Something in the Pilliga for local filmmaker

“It’s like Razorback meets Wolf Creek meets Housos and if they were to have a love child, this would be Uncle Ted.”

That is how local filmmaker Dane Millerd describes his soon-to-be-released horror film, There’s Something In The Pilliga.

The feature film has been eight and a half years in the making and now it is ready to hit the big time.

There’s Something In The Pilliga is the first feature film made about the elusive yowie that many claim lurks in the Pilliga Forest of NSW.

It is a found footage film shot as point of view with one camera and follows four people who become stranded in the Pilliga Scrub as one by one they are systematically hunted down by a creature known as the Jingra (outback yowie).

While not everyone’s cup of tea, the found footage horror film has taken off since the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999 and has gone on to be a phenomenon in the 21st century, creating some of the scariest and most popular horror movies.

“Found footage breaks all the rules, it’s not traditional,” Dane said of the style of film.

“It [There’s Something In The Pilliga] avoids all clichés of found footage – it doesn’t have this tape that was found at the start and it’s not a documentary or mocumentary.

“In some ways you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not a found footage film.

“It’s more of a genre film – it’s got mystery, suspense, thriller more than horror but it does have enough to keep horror fans satisfied – it’s not over the top.”

The idea of the film started back in 2005 when writer/director Dane had a conversation with his cousin Tracey Gaynor about an experience she had 20 years earlier with her friend and two men in the Pilliga.

Tracey’s story about the two men who decided to play tricks on her and her friend pretending to be the Pilliga yowie was to become the inspiration for There’s Something In The Pilliga, drawing on the myths and legends surrounding the Jingra.

“It deals with a unique subject matter, there’s nothing done on the Australian yowie,” Dane said, which is just one reason he is hopeful it will be a success.

Years of research and drafts of the film script eventually led to the film being shot in the Pilliga State Forest in May of 2011 with a dedicated full and part-time cast and crew of 33.

“I spent a total of 16 days out there shooting and at least 60 to 90 days camping, driving around and doing research but I wouldn’t have even covered a microcosm of what’s there,” Dane said of the vast expanse of the Pilliga Scrub.

“There’s so much to see and so much that hasn’t been seen.”

Dane said the Australian outback is the perfect location for a horror film.

“The Australian outback is the ultimate place that people can’t escape and the Pilliga’s the gateway to the outback,” he said.

“It’s basically hundreds of kilometres of red soil that all looks the same – it’s like a maze.

“And you’re flooded in if it rains – you can’t escape.”

The film follows the Australiana theme which has already proven to be a winner on the international stage, particularly in the US, if Steve Irwin and Paul Hogan are anything to go by.

“I tried to tap into that Australiana, scary-type thing, like Wolf Creek, Blair Witch, Razorback, Mad Max even – those films were all inspirations,” Dane said.

“I’ve tried to follow the formula … these things need a formula – a name, nastiness, known songs and nudity – and I’ve ticked three out of four boxes.

“It’s shot like a postcard to come to Australia but in a weird way, like an anti-ad to come to here.”

Dane is hopeful that his film has the right ingredients to be a success, both in Australia and overseas.

“It’s got to appeal to the masses and I think this does,” he said.

“It’ll be for the 18 to 39 group and there’s something there for everyone – action, excitement, it’s funny in parts but it is freaking scary – it’s eerie.”

At this stage negotiations are happening with a number of distributors and while there have been offers, Dane is still going through the process with the remaining organisations but is confident the film will be released at the end of the year or early 2015.

“It’s scary, it’s exciting,” Dane said.

The film has been a part of Dane’s life for the better half of a decade and so knowing that it is so close to being released is a great feeling for him. 

“There are only a few things I’ve gone through in life that has made me feel as good and as excited as I do now,” he said.

“It’s like raising a child – I’ve raised this child, I’ve fed it, nurtured it, cared for it and now it’s like the first day of school, or graduation day, or their wedding day.

“It’s been eight and a half years in the making – I’ve gone through different jobs, moved to different locations, got married, had a couple of kids, a house fire, all these things have happened in that time.

“It feels awesome.”