Producer/director Brad Diebert was ‘stunned’ at threats to close down his first major production, Hobby Farm, an action-packed crime drama set in the 1970s. The film features some well-known Australian actors including Gerard Kennedy, Travis McMahon and Vince Sorrenti.
‘We have investors actively supporting us to create a film with international appeal,’ Mr Diebert said. ‘We’ve got a great script, a great location and a great team but now the film, and our reputation, is under threat.’
‘We’ve hired the grounds of the former Kenmore Hospital in the NSW town of Goulburn, about 2 hours south of Sydney. It’s a fantastic site, with 40 old Federation-style buildings. We’re got helicopter scenes, car chases and pyrotechnics happening. The crew has been working flat out for months building nine sets. The local people have been terrific. Some are employed by us, others have helped out. All this is feeding thousands of dollars back into the local economy.’
‘Then suddenly everything changed when one of the actors went to the union [MEAA] and complained that we were paying $30 under award wages. The union threatened to close us down, just like that. I was stunned. What about the other 39 actors who are happy? Have they spoken to them?’
‘Most of our contracts are below-award wages because it was financially feasible; later we may be able to pay more if the film does well. The 60-plus cast and crew members agreed to this in writing as a gesture of support for us, to gain further experience or to raise their profiles. One changed his mind later.’
‘If people worked for nothing it wouldn’t be an issue. I’m sorry for loosing my temper at the union but this is a family business that started at uni. My whole life has lead to this point,’ Mr Diebert said. ‘It’s our first feature and we have a lot riding on it. Filmmaking is what we are, it’s what we do. It’s growing with every project and we keep attracting more and more talented young people.’
The Australian Federal Police College in Goulburn is providing expert advice and 10 media production students from the Canberra Institute of Technology are getting formal work experience on Hobby Farm.