It’s a sunny, windy Sydney weekday as we stroll past the film shoot roadblocks set up in a small Eastern Suburbs street. Someone who looks like they know what they are doing is observing and we ask them if they’re Jim Robison, producer of Moon Rock for Monday, the film set that we’re visiting today. Nope, the person whispers, finger motioning towards lips, and points skyward. Hovering 20 metres above is a drone and it quickly becomes evident that we have arrived mid take.
It’s not long before we are introduced to Jim Robison, observing the shoot from a safe spot. The crew is mid-size, and the scenes on the schedule today are primarily establishment wide shots. We get a brief glimpse of lead actress Ashlyn Louden-Gamble, a newcomer who Robison, and Casting Directors Marianne Jade and Lou Mitchell of Maura Fay Casting, reckon is the real deal.
Robison points out Kurt Martin, first time writer/director of Moon Rock for Monday, huddled down and observing the footage as it is being captured.
“We probably needed a massive crane for that shot,” admits Martin. “We couldn’t afford the crane, so we’re doing it on a drone, and you can’t have kids near a drone.
“There are definitely challenges, but we’re making it work,” he admits. “There’s a bit of stress, we are already a couple of hours behind, the wind blows the drone just a little bit and the shot suddenly doesn’t work, so we have to reset. Every reset is a good 10 minutes, so it’s challenging.”
In between takes, Jim Robison tells us about his involvement in Danger Close, how his military background prepped him for film producing, and a number of projects in the pipeline, including Heart of War about a decorated Anzac soldier in WW1 (to be directed by Marc Furmie (Terminus)) and The Walrus & The Oyster to be directed by Moon Rock for Monday’s Martin.
Robison has put his faith in Kurt Martin, someone who was his friend and colleague, and whose script for Moon Rock for Monday blew him away.
“We worked as bartenders in Manly together. One time he was talking about filming, and it just grew from that. We started making short films. I guess when it started it was kind of stoner, dumb stuff, having fun…
“I’ve now assistant directed a couple of films [Out of the Shadows, The School], a couple of short films, some TVCs. I used to write really pretentious dialogue, but I ended up trying to write something from the heart, and I took it to him, he fell in love with it, and here we are today.”
We visit the set on the tail end of its Sydney shoot, which Robison reckons has gone well apart from some rainy days and the wind. Next stop Coober Pedy for 10 days.
“We went to Coober Pedy for a reading about six months ago, and it was just so great, so we decided to land there,” says Martin about the road movie aspect of Moon Rock for Monday, which starts in suburban Sydney.
Moon Rock for Monday is the emotive story of a young terminally ill girl, Monday, brought up by her academic single father (Aaron Jeffery). She decides to hit the road for Uluru, believing that it is a ‘moon rock’ that will heal her. She soon meets Tyler (Playing for Keeps, Fighting Season), a fugitive on the run.
“It all stems from her mother,” says Martin about Monday’s dilemma. “Her mother passed when she was much younger. Her mum died giving birth, and Monday gets this idea that the moon rock can make her better.
“When I was younger, I was born with really, really bad eyesight, cataracts and stuff like that,” says Martin about the kernel of the idea for the film. “My dad used to say, if you got a cut on your skin, you go in the ocean, and the salt water would make you better. I would jump in the water and put my eyes under the water. I would open up my eyes in the salt water. I’d come out with these big blood shot eyes. Mum would go, ‘What are you doing, you idiot?’ As a kid, I always got these weird ideas in my head.”
Kurt Martin used this seed for his Moon Rock for Monday, incorporating the personal into a high concept, high stakes road movie that audiences will recognise and relate to.
“I love it when you have to give a character a destination to get to,” Kurt Martin says. “I think it’s a great gelling of characters trying to get through it, meet a bunch of quirky characters.”
These characters are played by local legends such as David Field, Jessica Napier, Nicholas Hope, Alan Dukes and Rahel Romahn among others, but it’s the kids in the film that have been the real eye-opener for Martin.
“I’m learning off these kids,” he admits. “They’re so open with the camera. The main character, Monday, played by Ashlyn, I end up just rolling on her on pre-roll, just to get these quirky, great things, and I end up rewriting the script, I’m letting them play around with a couple of ideas. It’s mainly about that connection between the main characters, Monday and Tyler.”