12 October 2022

Australian acting legend John Wood lends his time to a great Wagga cause

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Documentary filming

Wagga Wagga.TV CEO Adam Drummond filming a documentary for Pro Patria Centre with Australian actor John Wood. John is talking with Darren Sweeney from Riverina Bluebell. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

Pro Patria Trust (PPT), Wagga Wagga.TV, Australian actor John Wood and Riverina Bluebell have joined forces to raise $1.5 million for the Pro Patria Centre (PPC).

The PPC is a community of military service personnel, veterans and their families.

Wagga Wagga.TV CEO and Region Riverina commercial manager Adam Drummond produced a 20-minute documentary that will be used to pitch Australia-wide for donations to secure the Carmelite monastery before March 2023.

Adam said the purpose of the documentary was to shed light on PCC’s breakthroughs and for people to donate money to secure the monastery.

The A Call to Action: Your Defence, Our Battle documentary features Australian television Gold Logie Award-winning actor and scriptwriter John Wood as a presenter.

Adam said John was very generous with his time, especially when it came to veterans’ affairs.

READ ALSO New facilities to offer much-needed treatments to the Riverina’s veterans and first responders

“He jumped at the opportunity, and from the moment we called him, he was up within a week shooting,” Adam said.

“He’s a consummate professional, great at what he does, and he lends that voice of sincerity, authority and empathy.

“And so he’s everything that we wanted for the video, and it’s just great that the timing worked out well, and it was wonderful to work with him.”

Adam said the documentary featured Wagga veterans Jason Frost and Brad Fewson.

“Jason was instrumental in setting up Defence Shed, which then became PPC, and Brad is undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which helped him turn his life around.”

Adam said producing the documentary was the tightest deadline he had ever had in his filmmaking career.

Documentary filming

John Wood visited the Pro Patria Centre and met veterans and Pro Patria Trust committee members for the filming of the documentary. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

He said he had watched the documentary about 20 times and, every time, it brought tears to his eyes to see the plight of veterans, first responders and their families and the toll it had taken on them.

“It is something that is quite visible and I’m very proud of it, and I’m extremely happy with how it turned out,” Adam said.

A former Blue Heelers star, John said the PPC was an extraordinary organisation and it was amazing to see the work it was doing.

“If they (PPC) can take over the facility (Carmelite monastery) and do what they want, it will be a role model for the entire country,” John said.

“It is an amazing joint. It is nice of the Carmelite Sisters to give the building for a quarter of the price but the Catholic Church is probably wealthy enough to give it to them for nothing.

“It’s no skin off their nose, and they can stop paying the rates on it.”

Two men

Adam Drummond with John Wood. Photo: Jamie Way.

John worked with Vietnam veterans 20 years ago, and after speaking to the veterans from Wagga, he said: “I have been hearing the same stories. After 20 years, nothing has changed.”

The actor said it was great to be back in Wagga and be part of the project to raise awareness about the PCC.

Pro Patria Property Trust chairman Dr Gordon Saggers said it was special to have the actor visit the centre.

“He’s another high-profile individual committed to this whole cause,” Dr Saggers said.

“He sees the need for this (Pro Patria Centre), and he’s not twisting his arm to do it. We feel lucky about that.”

Riverina Bluebell committee member Darren Sweeney, who is funding most of the documentary project, said it was a blessing John had decided to help raise awareness for Pro Patria’s cause.

READ ALSO Veterans’ advocates say calls for a wellbeing centre in Wagga do not go far enough

He said putting the documentary together over the past six weeks had been an amazing experience.

“The end product will be a powerful way to present the blueprint for mental health going forward in the Riverina,” Mr Sweeney said.

Adam partnered with off-Broadway musical writer Andrew Strano to pen the script for the documentary.

He said PPT secretary Alan Lean and PCC board member Angelo Strano had also been instrumental in the project’s production.

The filmmaker also worked with John 10 years ago on a feature film in Wagga called Backyard Ashes and had kept in touch ever since.

The Carmelite monastery has an extended settlement until the funds are paid.

The documentary will have its debut screening at the Pro Patria Property Trust Charity Dinner on Wednesday, 12 October at Pastorale.

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