Hobby turns into feature film


When Maurine Gibbons decided to write a book five years ago, it was supposed to be just a hobby.Fast forward to today and her side project has evolved from a book, to a screenplay, to a film in post-production.The healthcare administrator, 49, of Cronulla, had no previous experience and instead relied on books and advice from members of the Australian Writers Guild to guide her through the writing process.

‘‘It was a bold adventure to write a screenplay,’’ Gibbons, who finished it last February , said.

‘‘But the project turned out to be a love of mine and became more than just a hobby.’’

Her screenplay 1500 Steps is a coming-of-age drama that follows the journey of a Sutherland Shire boy pursuing his dream to become a champion athlete. Gibbons said it was a hero’s journey that delved into difficult life circumstances including the problems one has to overcome to succeed.

‘‘I was inspired to write this story after witnessing the challenges my children and their friends faced during high school,’’ Gibbons, who had the screenplay professionally edited, said.

‘‘The story is about encouraging young people to overcome problems at home or at school and to look to good people around you.’’

After the screenplay was completed, Gibbons met a Wollongong director via SPARC — a networking site that provides pathways for like-minded people to develop projects — which jumped on the opportunity to take her project to the screen.

More than 400 people turned up to auditions last October after they advertised the project as an unpaid role on an online networking site.

The final cast signed a ‘‘deferred payment’’ contract, which means if the film does get picked up by a studio then the cast will receive a nominal fee from the profits.

With most of the cast and crew working for free on the independent film, the $50,000 budget was used for production, equipment and on-site locations.

The quick 14-day shoot wrapped up last month and was shot at locations around the shire, excluding a high school scene at Drummoyne.

Locations included Shelly and Wanda beaches, Woronora Cemetery, Sylvania Waters athletics track and Waratah Fields at Sutherland.

With cast from Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne, Gibbons opened the doors to an apartment she owned at Cronulla to house the interstate cast members.

‘‘The shire is beautiful and I think it got a bad rap after the Cronulla riot,’’ Gibbons said about the location choice.

‘‘I really wanted to shine a positive light on the area. It was a lot more work than what I expected but there has been such a positive vibe from all the cast and crew.’’

With filming out of the way, director Josh Reid said he hoped the 90-minute film would be completed within six months.

‘‘The rough cut should be finished by July,’’ Mr Reid said.

‘‘We definitely want to have a limited cinema release around southern Sydney before we distribute it to film festivals and studios.’’

St George and Sutherland Shire Leader