Plans for 'first ever' feature film on Flying Doctor founder

Feature film planned for Flying Doctor Service founder Reverend John Flynn

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A photograph of Reverend John Flynn preparing for an outback trip, taken around 1924.

A photograph of Reverend John Flynn preparing for an outback trip, taken around 1924.

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Cloncurry, Longreach and Warwick are mooted as shooting locations

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Queensland screenwriter Russell Guy isn't about to turn an Australian pioneer into an American alcoholic. 

For nine years Mr Guy has been researching and writing what is thought to be the first feature film to profile Reverend John Flynn, the face of the Australian $20 bill and the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The film will, by choice, be a homegrown Australian production. 

"I’ve been asked to make John Flynn an alcoholic to increase the conflict and have an American actor portray him by people in the film industry," Mr Guy said. 

"These are some of the reasons why I’ve ended up producing it myself at the moment.  

"I don’t want to distort history, although, film is an artefact. I want to stay as close to historical accuracy as dramatically possible.”

Rev Flynn, born in rural Victoria in 1880, was appointed to a senior role within the Australian Inland Mission after serving the Presbyterian Church in the isolated South Australian town of Beltana. 

His vision to build a "mantle of safety" for isolated communities in outback Australia - and a keen interest in emerging technologies such as radio and aircraft - led to the foundation of the Aerial Medical Service in 1928.

The Aerial Medical Service, which made its first flight out of Cloncurry, eventually morphed into what we know today as the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 

Mr Guy is a former journalist and rock musician who wrote the cult classic radio play, What's Rangoon to you is Grafton to Me, as well as the critically acclaimed novel, Dry Crossing

He said the mysterious "Flynn of the Inland" had captivated him since he was young. 

"As an eleven year old, I was impressed by the mysterious ‘Flynn of the Inland’," he said.  

"I used  to wonder who he was and what he was doing over the other side of the Great Dividing Range, little knowing that he had passed away the year of my birth."

Rev Flynn outside the Oodnadatta Nursing Hostel in rural South Australia, sometime around 1924.

Rev Flynn outside the Oodnadatta Nursing Hostel in rural South Australia, sometime around 1924.

Titled My Dearest Dream, the film will be based on Rev Flynn's life between the years of 1913 and 1928.

"I’ve lived in remote Australia for half of my life and I’m going to make this film in the same country, with the Anzac values that Flynn employed to get his Aerial Ambulance into the air, such as reliability, perseverance, mateship and endurance," Mr Guy said. 

"It took him 15 years. My screenplay begins in 1913 beside the Overland Telegraph Line and ends in 1928 when the first Qantas chartered biplane with a doctor on board, took off from Cloncurry."

With the screenplay taken care of, Mr Guy is busy nailing down the nitty gritty details needed to get the production off the ground.

Filming locations are being scouted in Warwick, Longreach and Cloncurry, and a four-page prospectus has been prepared to secure the $4.5 million needed to finance the production.

"I intend to film in Warwick because of its fine old sandstone buildings and it will stand in for Sydney of the 1920s," Mr Guy said.   

"It’s much easier to film there than in a city.  Much of the soul of Australia is in its old buildings.  The towns that I have chosen have the kind of locations and landscape that I’m looking to present." 

Warwick and Cloncurry councils are supportive of the project, and Longreach Regional Council has agreed to put $12,500 towards the film's pre-production costs. 

Getting an experienced co-producer on side is another of Mr Guy's most pressing priorities. 

He is hoping a grassroots model, backed by the same communities the Flying Doctor was founded to serve, will help secure the rest of the film's funding while preserving the heart and soul of Rev Flynn's legacy.

"Bush Australians understood Flynn," Mr Guy said.   

"They coined the moniker ‘Flynn of the Inland’. It’s to these people that I am now appealing to help raise the $4.5m budget."

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