Lonely Planet movie, TV pilot from emerging filmmaker

Fledgling filmmaker Fergus Grady is planning a movie based on Lonely Planet founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler’s adventures and he has shot the pilot for a half-hour TV comedy/drama.

Grady, whose day job is acquisitions coordinator at Umbrella Entertainment, has bought a 2-year option for the film rights to the Wheelers’ story. He’s talking to prospective writers and directors and envisions a road movie set in the 1970s.

English-born Wheeler, a former automotive engineer, and his wife published their first travel guide, Across Asia on the Cheap, after an overland trip from Europe to Asia and then to Australia in 1972.

Grady says the film will look at the Wheelers’ experiences in countries such as Afghanistan, Nepal and Bali. Tony Wheeler has agreed to serve as a consultant. Grady will seek development funding from Film Victoria and/or Screen Australia to nurture the project over the next 12 months.

The pilot, Minimum Way ( is set in a dysfunctional city bar where management achieves nothing despite a lot of effort and the wait staff put a lot of effort into achieving nothing.

The idea came after Grady met Athol Birtley, a former-lawyer turned screenwriter. Together they came up with the concept, Birtley wrote the script and he and Grady assembled a cast led by Nick Russell (who's in season 4 of Winners & Losers), Ella Cannon, Kev Hofbauer (Offspring), Hayley Daillmore and Nicholas Dubberley (who appears in Wayne Hope’s upcoming movie Now Add Honey with Portia de Rossi, Lucy Fry and  Hamish Blake).

Grady directed the 20-minute pilot, which was shot in Melbourne last October, with DoP Jordan Dautovic, cameraman and editor Noel Smyth and sound designer Ryan McCurdy. The post sound and music were designed and composed by Moonzero.

He’s holding a screening in Sydney on April 28 for the ABC, SBS and reps from the commercial free-to-air broadcasters and Foxtel.

Grady worked as a sound man on shows such as Rush, Tangled, Offspring and City Homicide before he joined Umbrella two years ago.  Asked how he handled his directing debut on Minimum Way, he said, “I watched a lot of directors when I was in the sound department so I think I did all right.”

Umbrella is set to launch Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, a hit from the SXSW festival, on May 22. Among the other titles on its slate are The Last Impresario, Gracie Otto’s profile on colourful London theatre and film entrepreneur Michael White, and When the Queen Came to Town, Wild Fury’s feature documentary about Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 tour of Australia.