SA film Storm Boy to reach global audiences

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By Melissa Keogh

It’s the Colin Thiele classic that captured the hearts of a generation and now the story of the loveable boy and his pelican has returned to the big screen.

The much-anticipated re-imagination of the 1964 novel Storm Boy will hit Australian cinemas on January 17, bringing to life the adored tale of the adventurous South Australian boy and his pelican, Mr Percival.

The 2019 Storm Boy will also enjoy international releases across New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Middle East, Poland, Yugoslavia, Canada and the US.

The last time the Storm Boy story was brought to the screen was in the 1976 film starring Greg Rowe, Peter Cummins and David Gulpilil.

The Coorong region is again the backdrop for the 2019 remake, filmed entirely in SA using a mostly local crew as well as a number of local creative and film industry practitioners.

Jai Courtney, left, plays Hideaway Tom, while Finn Little plays the young Michael Kingley, holding Mr Percival.

The contemporary retelling features a grown-up Storm Boy, Michael Kingley (Geoffrey Rush), who has vivid flashbacks of his childhood, centred around his unbreakable friendship with orphaned pelican, Mr Percival.

Michael recounts to his troubled teenage granddaughter Maddie (Morgana Davies) the memories of his loner father Hideaway Tom (Jai Courtney), the friendly Aboriginal man Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) and the how they raised three rescued pelicans.

The desolate and rugged coastal landscapes of the Coorong region are stretched across the screen, while the township of Port Elliot also features in the film.

Dramatic yet poignant scenes are complemented by natural recordings of the Coorong environment, and enhanced by pieces performed and recorded by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

The cast and crew were based out of the SA Film Corporation’s (SAFC) Glenside studios, with filming also taking place in the Goolwa area and the Coorong National Park.

Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) and the young Michael Kingley.

Storm Boy is an Ambience Entertainment production, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the SAFC.  The film’s post production involved the work of Adelaide creative agency KOJO and local VFX company Resin.

Storm Boy was producer Matthew Street’s first feature film shot in SA and he says he would have no hesitation about filming in the state again.

“SA has a highly respected industry with companies like Rising Sun and now Resin, these are world class visual effects companies,” he says.

“The good thing was working with the crew, they were a-list and would match anyone in the world.”

Matthew describes the 2019 Storm Boy as a “proudly South Australian film” and says he and fellow producer Michael Boughen set out to create a contemporary retelling of the classic story that would resonate with new generations and international audiences.

“Our main aim out of the story and the performance is that it would resonate globally. The human story just happens to be set on the Coorong, but it doesn’t matter in what language, it’s a story that should travel.”

Matthew says Storm Boy has brought many economic benefits including short-term business activity for the Fleurieu Peninsula communities during filming.

“We had all those people accommodated down and around the Coorong and Goolwa, so it (the benefits) spilled off into communities and secondary things let alone the tourism benefits nationally and globally for SA.”

As with all remakes and adaptations, the 2019 Storm Boy isn’t immune to the pressure of living up to the emotion, simplicity and beauty of the novel and first movie.

“We had a lot of pressure to make sure this re-imagination was worthy because there’d be a lot of critique beyond just the traditional film critique,” Matthew says.

“We weren’t going to make it unless we could deliver the heart and soul and emotional feeling you get from reading Colin Thiele’s incredible book.”

Storm Boy held its world premiere in Adelaide on January 6. It will be released nationally on January 17. Brand South Australia has teamed up with SONY to give 10 SA families the chance to see the film. Entries close January 14. Click here to enter.

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