WHEN the world first met Mick Taylor in the 2005 Australian horror film Wolf Creek the romance of backpacking in the outback changed forever. Played by veteran Australian actor John Jarratt, Mick was every serial killer rolled in to one.
With an iconic larrikin spirit and spine chilling laugh it was a side of Australia world audiences had never seen before. Earning $US28m worldwide in box office sales Wolf Creek is Australia’s highest grossing R-rated film.
Yet it was not just Mick Taylor that made the film such a success. In Wolf Creek and its newly released sequel Wolf Creek 2 the Australian outback plays a crucial role as the playground for this sadistic killer with a penchant for bloodthirsty sport.
“Like the charming, friendly Mick, the outback can turn terrifying in the blink of an eye,” says Director Greg Mclean. “What seems like paradise is actually hell in disguise.“
Achieving the look and feel for a menacing outback on a lean budget could only be achieved in South Australia.
“It’s uniquely positioned so that every direction you travel there is a completely different landscape - mountains, fields, forest, desert,” continues Mclean. “So within half an hour drive you can have half a dozen different locations.”
South Australian producer Helen Leake who has been making films in the state for over 20 years produced Wolf Creek 2. When she was first asked to come on to the project she knew straight away the budget had to be halved, something she could achieve shooting in South Australia.
With a film like Wolf Creek 2 set entirely on location accessibility is key to making it work. This is what Leake says makes filmmaking unique in the state. With a production base just outside the CBD at the Adelaide Studios you can travel 40 minutes to the beach and within 50 minutes in the opposite direction you are in the desert. With studios based in the foothills it is only 20 minutes up a freeway to get a backdrop of hills and valleys.
"One of the best horror films in the last 25 years" - Quentin Tarantino on Wolf Creek
“We were able to have the whole landscape look with only 17 days out of a 36 day shoot away, without all the per diems and extra (expenses) for staying overnight,” says Leake. “I don’t know any other (Australian) state where you can get that range of visual material with such ease.”
Leake’s passion for filmmaking goes beyond producing films. In the late 90s she worked in commissioning at the federal government’s Australian Film Commission (now called Screen Australia) and worked as the Chief Executive Officer of the state government film agency the South Australian Film Corporation. She could have gone to Sydney or Melbourne to continue making films but chose to stay in South Australia with her family. While the local industry is still small she has sustained herself by looking internationally.
"If you attend at least two international conferences a year then you can come back with connections that you can then plug in to the Australian landscape,” she says.
It is by keeping an eye on the international market Leake is able to stay abreast of what distributors are buying and how much they are paying. She then takes this knowledge and applies it to the projects she is creating.
Ryan Corr as Paul with Director Greg Mclean in the South Australia outback
“The first time I went I thought ‘shivers this is business and this is tough’ but it is the best market for anyone to go to,” she says of visiting the American film markets. “You see the amount of product that is out there and how do you get above that?”
When financing Wolf Creek 2 Leake had a mix of government funding, private investors and distributor pre-sales. Distributed in Australia by the country’s largest cinema chain Village Roadshow they are hoping to surpass Wolf Creek’s local box office sales of $6.1m.
Director Greg Mclean on set in South Australia with Phillipe Klaus and Shannon Ashlyn