The Shooting of the Trail of the Tin Dragon
Just the name conjures up exotic thoughts of dragons. In the times this is set, late 1800's, the Great South Land to the Chinese was an exotic land where fortunes could be made.
This film follows the story of a son (Tim) leaving China to find his father (Yang) who he has not seen for 10 years, and is believed to be working in the tin mines in Tasmania in The Great South Land.
The first days shooting were in the WIN studios in Launceston. The back rooms were a hive of activity with actors wandering in and being organised by Jane (Production Manager) to either makeup or wardrobe, and others in a quiet corner practicing their lines. The whole shoot was extremely well organised with a call sheet drawn up each night for the next day which included times for important things such as breakfast, times people had to be in makeup so that they were ready on time for the set. This was Jane's main aim in life for these few days, keeping everyone to schedule.
The actors started out as ordinary people you could see anywhere in Launceston and ended up after makeup (Elena and assistant Heidi) and a change of hair do (Leanne and assistant Shane) as Gods (Scot) and Goddesses (Fiona) and the more mundane Chinese labourers, dock managers and passer bys.
When Producer/ Director Julie had checked their handy work it was time for the studio where Russell the cinematographer was waiting. The studio shots were being carried out in front of a green background so that the actors could be cut into any scene of Julie's choosing in post production.
It was a time consuming affair with shooting going late into the first day, our lives run by 'action', 'cut' and if there was too much noise or distractions, 'clear the set', Julie's word was law. After another morning in the studio it was time to move 'on location' to an old gold mining town near Pipers River. The weather looked ominous; as it poured with rain most of the way to the site.
At the site an old house had been turned into wardrobe, makeup and production office with accommodation in motor homes and in one of the old buildings. The bedroom in the old building was the opium den during the day. A tent was set up for eating, along with a BBQ fire with the never ending supply of hot water for tea and coffee.
The rain did not entirely go away but did not stop the planned shooting for the day, just made life a bit inconvenient for the actors and Russell and caused the fire to smoke, and as fires do, sending the smoke where it was least wanted. Sound was a bit of a problem at times due to the generator chugging away, rain on the roof and the endless noises of the bush; parrots, kookaburras and because of the weather frogs, which the Director had no control over.
Despite the weather forecast the next day started foggy but remained fine and the days shooting rolled along. The Art Director (Scott) with his assistant (James) had set up a sluice box and dam to supply water to the box in part of the old gold mine. The problem was the rain the day before had made the site extremely boggy and all the actors ended up with very wet and dirty legs, it looked really authentic. Jane egged everyone on, even as they were sinking into the mud, shoot after shoot, wide shots, close-ups and more close-ups, but the timetable was mostly kept to. The feeling of relief at the end of the days shoot could be seen on all the faces, even though wardrobe etc still had to be fine tuned for the next day.
The next days shooting was going to be interesting with an increase in the numbers of actors and an increase in staff with Ella helping Jane and Topher helping Michael bringing in the actors from the main road and Launceston plus anything else that was required. An army is not the only organisation that marches on its stomach and the local CWA (Country Women's Association), with Claire's organisation, did themselves proud, with no one going hungry.
Two local horses also starred in the film with their handler training the actor (Bob) to walk the horses up and down the main street. The final day at the old mining town went well with another misty, surreal start to the day, the finale being a big New Years Eve bonfire, with the obligatory fireworks. The final day was supposed to be shot on the Blue Tier and at Weldborough but nature had other ideas and pouring rain sent us to an early shoot at Weldborough where one of the old buildings had been set up as a Joss House.
The following weekend saw the end of the shooting with the Blue Tier the centre of attraction on the Saturday. The Tier lived up to its reputation for magnificent scenery, it was overcast with a cold south easterly blowing, but the views from the top of Mt Michael were stunning. The shots in the rainforest, near the Michael Mine and around Sun Creek will not only give the film an authentic feel but show of what the Blue Tier Forest Reserve has to offer.
Sunday saw the shooting in the rainforest Reserve at Weldborough and in the St Columba Falls Reserve where the waterfall was at its wintry, misty best. When Julie said 'it's a wrap' a tired and weary crew drove back to St Helens in the drizzle, very relieved that the weather had held off.
The premiere of the film will be at the St Helens Visitor Information Centre and History Room on Tuesday 13th September and will be on continuous showing from that date.