Written by Jack Coco
On Saturday the 1st of February 2015, Luke, Jeff and I took a trip to Cricket Willow, the primary location that will be used to shoot Playground. Though I had already made a fleeting visit to this amazing place - steeped in history, this was the first real opportunity for us to all have a closer look together.
The day started early, with a two hour drive to Cricket Willow ahead of us, we wanted to make sure we arrived in plenty of time. Jeff had made his way to Luke's house and I then picked them both up, so we were now ready to commence our journey. Eastlink, the Monash Freeway and through the Domain tunnel, over the West Gate Bridge and then onto the Western Ring Road. By this time we all realised that we really needed that magical black liquid, so necessary on any film production... coffee! And after a brief stop at McDonalds satisfying our caffeine requirement, we hopped back into the car and continued our journey toward Ballarat on the Western Freeway. An hour or so of travelling and we'd now came upon the Ballan/Daylesford turnoff.
It wasn't long until (in typical fashion) we became stuck behind three or four cars where their drivers insisted on travelling 30-odd kilometres an hour slower than the posted speed limit. There were several profanities traded between the three of us, but we eventually reached the township of Daylesford, albeit a little later than we might have hoped for.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Daylesford, it is a spa town located in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, within the Shire of Hepburn in country Victoria. After meandering through Main Street and the town centre, we left Daylesford behind us and were now on our final leg to Shepherds Flat, located another 10 kilometres to the northwest. We wound our way around some tight twisting roads, through several small gorges and across numerous creeks, before finally rising to a natural clearing where we were treated to a stunning vista. And at last we had arrived at Cricket Willow!
Parking just outside the Cricket Willow entrance - complete with two very large cricket bats flanking the gate - we hopped out of the car and took in our first 360 degree view. While still somewhat overcast, there were clear signs that the cloud was breaking up, and the unusually cool summer day was showing signs of warming. But already, there were smiles upon our faces; we knew we were in for a treat.
Trish Tinetti welcomed us onsite and after some formal introductions, Luke, Jeff and I were off to scout the land! Heading up along a well tampered gravel road, we could clearly see that the Cricket Willow premises was well cared for and lovingly maintained. To our right, the famous 'willow' trees - used for fashioning actual cricket bats - and to our left, a delightfully charming farmhouse and various sheds and barns - full of antique and well-weathered old machinery. This place almost felt like a pre-designed film set already. Once past the assembly of man-made constructions, we began our entry - into the classic Australian bushland.
This was to be a two part venture. We would explore the east side of the property first, head back to Daylesford for some lunch, then return to delve into the west side. We came prepared, with rugged shoes, clothing for all weather conditions and our cameras at the side, and it wasn't long before Luke proclaimed "This place is perfect!". "Hold on a minute" I replied "we've still got 79 acres to see yet!". But indeed, we were seeing what had been in our heads literally unfolding before our very eyes. This WAS the perfect place for shooting Playground. After walking up and down, and backwards and forwards, through branches and cobwebs and ditches and mounds, we came to a gorge, where before us was... what WILL be one of the 'key set locations'.
We discussed various shooting angles, camera placements and lighting setups before our stomachs began to roil in need of nourishment. That was the gong signalling our need for lunch and after trekking back to the car; we made our way to Daylesford again - lunch clearly on our minds. We found our way to the 'Food Gallery - Cafe, Bar and Lounge', a lovely eatery within the bustling township and indulged our appetites. And now, with our stomachs full and our smiles even wider, we returned to Cricket Willow, ready to tackle the west side of the property.
We headed across a wide open clearing, where sheep normally graze. Today however, they were being kept in another nearby paddock. We felt like we were in one of those classic adventure films, having to cross vast distances to find food and shelter - okay, maybe a stretch, but we certainly felt like we were in a special place, on our very own little adventure.
Slowly climbing up the hill and then reaching the top, the next valley awaited us below. And this is where the next moment of elation hit us... the location for the major setting of Playground. This place we all agreed was magical. It was as if it were specifically designed and landscaped just for the film. And it was one of those moments where everyone looks at each other and without a word say "Yep, we've got it!", our location that is.
We spent the next hour or so in jubilation, blocking this scene out, and that scene out. I nearly fell over a log trying to film Luke while he was locked in a trance, vocalising the story as he went moving from one place to the next. Suffice to say, we had what we'd be looking for and so, so much more. And then, the sun came out... and it got hot! And we decided to get out of the heat. But we all agreed that what we had before us was perfect, and we were all buzzing excitedly back over the hills, like a scene from The Sound of Music!
We popped in to see Trish and she asked if we'd found any place we'd liked. We were verbally stumbling over each other trying to outdo our "Oh yes's". But perhaps the smiles on our faces - which now probably looked like Lenny's plastic surgery smile from the Simpsons - granted the best answer. So into the car once again and buckling up for the journey back to Melbourne, our minds were racing with endless discussion about what we'd just seen, how it'd shape and fit into Playground and how soon we'd be able to return, filled most of our time on the drive home.
To check out Daylesford, have a look at www.travelvictoria.com.au/daylesford
For information on Cricket Willow, check out www.cricketwillow.com.au
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates on the progress of Playground and Primitive Films.