It ain’t easy being green: director Julius Telmer on the long journey of ‘Greenfield’

Ethan Tomas in 'Greenfield'.

A story of toxic masculinity in regional Australia has undoubted relevance in the #MeToo era, but the journey of Julius Telmer’s Greenfield is one that well predates the movement.

Shot eight years ago in the WA wheatbelt town of Merredin, the drama/thriller stars Ethan Tomas stars as James, a young man returning to the titular town to win back his former girlfriend, Kelly.

Tensions soon explode when Kelly’s brother Michael tells James a volatile secret, which then goes on to cast a dark shadow over the small town when it is eventually revealed.

The film is produced by Daniel Tenni, Mikkel Skov, and Robert Livings and stars Liam Graham, and Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik.

Greenfield had its theatrical premiere at The Backlot Perth this week via Halo Films, with the hybrid venue also doubling as a post-production studio for the project via relationships with WA’s Soundbyte studio and Sandbox Productions.

Telmer will not be there for the screenings, having long since returned to his hometown of Copenhagen.

The Danish filmmaker told IF the events that led to the production were set in motion nearly a decade ago when he was completing his film studies at university.

“It all started with me having a girlfriend who wanted to study abroad.”

“One day, a woman at Kilroy Travel said, ‘Have you thought about Australia?’

“I had never heard of Perth before but somehow, six months later, we were studying there.”

While in Perth, he met Tenni, with the pair initially collaborating on a series of short films.

They would go on to live together, working on a documentary regarding the internment of Italians during World War II while simultaneously laying the seeds for what would become Greenfield.

Telmer credited his ‘outsider’ perspective with helping to craft the plot of the film.

“I had some difficulty dealing with Australian men,” he said.

“I found I couldn’t mix with that tough guy, ‘bro-ish’ attitude, so when I was living in Perth, the only friends I had were Daniel and a Danish guy I had randomly met.

“I just couldn’t make Australian guy friends.”


Telmer ended up finishing the script in Denmark alongside Jevgeni Jevsikov, with whom he returned to Australia, going on to scout, cast and shoot across three months.

Merredin was chosen for the location due to its “Western vibes”.

“I had the idea of making Greenfield as a Western, and if you look at Merredin, it does have some of that tonality,” Telmer said.

“There were freight trains coming from Kalgoorlie, and the wind was always blowing.

“The content was more like a docu-soap, so it came to be a docu-soap Western.”

But the momentum soon came to a halt as the financial demands of finishing the project were realised.

After receiving about $30,000 from Screenwest’s 3 to 1 crowdfunding scheme, by which the state agency tripled the production funds raised from campaigns, Telmer admitted the creative team was forced to rely on “friends and favours” for the post-production, which ended up being split between Denmark and Australia.

“We spent almost all the money in the filming process, so we had to lean on people’s goodwill and help,” he said.

“I edited parts of it in Denmark across a long period of time because I was constantly going back and forth with people.

“I did a lot of the sound design mixing in Denmark, with Daniel and The Backlot really helping to bring it to a cinema level through the 5.1 mixing.

“For a long time, we didn’t know whether it would have a cinematic release, or if it would maybe just be shown on DVD.”

The protracted post-production began to pay dividends in 2019, with Greenfield garnering acclaim across an international festival run, including awards for Tomas (Best Actor – Golden Gate International Film Festival) and Graham (Best Actor Nordic International Film Festival), as well as the cinematography team of Tenni, Telmer and Mathias Døcker (Best Cinematography – ReelHeART International Film Festival).

Prior to its limited season at The Backlot, the film premiered at WA Made Film Festival last month.

There will be a Q&A screening of the film at the Luna Leederville on April 27, before it is shown as part of the Darwin International Film Festival on May 6 and in Merredin on May 29.

Despite being unable to attend the screenings, Telmer said he had been “happily surprised” with the response to the film so far.

“The level of acting has been something people have brought up, along with how relevant the subject matter is,” he said.

“There have also been comments on how it feels very Australian, which is great.

“People I know in Australia say they can really recognise this.”