Knights a run for their money. The scenes we shot today tells the story of Mullets first run back with the his old mates on the team, the guys he grew up with.

 

 

Day 8, Tuesday 6 June, 2000

Today we are shooting at Val Brunker oval. Val Brunker is 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. She badgered the council for years to give her some grounds and when she heard they were putting in a car park near the aquatic centre she asked if she could mark up the asphalt for Netball. It has never been used as a car park and is now named after her. Last year one of her girls was selected for the national under 19s. Val lives at Minamurra, just north of Kiama and often goes fishing in the Minamurra river for mullet. She reckons the best way to catch mullet is with a bit of bread on a hook with no sinker, just let it drift on the surface of the water. And the best way to cook them is immediately, with just a sprinkle of flower.

 

Day 9, Wednesday 7 June, 2000

Our Hero location; Peter and Tully's interior house. ('Hero' is a term used to describe a prop or location that is featured and is critical in the story telling). This location was only found in the last week of pre production so has been the focus of a lot of attention from our art department, who have been busy ensuring it conforms to the world of the movie. Designer Elizabeth Moore and her team has been doing shifts around the clock to get it ready. This included building and painting a false wall until 2 am last night, only to have David Caesar exclude using it in every set up. As Elizabeth says, "comes with the turf honey". By lunch she was out the door to continue dressing tomorrow's location. What was for lunch you ask? Yes, finally Clare has served up mullet.

Clare's Mullet Recipe

Plain BBQ, in virgin olive oil, with salt and pepper (score the skin because that is where the flavor is). Add Sumac (Morocan/Lebanese spice) and sautéed in leek, fennel, lemon and olives. "Because mullet is an oily fish you could also marinate in vinegar befor you BBQ. The Indonesians do this with mackerel because the flavor is so strong." - Clare Pollard, The Camera Cooks

Looks like we will be getting mullet again before the shoot is over.

 

Day 10, Thursday 8 June, 2000

This afternoon we are at the Police station on Terralong Terrace on the main street of Kiama. A couple of the locals gather around and one tells me she was on set in the Mediterranean for Otto Preminger's "Rosebud". She spent many nights drinking with Robert Mitchum and got engaged to the films stunt man - which she called off two months later. After dinner we move location to the Minamurra River, where we put three of our cast (Andrew S Gilbert, Susie Porter and Kris McQuade) in the river for a prawning scene. To make them feel better we put the camera crew in the water also. The tide is low, there is a full moon and unlike the other night shoots there is no wind. This is the opening scene of the film and one of the other featured cast are on for the first time. Yes, live mullet! The hero fish that is featured in this scene was previously scheduled for the Sydney fish market earlier today, we saved him and later that night we released him (with a kiss of course) back into the wild.

 

Day 11, Friday 9 June, 2000

After some pressure from the Sydney Film Festival we are lucky enough to reschedule the Susie Porter scenes for today for later on. At 8pm that night, 24 hours after she was up to her thighs in the Minamuarra river, she is gracing the stage of the State theatre for the launch of Better Than Sex. At the party afterwards she is dragged by fans, press and her adoring peers from one end of the room to the other. She needs to be on set by 10am at Marsden street Kiama which is a two hour drive. At 1am with glass in hand Susie still has a lineup of people to get through. I left at this stage and she assures me she was on the road by 1:20am...

 

Day 12, Saturday 10 June, 2000

End of day 12 and we are half way through the shoot. Actor Steve Le Marquand is not due on set today, but has been invited by the Kiama Knights to play for their reserve team which is short a player. Steve tells nobody because he knows the production could not allow this during shooting. What if he gets injured? They are playing Batemans Bay, one of the top teams, so it is was always going to be a tough game. After wrap and rushes at 9pmeveryone is off to the Leagues Club for a drink and a boogie. Members of the Kiama Knights are there and before too long the truth comes out. After 18 minutes Steve copped a head high tackle and suffered a broken nose and told all his team mates to keep it quiet. He forgot that we are in a small town. He has 7 days for the bruising to go down before we shoot his next scene.

 

Monday 12 June, 2000

Queens Birthday long weekend and today is a public holiday. Half the crew go horse riding but I opt for a walk on Seven Mile Beach. Quiet and still with no one around.

 

Day 13, Tuesday 13 June, 2000

Today is the postcard location of the shoot - a picturesque tidal estuary on the Minamurra river, thick with mangroves and paperbark trees. Located just on the outskirts of Coollawarra this is where Mullet lives when he returns to town. The caravan has been there for years (with the help of the Art Department.) David describes the caravan as organic as if it grew out of the ground where it stands. There is also an old boat just where Mullet left it three years ago that he can use to fish for mullet. The surrounding bush is alive with birds and once again lunch feels more like a picnic at the zoo than a film shoot. This is helped by the arrival of Shadow, a 12 week Golden Retriever pub which Ben and his girlfriend Hollie have just bought. Although Ben wanted to call it Mullet he has now settled on Shadow. Bella, our on set mascot, is not amused. In late afternoon during the shooting of a very quiet moment where Ben is drifting in his boat, alone, just him and the elements, 40 surveyors form the RTA appeared in the background. We have been informed that a freeway is going through next year right over the top of where we we are filming. We had to move some of the surveyors markers, so if you find a slight kink in the new freeway as you are travelling south you'll know that's were Mullet was filmed.

Director David Caesar with Ben's dog Shadow - what a director will do to keep his actors happy

 

Day 14, Wednesday 14 June, 2000

We return to the caravan for a full day. It is still and surprisingly warm. You could not have wished for weather this perfect. Today we shoot the scenes where Ben is fishing for Mullet from the small row boat. Water and cameras are not a good mix. We have 3 of the crew in waders but the river is muddy and slippery and we lose both the second AD Kardy and the Standby Props Adrienne Ogle (Ado) into the drink. I have been telling them that the water is still warm for this time of the year but they assured me I was wrong. Steve Starling from Rex Hunt's Fishing Adventures is on set and he informs us that we have both the Bully Mullet and the Fantail Mullet in our holding tank (they all looked the same to me). For more information about Steve's on set experience visit his website at www.fishoz.net.

 

Day 15, Thursday 15 June, 2000

Today we shoot the last scene of the film with Belinda McClory and Ben. We are back at the Gerringong Hotel and an ENG crew from the National Rugby League are also on site to shoot an interview with Mick Cronin because his record will be broken this weekend. After lunch we move locations to Jerrara (5 kms west) where we are using the interior of an old farm house to match the exterior we shot on Day 6. To get to this property you have to pass through a series of gates and although the cows are not around today the art department often lose a cow through one of the gates and spend valuable time coaxing it back to where it belongs. Today a gas company, which is putting a pipe line though the property, has decided to start dumping dirt on the paddock right next to the house. What up until now has always been an isolated and quiet rural location has become a construction site - there's Murphy's Law for you. The truck drivers are reasonable blokes and decide to work elsewhere for the day.

 

Day 16, Friday 16 June, 2000

This morning we are on set at the fish co-op in Coollawarra's harbour. Paul Kelman is on today. Paul will play Gary, an old friend of Mullet that might be able to get him some fishing work. A group of Japanese tourists, who appear to be on a co-op tour of Australia, pull up in a couple of cars and are in the co-op trying to by some fish from Peta and Ben before anyone has a chance to stop them. Steve Leoloes, our co-op owner, explains the co-op is shut but I think it was difficult for him to do as it looked as though they were going to buy the place out. Steve Starling is also back on today and plays Gary's offsider. The Movie Show arrive on set for a series of interviews. Margaret Pomeranz is a little late but we soon spot her coming around the harbour in her Alfa sports with the top down! We interview Susie and Ben at this location then move to the caravan site for the afternoon scenes. The Movie Show followed and interview David, Elizabeth, Bob and Andrew. During Bob's interview a couple of Mullet that were caught for us the that morning, and delivered as fresh, but dead, suddenly started flapping about in a bag a few meters away. If our film has as much life as those fellas then we have a hit. Keep checking back to see when the Movie Show's on set visit will air.

 

Day 17, Saturday 17 June, 2000

Call: 6 am. Location: football field, showgrounds, Bong Bong Street Kiama. Scenes: 8 and 9 - The Coollawarra Crows are playing the Kiama Knights. Its been a tough season for both teams, with the Knights and Crows equal in the middle of the table. Both teams need a win today. The Crows are one man down at half time, they win the second half but lose the game 12- 9. Allan Robinson, celebrity jockey and segment host from the Footy Show is playing the referee for today's game. His call time was 6am and at 6:15 he rings from Newcastle (300km north) to say he is having plane trouble...the joys of film production! He was in the air by 6:30am to arrive at Albion Park (light aircraft air strip that services Shellharbour, Kiama and Coollawarra) at 7:30am. It took David and cinematographer Robert Humphreys about an hour to block the scene with the Crows and Knights. Allan arrives just in time and after 5 seconds in wardrobe he is on the field and is a real natural. We wrap Allan at 11:30 and he is bundled into the car and off to race somewhere. Later that night, just before rushes screening, with most of the crew gathered in my room, we see on the news that Allan, while leading his race in the home stretch, was flown from his horse and taken to hospital. He was not seriously injured and will live to ride, but probably not referee, again. Watch the Footy show in July for a full coverage of Allan and his experience as a film star!

Aaron Blabey and Steve Le Marquand

Day 18, Monday 19 June, 2000

Dawn shot again. Breakfast under the stars. This scene wasn't in the script when we started but now DC says it is crucial for the scenes that follow to work. We are looking out over the ocean at Kiama near the blow hole waiting for the light, waiting a good 15 minutes, 15 minutes that could have been spent in bed. We only have Susie Porter on for this scene - looking good and up to speed any time of the day. Today we start the slate competition. This is a tradition on film shoots, where every member of the cast and crew can guess (for $10) what the last slate of the shoot will be. The camera department have the insider information about how many slates we are averaging and what is expected in the next weeks, so every one is in their ears. By the afternoon the kitty is up to $300.

 

Day 19, Tuesday 20 June, 2000

Back at the fish co-op today. The investors arrive for a visit, and lunch of course, which is on the water at the Kiama Harbour. Just as desert arrives (lemon delicious) a couple of whales appear from around the point. Kardy the 2nd AD announces that they are right on cue and takes the credit for them. But seriously folks this is what makes this part of the world special.

 

Day 20 and 21, Wednesday and Thursday 21 & 22 June, 2000

We are not giving away to much info about what happened on these days, but it does involve a BBQ. You'll just have to see it on the big screen.

The Coollawarra Crows (premiers 2000)
Melinda Doring (Costume Design) John Titley (1st AD) David Caesar (Director)Vincent Sheehan (Producer) Bob Humphreys (DOP) Katherine Brown (left wing) ) Front Row Elizabeth Moore (Production Designer) Andrew S Gilbert (actor) Susie Porter(actor) Ben Mendelson (actor and Captain), Michelle Russell (Production Manager)

 

Day 22, Saturday 24 June, 2000

Last day, its over. Its funny how your body knows when its time to collapse. Its not a hard day but like most shoots its hard to get to that last slate. Which reminds me - on the last set up David is probably going to be the winner. We are on slate 541 and he has slate 542. There is $400 dollars in the kitty. The last scene is with some mullet. Eddie our usual supplier has failed over night to catch some mullet for the scene. I put a call into our friend Steve Starling and he says he'll see what he can do, but no promises. At 4 pm just as I was about to tell DC there would be no live mullet, with only minutes to spare, Steve turns up. 30 minutes later they are ready for their 15minutes of fame. David uncharacteristically decided to shoot fewer options than usual and the slate goes to 547. Michelle Russell wins the slate comp - she puts some on the bar at the wrap party, and would have put more on except I would not let her. The wrap party was held at Coollawarra Cocktail Bar of the Iguana Restaurant. What happened at the party? Well probably stuff I cant mention on the web. But let me just say it kicked on to the wee hours of the morning. Oh and sorry to those residents at Tingira Street Kiama for the disco music at 3am.

Sunday 25th June

Suddenly it's over. One by one the crew and cast disappear. Ben flys to LA to do ADR (additional dialogue recording) for VERTICAL LIMIT. Ado (standby props) has a day off and is off to Port Douglas in Northern Queensland to work on the re make of South Pacific starring Glenn Close. I run into a few of the crew around town having breakfast (which is about 3pm today). But Tonya, Dom and John have the right idea they are drinking chilli marguerites and nibbling on bruschetta on the balcony of the Terralong Terrace.

Monday 26th June Post production begins

From a production crew of 25 we are now down to one - the editor, Mark Perry. Mark has cut almost every film David has made. The first week after the shoot David and Mark spend a few days going through every scene. Then David heads to Coffs Harbour to clear his head for a few Days. Me, I'm off to the Blue Mountains, and I switch off my phone.

Saturday 22nd July

Pick-ups are a dreaded word for most productions – but they don't have to be. After much deliberation (and number crunching) we have decided to do some pickups. (Pick-ups are an additional day/s shooting to get more shots or scenes, mostly when you have seen a rough-cut and can see what is needed). Apparently Woody Allen re-shoots up to 1/3 of the film this way. We don't have that luxury. We are actually not re-shooting; we're just getting a few extra shots to help out a crucial scene in the film. It is a very reduced crew, just Bob and Dom from the camera department, make up artist Katherine Brown, Sound Recordist Paul Finley and Production Designer Elizabeth Moore. All other roles for the day are left up to David and I. We all cram into two Taragos and head to Kiama for the day.


For more information contact Vincent Sheehan on (02) 42321218 / vincent@porchlightfilms.com.au