Given that the story deals with a character that is already dead, in my mind, the world of the film should not be representative of everyday reality. Instead, it should be more akin to an alternate reality where the rules of nature don’t necessarily apply. While the artifice of cinematic reality goes beyond the look of a film, it does rely on many visual elements to help create the illusion. These include lighting, performance, and camera angles, but for me it’s the setting in which the film is situated that has the largest influence in creating this world, and as such, the right location becomes a crucial element.
Without the luxury of a budget, constructing a whole new world from scratch is not a possibility; nor is traveling far afield. This means finding a location that exists somewhere in Melbourne and doesn’t require any expensive re-dressing. It also must be film friendly. In other words, has little or no location fees, has power on site (for lighting), not near any traffic or other loud noise (to record a clean audio track), and has parking close by for crew and cast vehicles. If that isn’t enough, the right location, while it could be familiar, should still have something unfamiliar about it. At the very least be unusual or have a strangeness about it.
My initial thoughts were the old Olympic village houses in West Heidelberg. Constructed for the Melbourne 1956 Olympics, these houses have a unique appearance, but unfortunately they are also very small. This would restrict the blocking or movement of actors and be extremely limiting on the variety of camera shots that could be used. From here I began researching the mid-century architectural style after a location manager friend introduced me to it. The 1950’s style is very modernistic, square and minimal. The aesthetic is familiar, yet is relatively unknown enough to make it somewhat unfamiliar: in my mind anyway.
After many knock-backs from private owners who either didn’t want a film crew inside their private home or wanted fees around the $2,000.00 mark, I came across a Melbourne architect by the name of Robin Boyd (1919-1971) and his beautifully designed mid-century house that is maintained in original condition by the Robin Boyd Foundation. But being more like a museum than a house, we were restricted to the use of a camera and two lights. Also, due to other events being held around the scheduled shoot, we could only film at the property for one day, when we really required at least two days given the amount of scenes that needed to be shot there. This made filming at the Boyd house appear impossible.
With less than two weeks to go until filming was due to commence, we needed to find somewhere else quickly. Given my recent experience of knock-back after knock-back, there wasn’t enough time to door knock for another house. I required something that could be arranged and lock in very quickly. Fortunately I knew about the Montsalvat Art Centre in Eltham. While its medieval styled architecture is a far cry from mid-century, and doesn’t appear unfamiliar, it could possess strangeness about if we shot it in a certain way.
After meeting with Dave (Director of Photography) and lengthy talks with Kim (Production Designer) we all agreed that Montsalvat could work, but it became clear that we were all reluctant to let go of the Boyd house. It had too much going for it. Cutting a long story short, we decided to work within the limitations imposed and shoot what scenes we could at the Boyd house. This meant that the scenes that we won’t be able to shoot there would have to be rewritten to work in another location. After another look around Montsalvat, we devised a new set of story circumstances that would enable us to utilize both locations. It meant more re-writing that I would ever hope to do so close to production, but it was going to solve our problem and get us back on track.