Remote Area Nurse: articles

Shooting strait

Filmmakers take a creative approach to location shooting

The challenges of filming in an isolated location are forcing a new Queensland production to take a creative approach to sourcing cast and crew for the project.

Yorke (Masig) Island in the remote Torres Strait is to host the $6 million production of RAN , a major new mini-series for SBS Television.An acronym for Remote Area Nurse, RAN will tell the story of a medical professional living and working in the Torres Strait.Production is scheduled to begin in early September.

While the producers believe that shooting on location will lend the project a unique authenticity, filming in such an isolated place raises many issues not considered in most high-end productions.For example, to take an average sized crew on location would be massively expensive and stretch the islands’resources beyond endurance.

To combat this, producer Penny Chapman (Brides of Christ ), director David Caesar (Dirty Deeds, Mullet) and indigenous director Catriona Mackenzie are adopting a guerrilla style approach to filming.

‘We’re embracing a lean, documentary approach,’ says Penny. ‘And while being true to the scripts, we’ll need to go with the flow. Above all we’ll need to be fiexible—our crew will be hand-picked for this job.’

Penny says shooting on an island with limited transport and basic equipment means many compromises must be made. The production will be shot on tape (DVC Pro 50) entirely on location by a very small crew. The crew will live in tents for the duration and job sharing will be required.

For example, the producer will shoot stills, the gaffer and grip will help each other out where necessary and the director will shoot 3rd camera.

Another challenge, according to Penny, is casting for the indigenous roles which make up the majority of the cast. Casting director Greg Apps visited almost every island in the Torres Strait, conducting workshops and interviews in the hopes of unearthing new talent. Although it will be necessary to cast inexperienced actors, the producers expect that the extraordinary dance and performance skills of the Torres Strait Islanders will make them naturals for the screen.

The production has received a warm welcome from the people of the Islands. Much of the crew work is being offered to Torres Strait Islanders, including cinematographer Murray Liu, which will allow the locals to gain experience and make valuable contacts in the film and television industry.

Oc Screen, Ed#9
September 2004