What does it mean to showcase the “real Melbourne” in 2021?
It’s a question writer/director Andrew Walsh hopes to answer through his debut feature How Deep is the Ocean.
Olivia Fildes plays Eleanor, a mysterious young woman that arrives in the city with the clothes on her back, little money, and a past she’d rather forget.
Over the next year, she struggles to adapt and find her feet, spending most of her time working a series of dead-end jobs and pursuing a futile affair with her married neighbor Charlie (Adam Rowland), while remaining totally oblivious to the men and women who do care for her.
The cast also includes Will Weatheritt (Utopia) and Cris Cochrane (The Legend of Ben Hall).
Written by Walsh, How Deep Is the Ocean is being produced by Daniela Ercoli (Choir Girl) and Dia Taylor (Little Miseries) through Taymaynari Productions.
The project was initially due to shoot in April of last year but has instead been filmed across the past month as a result of the COVID delay.
Walsh was philosophical about the scheduling disruption, which did not alter his resolve to showcase the “real Melbourne”.
“Every single person in our city was impacted by COVID-19,” he told IF.
“We managed to get through relatively unscathed, given what other people had to deal with.
“We shot mainly around the northern suburbs in Brunswick, as well as the industrial outskirts of Reservoir.
“The film is really about catching all the things that are in between, such as the alleyways, estates and wide open spaces.”
Taylor went as far to describe the events of 2020 as a “bit of a godsend”
“If anything, COVID kind of helped us in the sense it allowed us to really plan and organise in pre-production,” she told IF.
“It’s been fantastic to have a cast that is so passionate and reliable.
“It was pretty spread out but that really helped because its improv and we were able to rehearse each day.”
While no distributor has been lined up for the film as yet, Taylor said she remained “pretty confident” it would be picked up, adding there were also plans for festival screenings.
“We’ve got a few festivals in mind and a few distributors that I am going to approach,” she said.
“Definitely Melbourne Underground Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Sydney, and Adelaide.
“We are going to wait until the film is edited so we can get a proper feel for it and then create a list because it is very different from what we initially planned.
“We are aiming for a release at the end of this year.”
The COVID disruption was not the only challenge the project was forced to navigate, with producer Roberto Chuter and the initial casting choice for the role of Eleanor leaving the project due to personal reasons.
Far from shying away from the uncertain nature of operating under a micro-budget, Walsh said the spontaneity that came with a project of this size was part of what drove him as a filmmaker.
“I am honestly content to work on these smaller scale films for the rest of my life,” he said.
“When you have limits on time, budget, and crew, you’ve really got to focus.
“It can be stressful and painful, but at the same time, there is also a sense of adrenaline that you never know what’s going to happen.
“It’s great working with people that are in it for the love and fun of it rather than the paycheck.”