The Belanglo State Forest, scene of Ivan Milat’s grisly serial murders, is such a forbidding place the producers of the Seven Network’s Catching Milat chose to avoid the area.
Only director Peter Andrikidis and DoP Joe Pickering visited the area south of Berrima but they used a drone camera to film the location.
“It’s such an eerie place I didn’t want to go there when they did the tech survey,” Kerrie Mainwaring, who produced the two-part Shine Australia miniseries with Rory Callaghan, tells IF.
Instead, the cast and crew shot the crime drama in Terrey Hills, St Ives, Balmain, Glebe, Wattle Grove and Parramatta.
As the title suggests, the focus is not on Ivan Milat but on the marathon investigation into the 1990s backpacker murders that led to his arrest and conviction.
Callaghan came up with the idea and Shine optioned the book Sins of the Brother by Mark Whittaker and Les Kennedy.
“The story is true to the book but some scenes and characters were added for dramatic effect,” Kerrie said.
During the casting process the filmmakers looked for actors who resemble Milat, members of his family and the cops but in each case the decision came down to choosing the actor who was best suited to each role.
Malcolm Kennard, whose credits include Brothers in Arms: Bikie Wars, Old School, Playground, My Mistress and Backtrack, plays the serial killer, who is serving seven consecutive life sentences plus six years.
Carole Skinner is the Milat family matriarch, Ivan’s brothers are played by Ben Geurens, Alan Flower, Fletcher Humphrys and Daniel Krige, Leeanna Walsman is his sister and Sacha Horler is his ex-wife.
Geoff Morell is Superintendent Clive Small, who led the task force into the backpacker murders, with Richard Cawthorne as Detective Senior Constable Paul Gordon, whose hunch about Milat culminated in his arrest.
Production designer Tim Ferrier went to great lengths to ensure every item was faithful to the period, even to the extent of remaking a Benetton jumper which matched one worn by Milat.
Mainwaring says, “It’s not about glorifying a mass murderer. I hope one of the things that viewers will take out of the show is this: ‘Don’t hitchhike.’’”
Catching Milat premieres next Sunday at 8.45 pm.