Beneath Hill 60 starts pre-production
Press Release from Beneath Hill 60
Screen Australia this week approved funding for a new Australian independent feature film based on the true story of a secret company of miners who played a decisive role in the battle for the Western Front during World War One.
Beneath Hill 60 – The Silent War directed by well-known actor/director Jeremy Sims, stars Brendan Cowell in the lead role of Captain Oliver Woodward. Casting is underway and other other high profile Australian actors are expected to join the production in the weeks to come.
Jeremy Sims says that ten years ago he made a commitment to telling Australian stories, whether on stage or screen. “This story is a unique and incredible part of our history; I can’t wait to start bringing it to life. I will be working with an incredibly talented family of actors and filmmakers over the next year, and all of us will have the same objective – to make a compelling and dramatic film that has integrity and broad appeal. If we can do that then the story of Oliver Woodward will do the rest."
The idea for the project began 10 years ago when the film’s Townsville-based Executive Producer, (himself a former miner,) Ross Thomas discovered a copy of the real Captain Woodward’s unpublished diary in a rubbish bin. He tracked down Woodward’s family who had preserved his notes, letters and artefacts from the underground war. Producer Bill Leimbach brought screenwriter David Roach on board.
David Roach says: “At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a war film but after reading Woodward’s diary and researching the stories of the Australian tunnellers I was just amazed that their extraordinary story had never been told. It’s a story that begins in Papua, travels to Queensland then ultimately to the battlefields of France and Belgium. Yes, Beneath Hill 60 is a war story, but it’s a war story with a tender heart.”
The seven week shoot begins in Townsville in July where the Western Front trenches at Ypres will be recreated. In an ironic twist, given that the film celebrates the unsung achievements of a band of miners, many of whom came from Queensland, the city has embraced the film enthusiastically following the collapse of the mining boom. Local supporters have offered everything from land, earth moving equipment, military expertise and weaponry, to production office and warehouses that will become film studios.
Producer Bill Leimbach says: “When I was first presented with this never-before-told story I knew it had to be made in North Queensland. The story, most of the characters, the locations and ultimately the private investment all came from there.’
The film could not be more timely, Leimbach believes. “We’ve just had the 90th anniversary of the end of the war and Australians are only just beginning to notice that the war they fought there on the Western Front was five times the size of Gallipoli. Five times more Australian fought there, five times as many battles and five times as many men and boys died there than at Gallipoli. And unlike Gallipoli they won!”
Beneath Hill 60’s 8 million dollar budget is made up of a combination of private investment from Townsville and Government funding. It one of the first films to benefit from the Screen Australia’s new Producer’s Offset scheme set up to encourage local production. The NSW Film and TV Office and Queensland’s Pacific Film and Television Office are also supporting the film.
The Director of Photography is renowned cinematographer Toby Oliver, (The Combination, Forbidden Lies, Looking for Alibrandi). The film is due to for national release next year through Transmission Films.