SA the star of Australian cinema

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By Kaia Wallis

Endless desert land fills the screen as post-apocalyptic nomads glide into a lone traveller – taking his camel-drawn wagon and belongings in an ambush.

For the next 107 minutes viewers are taken to the vast and empty land of outback opal town Coober Pedy, which sets the stage for dystopian film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

The action film, which grossed $36.2 million in box office sales, is just one of many cinematic marvels shot right here in South Australia.

SA Film Corporation’s Cathy Gallagher says filmmakers are drawn to SA not only for its stunning landscape, but for its highly-trained crews, film-friendly community and world class production studios.

“A huge drawcard to shoot in SA is the range of landscapes we can offer – often within close proximity – including sea, vines, hills, forest and desert,” she says.

“Regional and remote SA is a popular choice for local and international crews, and this has enormous economic benefit to regional towns by creating jobs and spending dollars in the local economy.”

Aside from job creation and economic support, Cathy says films shot in SA help to provide a platform for regional communities.

“The added bonus is the profile that films give to local areas, showcasing their beauty and attractions to the world,” she says.

“Just think of Storm Boy and the Coorong, or Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Coober Pedy.”

To celebrate SA films, we’ve pulled together a list of films shot right here in the state – of course, we’re just scratching the surface here so make sure to let us know if we miss your favourite SA flick.

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
Directors: George Miller and George Ogilvie
Release: 1985

Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest in Coober Pedy. Image: South Australian Tourism Commission.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Australia, the Mad Max franchise helped propel a lesser known Mel Gibson into worldwide fame.

Coober Pedy sets the stage for the third film in the franchise thanks to its vast and open desert landscape. Curious tourists of the region are still able to visit Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest – a location central to the films dystopian plot.

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Director: Peter Weir
Release 1975

Historic Martindale Hall

Based on Joan Lindsay’s novel of the same name, Picnic at Hanging Rock explores the mysterious disappearance of three school students and their teacher following an excursion to Hanging Rock.

The film is seen as one of the defining works of Australian New Wave, an era between 1970 and 1980 that signified the return of Australian cinema globally after the industry declined in World War II.

The home and school of the young girl’s, Appleyard College, is brought to life by Historic Martindale Hall, not far from Clare.

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Director: Phillip Noyce
Release: 2002

Adapted from the novel Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington, Rabbit-Proof Fence tells an important story about a dark time in Australian history, the film grossed over $16 million at the international box office and was met with critical acclaim.

The film follows three young Aboriginal girls who are forcibly taken from their homes and taken to the Moore River Native Settlement, a re-education camp, they soon escape from.

Parts of the film were shot at Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park, which was turned into the Moore River Native Settlement for the movie.

Storm Boy
Director: Shawn Seet
Release: 2019

A truly loved Australian story; Storm Boy first graced our hearts in 1964 as a novel released by prolific Australian children’s author Colin Thiele. It was soon made for the screen in 1976 and now a new adaptation is soon to be released.

The desolate yet beautiful Coorong wetlands set the stage for the unlikely tale of friendship between a boy and his pelican explored in Storm Boy, which is set to be released in January 2019.

A Month of Sundays
Director: Matthew Saville
Release: 2015

Independently produced by South Australian Kirsty Stark, who is a development producer at Matchbox Pictures, a film and TV production company, in Adelaide and an I Choose SA ambassador.

Adelaide’s own Anthony LaPaglia plays Frank Mollard, an estranged husband and real-estate agent selling houses throughout Adelaide.

Suburbs Goodwood, Highgate Park and Glenside, as well as Prince Alfred College in Kent Town, make appearances in this charming film about redemption.

The Flip Side
Director: Marion Pilowsky
Release: 2018

As we’ve said before – Adelaide is the true star of The Flip Side.

Shot in 35 locations across SA, this romantic comedy provides a snippet into life in Adelaide as it follows a complicated love story.

“I wouldn’t want to do it anywhere else,” Director Marion Pilowsky told Brand SA News about shooting the romantic drama in SA.

Starring SA actress Emily Taheny in the lead role, The Flip Side takes viewers to Hahndorf, Port Adelaide, Happy Valley and Tonsley among others.

The Boys are Back
Director: Scott Hicks
Release: 2009

The Advertiser building on Waymouth Street. Image: Movie screengrab.

Clive Owen takes the starring role in this film as Joe Warr, a sports journalist working at Adelaide’s daily metropolitan newspaper, The Advertiser.

The film follows Joe as he is faced with the challenge of raising his son alone following the death of his wife, viewers will spy Aldinga and Myponga Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Dog Ridge Wines in McLaren Vale and the Hahndorf Resort in the Adelaide Hills.

Red Dog
Director: Kriv Stenders
Release: 2011

Supported by the SA Film Corporation, Red Dog tells the story of a real-life kelpie that quickly rose to fame in Western Australia. The Aussie flick brought in $21 million in box office sales.

While the film is set in Western Australia, much of the film was shot right here in SA.

Middle Beach Caravan Park, set an hour north of Adelaide not far from Two Wells, can be seen throughout the movie and features in a pivotal fight scene between Red dog and Red cat.

Heaven’s Burning
Director: Craig Lahiff
Release: 1997

From Waymouth Street in the Adelaide CBD to Commercial Road in Port Adelaide – Russell Crowe navigates the streets of Adelaide as a getaway driver fleeing from police officers in Heaven’s Burning. 

December Boys
Director: Rod Hardy
Release 2007

Kangaroo Island. Image: Movie screengrab

Starring Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, December Boys draws on the rugged coastline of Kangaroo Island to create a wild, fun and youthful atmosphere in this coming-of-age tale.

Snowtown
Director: Justin Kurzel
Release: 2011

An emotionally driven and fittingly gruesome watch, Snowtown is a biographical true crime horror film not for the faint-hearted.

SA talents were scouted for the film, which was shot in the outer Adelaide suburb of Smithfield Plains not far from where the crimes took place.

Look Both Ways
Director: Sarah Watt
Release 2005

Lipson Street, Port Adelaide. Image: Movie screengrab

As the name suggests, Look Both Ways, encourages viewers to do exactly that as it explores themes of uncertainty following a fatal train accident.

The film is interlaced with charming visuals and shot throughout Adelaide, with Port Adelaide’s Lipson Street and Norwood’s public swimming pool making appearances.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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