When the director approached me with her script, Feeder, I knew it would be a challenge to find the specific location it was set in. The script asked for a post-apocalyptic environment in the form of outback desert landscapes, flat and dry with no signs of life or vegetation. This wouldn't have been such a hard ask had we not had to shoot in the middle of Winter, when the constant rain meant lush, green grass for most of Victoria.
During this time location scouting, the script changed and was no longer set in a post-apocalypse, however the director still wanted the same isolated rural property to emphasise the characters' separation from the rest of the world. Not only did the landscape have to be dry and deserted, the story took place within a lone dishevelled house. After many long weeks of searching for country farm stays in Victoria, it did cross my mind that it would be so much easier to just fly interstate to South Australia and shoot there. But of course, our budget wasn't big enough to do that. I went back online, searching real estate around North Western Victoria and finally came across a property listed for sale for $38,000 in the small town of Watchem, a four hour drive from Melbourne.
I sent photos of the property to the director and she said that it was exactly how she imagined the house in her story to be. If you're a producer, you'll understand how much joy and relief that brought to me. The backdrop wasn't exactly perfect (there were a few trees and houses around) but a bit further out of the surrounding area were fields of crops reaching out far as the eye could see, and that was definitely what we were after.
I got in contact with the real estate agent, stating my intentions and asked if the landlord would consider giving us a two week lease of the property. Luckily, they were happy to oblige, accepting $600 for the two weeks. The house had not been lived in for two years and had the previous owners' belongings still inside. The real estate agent (who also happened to be a member of the local council) said they would be able to clean the place up before we arrived. I only had to arrange the electricity connection and we would be good to go.
Although far away in the middle of the country, shooting at the house in Watchem was ideal. We had free reign of the house morning till night as no one else was currently living there, and majority of the production design the house already had. The property itself has a quiet ambience which comes through when watching the film.
So if you're ever looking for a similar location in a rundown house, I would definitely suggest looking at real estate websites for old country properties specifically for sale. Contact the real estate agent and give them a proposal for a short-term lease. Chances are the property will be for sale for a long time with little interest, so it's a win-win situation for both you and the landlord, and you might just find a gem of a location which adds a lot of character to your film.