Film buffs from around Australia, some of them fresh from Sydney’s film festival, spent last weekend sharing coffee on the footpath with 60 students from four countries starting out on their story-telling journey on the festival’s opening weekend, and alongside some of the country’s best-known actors, directors and film critics.
Brisbane-based sponsor, Trevor Love described it as intimate, and that’s what the ‘Hollywood of the Outback’ is able to offer – a chance to meet people from different walks of life, in a welcoming atmosphere.
Griffith Film School spokesman, Ash Burgess went further, saying the cinematic involvement had begun because of the landscape but it had continued because of the people.
“It’s the people of the town that make it work, that make you feel welcome,” he said. “When students feel welcome, they feel this is something they want to do.”
And as another Vision Splendid board member, Peter Lewis, said, it’s the favours you do on the way out that sustain you.
“This shire realised you’ve got to have skin in the game.”
It was the filming of the Australian bushranger western written by Nick Cave in 2005 that started the movie ball rolling for Winton, according to local entrepreneur Clive Kitchen.
“Most people thought we were crazy to want to start a film festival but we thought we’d have a go,” the North Gregory Hotel owner said, demonstrating another aspect of the community’s ‘can-do’ feel.
Festival patron and well-known actor, Roy Billing said people were asking why Winton was “the place” in which all this was happening.
“My question is, why not.
“I really like enterprising little towns like this that do things and generate income.
“You’ve got that wonderful cinema, which is quite unique.
“Why not have a film festival here. It’s just growing and growing and growing.”
Winton mayor, Butch Lenton said the community’s small businesses and groups had received “the greatest kick” from the film industry.
His favourite memory of the filming of The Proposition, at Rangelands station in mid-summer, was of the importation of dead flies to put on people’s backs.
“Well, they didn’t need them because they were here,” he laughed.