Oddball breaks the rules
Now shooting in Melbourne and country Victoria, the comedy Oddball is breaking all the rules which say you should never work with children, animals, birds and on or near water.
“You name the risk, we’re taking it,“ WTFN’s Richard Keddie, who is producing with Steve Kearney and Sheila Hanahan Taylor, tells IF.
Based on a true story, the film stars Shane Jacobson as Swampy Marsh, an eccentric chicken farmer who, helped by his granddaughter, trains his mischievous dog Oddball to protect a wild penguin sanctuary from fox attacks.
Saran Snook plays Swampy’s daughter Emily, a single mother, with Coco Gillies as her daughter and Alan Tudyk as an American tourism consultant who is hired to help the town get back on its feet.
Richard Davies is a local conservationist, Deborah Mailman is the mayor, Frank Woodley is a dogcatcher and Meeko, a maremma, is Oddball.
Animal trainer Luke Hura (Red Dog) discovered Meeko at the Maremma Rescue Society. The film will also feature little blue penguins recruited from Sea World.
The director is Stuart McDonald in his feature debut after a lengthy career directing TV series including Jonah from Tonga, Summer Heights High, Super Fun Night, Angry Boys, Tangle, Spirited and Rush.
Kearney first heard about the real Swampy Marsh seven years ago. He is an organic chicken farmer who uses maremma to guard his chooks from foxes and other prey.
A couple of years ago Kearney sent the first draft to Seph McKenna, head of Australian production at Roadshow Films, and asked who he would recommend as a producing partner. McKenna suggested Keddie and Kearney sent him the script, which appealed to him as the saga of a “kind-hearted underdog character.”
Peter Ivan wrote the screenplay with input from Hanahan Taylor, a US script consultant and producer who was EP on the Final Destination films, fellow US producer Jason Koffeman and Keddie.
Clayton Jacobson was hired as the director late last year but departed a month before shooting started due to creative differences. “We had a very different view of the film,” says Keddie, adding that it was an amicable parting. “I am sure Clay will make his own stories,” he says.
McDonald, who is based in Los Angeles, happened to be in Melbourne when the producers were looking for a director. “It was a fluke,” says Keddie. “Stuart has directed a lot of drama and comedies. I have always thought that drama experience is as important as comedy experience when you are making a comedy.”
The investors include Screen Australia, Film Victoria and Fox International Channels, with which WTFN has long had a relationship. Global Screen, the film sales arm of Germany’s Bavaria Film and Telepool, is handling international sales.