Alyssa Sutherland in ‘Blood Vessel’ (Photo credit: Kane Skennar).

Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland and Christopher Kirby are starring in Blood Vessel, Justin Dix’s survival horror/thriller which is now shooting in Melbourne.

Inspired by a WWII minesweeper, HMAS Castlemaine which is maintained as a museum at Williamstown, the screenplay by Dix and Jordan Prosser centres on the survivors of a torpedoed hospital ship in the north Atlantic in 1945.

Adrift on a life raft with no food or water, the motley crew’s only hope of survival seems to rest on an abandoned German minesweeper. They board the vessel only to discover it houses a frantic German sailor, Nazi treasure and two long-dead vampires: hence the title’s double entendre.

Dix and Steven McKinnon, his business partner in VFX studio Wicked of Oz, are producing with Eclectik Vision’s Brett Thornquest, Steven Mastusko and Matthew Graham, whose credits include the thrillers Osiris Child and Terminus.

Dix was so confident he had a winning concept he began pre-production in January before the film was fully financed. The last chunk of money came from a US-based investor.

“I willed the production into being,” he told IF today. “There is a lot to be said for momentum.” He brought on Prosser after being impressed with his work on several short films including Tanglewood, which McKinnon produced.

McKinnon moved into producing after serving as the group accountant at See-Saw Films where he worked on a variety of productions including the second season of Top of the Lake. He’s also co-producing writer-director Rodd Rathjen’s debut feature Buoyancy with Causeway Films.

Umbrella Entertainment will release Blood Vessel in Oz. DOP Sky Davies is making her feature film debut after working in various capacities on a raft of productions including That’s Not My Dog!, Sexy Herpes, EMO The Musical and Rush.

Phillips (Hunters, These Final Hours) plays Sinclair, who spent two years in a Japanese POW camp and reluctantly becomes the group’s leader.

Sutherland (Vikings, Timeless) is Janine Prescott, a nurse who lost her husband in Africa and her daughter in the Blitz and becomes the group’s conscience.

Kirby (Back of the Net, Secret City) is Jackson, a US Navy sailor who quickly forms a camaraderie with Russian soldier Alexander Teplov (Alex Cooke) as both are outsiders.

Mark Diaco is cocksure US Navy cook Jimmy Bigelow and John Lloyd Fillingham is British Intelligence officer Gerard Faraday.

Dix cast his discovery Ruby Hall, 11, as Mya, once a street urchin in 1820s Bucharest who was transformed into the living dead.

The prosthetics were created by the Wicked of Oz team headed by lead designer Luke Polti and Dix promises they will be “full on.”