The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - MOVIES - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN

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 (pic­tured) 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’s so in touch with his own emo­tions; he’s such a wise lit­tle man.

“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. “It was slow go­ing. We wanted to keep it as pris­tine as pos­si­ble.

“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 (Mor­gana Davies).

Lengthy flash­backs re­veal how he res­cued and raised an ex­tra­or­di­nary or­phaned pel­i­can, Mr Per­ci­val, as well as his re­la­tion­ships with his fa­ther Hide­away Tom (Jai Court­ney, pic­tured in­set) 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.

“I saw the film when I first came to live in Aus­tralia. I was born here but I moved back to Malaysia when I was one and came back when I was 12 to live with my grand­par­ents,” he says. “I was the same age as young Storm Boy when I saw it and it re­ally sat with me. It was partly an in­tro­duc­tion to Aus­tralia and to the film in­dus­try.

“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 are all rel­e­vant now.

“I wanted to take the con­tem­po­rary story and orig­i­nal story and let them in­ter­sect.

“A mod­ernised ver­sion is a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity, but I think ev­ery­body who worked on the film felt that. We all knew we had some­thing very special on our hands.” Storm Boy opens in cin­e­mas on Thurs­day.

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