4 July 2023

Filmmakers return to the Riverina with a new project and hopes for a film school

| Chris Roe
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two men in front of old house

Director Tim Hills and producer Ken Hammond are in Narrandera shooting the feature film When The House is Empty. Photo: Supplied.

It’s been a few years since the movie cameras rolled in the Riverina, but a crew has set up in Narrandera this month, shooting a new feature film When The House is Empty.

The Merger and Backyard Ashes have put the Riverina on the movie-making map in the past decade and producer Ken Hammond is hoping to keep the ball rolling.

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Originally from Leeton, Ken worked on Stakes in and around Wagga in 2014 and said he was excited to be back with a cast and crew of about 50 people.

“We’ll be here shooting in Narranderra for the next week or so and we’ve got lots of people involved from the local area and people coming in from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and New Zealand,” he said.

“There’s quite an influx of people into the little town of Narrandera, so it should be good for the community!”

The project was developed by director Tim Hills, who is passionate about delivering high-quality Australian filmmaking and reflecting communities to themselves on the silver screen.

The idea for When The House is Empty was sketched out when Tim endured a wet week in Narrandera and found himself stuck inside, reworking an old script and adapting it to the Riverina location.

“It’s a journey of discovery and a bit of a reflection on the city and the country,” Ken said, sketching out the plot.

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“The film is about a girl in Sydney who gets pregnant and her life gets turned upside down, but when she thinks she’s lost everything, she inherits a rundown, dilapidated house from her father, who she hasn’t seen for quite some time.

“So it’s about her journey to this house in the country and the discovery of what lies within and some of the undiscovered secrets from her father’s background.”

man in front of old house

Ken Hammond, originally from Leeton, is pleased to be back shooting a movie in the Riverina. Photo: Supplied.

As well as adding fresh fuel to the local filmmaking scene, Ken said they were also keen to foster local talent and were discussing the idea of a potential Riverina film school.

“Tim had been teaching in Brisbane and he’s going to be teaching a little bit in Narranderra for a while, so there was that kind of philosophy with this film and the hope that we can maybe start something up,” said Ken, who himself studied television production at CSU.

“It might be nice to create something that gives younger people in the region another option so they don’t have to gravitate towards the bigger centres like Sydney and Melbourne to pursue some of the more creative aspects of film or theatre.”

While a Riverina film school is a longer-term project, Ken, Tim and the crew are busy shooting in Narrandera and will also spend time in Brisbane and Sydney before heading into post-production.

They plan to release the film in local cinemas in about 12 months’ time and hope to negotiate a television deal to make the film available on streaming services.

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