Director gives wings to movie
THEY say never work with kids or animals.
But that’s exactly what director Shawn Seet did in his contemporary retelling of Colin Thiele’s classic Australian novella Storm Boy.
At the heart of the iconic story is the relationship between a boy living in a coastal wilderness with his reclusive father and his pet pelicans.
“We talked about using animatronics or CGI to create the pelicans as we’ve got a lot more technology at our fingertips these days,” Seet says.
“But we decided to largely go with live birds. I looked in the script and thought ‘Will we get that?’ I knew we’d get something and that was the case. We got gold. They really had a character of their own. Some got cranky sometimes – they’re very wilful creatures. It was a wonderful experience actually.”
The film introduces Brisbane actor Finn Little in his first leading film role.
Seet says he was blown away by the schoolboy’s raw talent.
“We scoured the whole country. We received 1000 or so audition tapes from every corner of the country and Finn was head and shoulders above the rest,” he says.
“He was so raw and natural, and that’s the stuff that you can’t fake. If you don’t have a Storm Boy then you don’t have Storm Boy, that’s what I kept saying.”
Seet and his crew also had to carefully navigate the waterways and sand dunes of the Coorong National Park in South Australia, where they filmed with the permission of and in consultation with the Ngarrindjeri.
“We had to bring our own water and electricity, and travel by boat to get there,” he says.
“We embraced the fact that we were dealing with wild animals that had a mind of their own and that the weather was changeable. We were always prepared to drop one thing and move to another.”
This re-imagining of the classic Aussie tale is set in
the present day with now retired Michael ‘Storm Boy’ Kingley (Geoffrey Rush) recounting his long-forgotten childhood to his granddaughter.
Lengthy flashbacks reveal how he rescued and raised an extraordinary orphaned pelican, Mr Percival, as well as his relationships with his father Hideaway Tom and Aboriginal man Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson).
The original 1976 film has a special place in the filmmaker’s heart and he put as much pressure on himself as any fan would to honour the beloved story.
“Why the story’s been so popular is it’s timeless. The themes in it are so relevant now. Issues of loneliness and grief, the parent and child connection, and also our relationship to the environment.”
AUSSIE TALE: Jai Courtney and Finn Little in a scene from the movie Storm Boy. Supplied by Sony Pictures.