Something In The Air: articles


Helen and Don Lyon-Jones took to their rustic roles with ease, as extras in the new ABC drama Something in the air.

Something in the air as a little town springs to life

There is something quite strange about the little South Gippsland town of Nyora. The sign above the main shop says Emu Springs General Store, and the church sign says St Mary’s Catholic Church, Emu Springs. Emu Springs?

The locals don’t seem to mind, because tonight, at 6.30pm on the ABC, their forgotten one-pub town will be made famous.

Something in the Air—filmed in Nyora but based on the fictional town of Emu Springs—is the ABC’s biggest drama commitment since Bellbird, and will screen four nights a week for an initial 160 episodes.

On the map, Nyora, population 312, is a small-print town between Lang Lang, Poowong and Loch. It’s off the South Gippsland Highway and 25 kilometres north-east of Korumburra, if that’s any help.

“It’s pretty much forgotten,” says a local, Helen Lyon-Jones. “If four cars go past in an hour, that’s a lot of cars.”

So when the ABC rolled into town—about 40 on-location crew, 14 actors, extras and 35 on-rotation directors—the locals did not quite know what hit them. Since October, the crew has been filming two days a week.

“It is quite daunting to have an entire film crew come into town and take over,” says the series producer, Ros Tatarka.

But the people of Nyora soon came to love it. Many appear in the show’s background as extras, while others have pocketed some extra cash. The newly painted pub, the general store, the town hall, the church and local bed and breakfasts are all better off, and the footy club got $2000 for playing a match on camera.

As one local said: “That’s a bloody lot of chook raffles.”

Helen and Don Lyon-Jones so much enjoyed being extras they joined Actors’ Equity to become professional extras.

The couple, who moved to Nyora from Frankston four years ago, answered a call for extras, had their photo taken, signed a form, and were later called by the producers. They were asked to turn up for filming looking “rustic”. Mrs Lyon-Jones wasn’t sure what they meant by rustic. “I said, `dungarees and gumboots, is that rustic?’ `That will be perfect,’ they said.”

All they had to do was walk down the streets as a couple, sometimes with their dogs. Helen was a natural extra, but Don was camera-shy, at first.

“He was walking like a sergeant major,” said Mrs Lyon-Jones, “with a stiff neck and everything. And I said, `that’s not how we walk down the street, we cuddle and relax. We’ve been married for 30 years.”

Mr Lyon-Jones, who makes cigarettes at Philip Morris, soon got the hang of it. “We’ve had that much fun,” he said with a big smile. “I think it’s magic.”

And the big-city actors are not bad, either. “We don’t go up and talk, we just sit there, because we are the locals,” said Mrs Lyon-Jones. “But they come and have a little chat. They’re not like `I’m a big star and you’re just rustic locals.’ The crew give us meals. They couldn’t be nicer.”

While Helen and Don have walking parts, Don Garnham has been chased by an emu in his truck and has had standing parts in the pub and the church.

“It’s put a bit of spark into the town,” says Don, an agricultural contractor known locally as Toby. “The town was fairly dead.”

Don has lived in Nyora all his life. He was there when it was a thriving railway town. “When the rail closed, the town nearly died,” he said. “That was 30 years ago.”

But it was the disused station that clinched the ABC’s decision to turn Nyora into Emu Springs. The main character is a disgraced DJ, Tom Dooley (Colin Moody), who escapes the big smoke to Emu Springs’ radio station, in the former railway station at the end of a defunct line.

“The disused railway, combined with the pub, the general store, their proximity and look were absolutely a windfall,” said Ms Tatarka.

The South Gippsland Shire Council is hoping the show will boost the tourist train that runs to Nyora from Korumburra and attract city dwellers to a “small acreage rural living”.

By Melissa Fyfe
Picture: Heath Missen
January 17, 2000
The Age