Former Home and Away star turned producer Blake Northfield in Bangalow with Screenworks Northern Rivers staff Ken Crouch and Lisa O'Meara. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Former Home and Away star turned producer Blake Northfield in Bangalow with Screenworks Northern Rivers staff Ken Crouch and Lisa O'Meara. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

North Coast-made film to bring acting royalty to the region

A SUPERNATURAL thriller named Scarlett is set to begin filming in the Northern Rivers in June, injecting an estimated $2 million into the local economy and bringing a role call of Aussie acting talent to the region.

Established director Dee McLachlan will helm the film, with Mal Kennard who played Ivan Milat in Channel 7's Catching Milat attached, and discussions in play with industry royalty Barry Otto and Rena Owen, as well as rising Hollywood star Yvonne Strahovski.

The film's existence is thanks to Lennox Head-raised producer Blake Northfield, who has flown around the world to pitch the idea to hundreds of film distributors, recruit key people, and secure financial backing.

His persistence paid off in Cannes last year when an international film distributor offered the project a $150,000 advance for the distribution rights, which was followed by finance from a group of Russian arts and film industry investors.

Scarlett is just the beginning of the former Home and Away actor's vision to bring a viable long-term screen industry to the region that provides employment for established and up-and-coming local film makers.

"For myself, I grew up in the area and I always said ideally if I could work back here in this industry, that would be dream," he said.

"And now I'm in a position to bring a film to somewhere in Australia, and and it has to be here."

He said the Northern Rivers was "overflowing" with screen industry talent, from leading writers, cinematographers, technicians and even digital special effects studios already here, plus the SAE Institute in Byron Bay training the talent of tomorrow.

"What you find with the Northern Rivers is that there is an abundance of talent at every level in the industry, but most people are having to spend their time in Sydney or Melbourne to find work," Mr Northfield said.

"It has everything that you need for the industry already."

Beyond Scarlett, Mr Northfield has set up a visionary joint venture which plans to shoot five more films over the next five years in the Northern Rivers, worth an estimated $18 million.

"The five year plan is that we've got such a system here that we can contend or work in partnership with the Gold Coast," he said.

It could provide the tipping point the industry needs to become permanently viable here.

Northern Rivers Screenworks general manager Ken Crouch said the project was exciting for the stability it promised to local screen professionals, who were many.

"We're the only region in Australia a production can come and crew up their entire project without having to bring in other crew," he said.

"It's the type of area where we can be competitive with the cities and do something with a reasonable budget."



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