THE historic town of York and surrounds are set to gain national and international exposure, as well as gaining a reputation as an iconic filming location, as filming of Runt shortly wraps up on the second screen production in the Wheatbelt town this year.
“It must be very strange for the local community to go from hosting The Twelve, which was the biggest TV production to ever shoot in Western Australia, to having another large crew descend on the town the very next week,” Runt producer Jamie Hilton from See Pictures said.
The production team have been filming in the area for the past three weeks to bring author and screenwriter Craig Silvey’s famous fictional town of Upson Downs to life in beautiful York and the wider Wheatbelt region.
“We have been working in a whole range of incredible locations including the historic Balladong Farm, York Town Hall, the main street in York, and the old York school. It’s such a cinematic backdrop for our story, where we’re trying to channel timeless characters like Babe and Paddington, to create an Australian legend we can all cherish,” Mr Hilton said.
He said the Shire of York and the Wheatbelt Development Commission had been incredible to deal with, along with the state government’s Western Australian Regional Screen Fund (WARSF), and Screenwest.
“We also wouldn’t be here without the amazing support of the WARSF which invests in films that shoot and showcase the regions. Also, the commission and town have been working with us for more than six months to help make the project a reality,” he said.
He said the town had been really receptive, and as soon as the film crew arrived, they were given a moving Welcome to Country from Uncle Dennis Noongali Kickett.
Mr Hilton said there were around a hundred cast and crew visiting, staying in local hotels, and generally boosting local economic activity.
“We’ve cast around 70 locals as extras in the film, and a menagerie of local animals. We even cast a very local bobtail lizard who we found on location; it was released safely after its starring role,” he said.
“We’ve employed a few local crews including our snake catcher Jyden Couzens who checks and clears the area so it’s safe for our lead actor Squid (a rescue dog), and the amazing Nigel Spencer our local animal wrangler who’s providing a whole range of animals. All of the hotel hosts, hospitality workers and retail businesses have been so welcoming.
“Our cast and crew are having a great time here, and it’s a real privilege to be able to showcase the region in this beautiful family film which should be seen widely across Australia and the world. We’ll definitely come back and do a premiere screening for all the locals who are playing such an important part in helping to make the movie.”
Besides filming at York and surrounds up to Northam, the crew will also shoot in Gidgegannup for three days, Fremantle, Perth City and Southern River.
Craig Silvey, author and screenplay writer of the novel Runt, adapted for the big screen after selling more than 100,000 copies and winning multiple awards, said the film was set in the town of Upson Downs – a proud, historic agricultural district that has weathered challenges with determined community spirit.
“For those familiar with the Wheatbelt region, it will come as no surprise that York was front of mind when tasked with bringing this story to life on the big screen,” Mr Silvey said.
“York is effortlessly cinematic. It offers stunning landscapes, grand heritage architecture, and distinctive character that is wholly unique. There is a timeless charm to York that perfectly complements the classic fablelike elements of Runt.
“Runt is a quintessentially West Australian story, and I’m delighted that we have the opportunity to showcase the Wheatbelt region throughout the world. In addition to Upson Downs and the Shearer’s Farm, we will evoke the streets of London and all the pomp and ceremony of the Krumpets Dog Show in Fremantle and Perth City,” he said.