Rising floodwaters halt production on Matthew Holmes’ ‘Fear Below’

Matthew Holmes directs Arthur Angel in 'Fear Below'.

Victoria’s ongoing flood emergency has impacted production on Matthew Holmes’ period shark thriller Fear Below, with cast and crew forced to evacuate from where they were shooting just outside of Moama.

The project, which follows a team of professional divers hired to locate a sunken car from a river in 1940s Australia, was about to begin week nine of a 16-week shoot when the order came through to move out of the area, leaving the production on hiatus for two weeks while other options are considered.

It comes as residents on either side of the Murray River at Moama and Echuca remain on high alert ahead of the weekend, following forecasts that flooding could reach levels not seen since 1993.

In Echuca, the community has even come together to build a 2.5 metre dirt levee to protect the town.

The rallying spirit of people in the area is no surprise to Fear Below producer and Bronte Pictures CEO Blake Northfield, who employed a number of them as part of his 72-strong crew for the production, which also received local support in the form of props such as historic cars.

Northfield credited the community with helping the production run “incredibly smoothly” up until this week, but was realistic about the fact they “probably won’t be able to return for multiple reasons”.

“We’d like to shoot studio scenes then move to exteriors in a new location,” he told IF.

“One is more from my position that there’s no certainty that Moama and Echuca are going to be okay in a month.

“Unfortunately, I feel like it’s just gonna get worse and we got out at the right time.

Arthur Angel.

“The poor locals are there building a wall down to protect the houses because this weekend is meant to be the worst. These are people who supported us endlessly and I look forward to being able to do the same in the near future.”

Co-written by Holmes and Gregory Moss, Fear Below will star English actress Hermione Corfield alongside Jake Ryan, Josh McConville and Jacob Junior Nayinggul.

Northfield is producing alongside Odin’s Eye Entertainment CEO Michael Favelle, who is also handling rest-of-world sales.

There has already been healthy interest in the indie film from overseas markets, with $1.4 million in presales completed. Earlier this year, sales were confirmed to Signature Films (United Kingdom), ProgramStore (France), and A Contracorriente Films (Spain).

With cast and crew now split across Sydney and Melbourne, Northfield said he would carefully consider the next steps for the production but knew time was of the essence.

“The worst thing I could do is put everybody back into a position where we have to then evacuate again in six weeks’ time but at the same time, you have to shoot because this is not a studio film and there are financial implications if we don’t meet our deliverable deadlines,” he said.

“It’s about where we can shoot that still keeps us on schedule.”