English actor Lisa Kay (Silent Witness, Indian Summers), Martin Sacks and Geneviève Lemon lead the cast of Sweet River, a psychological thriller which is now shooting in Byron Bay.
The screenplay by Marc Furmie and Eddie Baroo, based on an original story by the director Justin McMillan, is set in a fictional sugar cane town which harbours a dark secret.
The Brisbane-based Kay, who starred in Neighbours and Home and Away after moving to Australia, plays Hanna Montague, whose son Joey was abducted by a serial killer and is presumed dead.
Searching for his body, she moves in to a cottage on a sugar cane farm. John and Ellenor Drake (Sacks, Lemon), live in the neighbouring farmhouse and own the surrounding sugar cane fields.
Both women have something in common: Ellenor’s daughter lost her life in a bus crash which killed several other children. As Hanna investigates her son’s disappearance amid some unexplained encounters with the supernatural, it becomes clear that no one wants her there.
The supporting cast includes Rob Carlton as the local cop, Baroo as a bus driver and Sam Parsonson.
It’s the narrative feature debut of McMillan, who directed the documentary Storm Surfers 3D. The producer Ashley McLeod tells IF the project germinated after McMillan told him he wanted to make a feature so McLeod suggested a horror/thriller, given that genre’s worldwide popularity.
McMillan came up with the idea, Furmie wrote the first draft and Baroo, who had been already been cast, collaborated on subsequent drafts.
“After seeing A Quiet Place I completely reconsidered the way I looked at the horror genre and was inspired to write a psychological horror story with an emotional message,” McMillan says.
McLeod raised the budget from private investors and the Producer Offset, with Head Gear Films cash-flowing the Offset. Annie Kinnane is the line producer, the DOP is Tim Tregoning and the editor is Simon Njoo.
FilmInk Presents will distribute in Australia and UK-based Reason8 will handle international sales. Reason8 co-MD Anna Krupnova said: “The script that delivers not only scares but also a powerful message and the creative vision of the team makes us believe the film will resonate well with the international audience.”