The director of the acclaimed drama Van Diemen's Land (2009), Jonathan auf der Heide, is set to return to the bush for his next project, a morality tale called Mongrel.
“It’s about a group of men that go into the outback pig hunting but something goes wrong on their trip,” explains auf der Heide. “Their dogs maul a young couple and they find that the couple have $5 million of cash and so they have to make a discussion: Do they try and get the girl, who’s still alive back to town to try and save her life, or do they keep the money and bury the bodies?”
The film aims to blend the strong human dilemma at the centre of A Simple Plan with the aggressive sensibility of Wake in Fright. Producer Mark Overett (Iron Sky) brought the script to auf der Heide to direct after he received a pitch from British writer Ross Williams.
“When you read the script you’d swear it was written by an Aussie – it sounds and feels so authentic,” says Overett. “It’s a great morality tale about a group of Australian men who are put into an impossible situation and as a viewer we want you to think, ‘Well, what would I do in that situation?’”
The cast is due to be announced soon, but Overett says he’s keen to work again with some of those who appeared in the recently completed psychological thriller The Fear of Darkness, which he produced on the Gold Coast for director Christopher Fitchett.
“We haven’t made a film like this for a little while, a good contemporary thriller,” says Overett . “I’ve just done a supernatural psychological thriller, while this one is just a straight out-and-out fast ride.”
Although no film location has been decided on, due to the nature of the story’s country town/bush setting, the producer says Mongrel can be shot anywhere within an hour out of a major Australian city. The team intends to shoot the film either toward the end of the year or the start of 2015, and Overett is confident a future distribution deal will soon be secured.
“We’ve had a very successful time at 37º South [MIFF’s co-financing market], where we’ve had distribution and sales interest and followed on from very good interest from two sales agents out of Cannes.”
Also in the works for director auf der Heide is This Dark Wood, a zombie story set within the secluded areas of the Tasmanian rainforest concerning a young couple who move there to recover from losing their child, only to come up against the notorious Tasmanian Devil facial tumour disease which threatens the human race. A treatment of the story has been written by playwright Tom Holloway.
“We’ve been tinkering on it for about five years,” says auf der Heide. “Initially, we were looking to do a zombie film that did what Let the Right One In did for vampire films, so we really wanted to do something that was a little bit deeper and a bit more of an elevated genre film.”
This Dark Wood has Kristina Ceyton (The Babadook) onboard as a producer and auf der Heide intends to start shooting sometime in 2015.
The director also has the David O’ Donnell scripted crime drama Sons of Salt in development. Alex Russell (Chronicle, Unbroken) is attached to the lead role, an ex-con who finds it hard to go straight after the criminal tendencies of his surfer younger brother spiral out of control. The film will feature Backyard Ashes Aussie actor Andre Cunningham.