Set in 1917 in Rural Australia, Fire in the Belly takes a peep into simmering tensions in a small town during World War 1

The Project

We are half way through shooting footage for our short film and invite you to help us finish it.

Fire in the Belly – is a community short film project that tells a fictional story inspired by the discovery of scraps of an old newspaper article in the local Museum that hints at a secret untold and a vastly unknown historical story in our town – a social uprising in the small community of Rushworth in the dark years prior to the end of World War 1. This community film project is about telling a story of what may have happened in the darkness of discontent, the secret meetings, hatching of the plan and the result of these actions.

The Story and the History Background of the Story:

Rushworth; A quiet and humble little town nowadays with an illustrious past; Officially recorded as being a boom town, a gold town with a rush that saw the largest Box/Ironbark forest in the Southern hemisphere razed to the ground as the thousands of miners who came to seek their fortune from the four corners of the earth used the forest timber to shore their way along the tunnels beneath the ground. The loggers, above ground, felled the timber to stoke the household fires of Melbourne and provide railway sleepers for the Victorian rail network, broke their backs for little pay.

1914 saw the beginning of World War One with young men from all over Australia rushing to join the armed forces voluntarily. Throughout 1916 and 1917 losses on the Western Front in Europe were heavy and gains were small. In 1916 a referendum was held in Australia to conscript men to prop up the depleted forces – it was defeated. In 1917 another referendum was held as Britain sought a sixth Australian division for active service. Australia had to provide 7000 men per month to meet this request. Volunteer recruitment continued to lag and on 20 December 1917 Prime Minister Hughes put a second referendum to the Australian people – Hughes’ proposal to the Australia people was that voluntary enlistment should continue, but that any shortfall would be met by compulsory reinforcements of single men, widowers, and divorcees without dependents between 20 and 44 years, who would be called up by ballot. The referendum was defeated! The conscription referenda were divisive politically, socially and within religious circles.

Newspapers and magazines of the time demonstrate the concerns, arguments, and the passion of Australians in debating this issue. Who would have thought that in the small Central Victorian community of Rushworth that the seeds of an uprising were germinating.

Fuelled by discontent, a small dissident group of Rushworth workers and those against conscription aimed their anger at local Rushworth landholders who openly used their cars to support the ‘yes’ vote for the referendum. It is the unfolding of this unknown story – of the secret meetings that must have occurred and the implementation of a plan to burn to the ground, the property of those who they held accountable for keeping the workers down and in addition, to conscript more men to the killing fields of Europe -This is a story that needs to be told.

Why is this Project Important?

With an initial grant from Regional Arts Victoria, we wrote a script, engaged a crew made up of young film makers and committed community members, put together a cast of enthusiastic locals and are now half way through the shooting schedule. The chosen key artistic personnel recruited for this project is purposefully a multi-generational crew; combining the seasoned knowledge of experienced elders with the enthusiastic and tech savvy contemporary approach of a young production crew directed by Cecelia Hedditch who grew up in Rushworth. This project is designed to provide an opportunity for a team of young film makers to work with older more experienced researchers and producers and the community of Rushworth to create a film that will tell a local story that is conceptually and historically connected to worldwide events of the time.

Senior students from local schools have had opportunities to work with the creative personal throughout the project. It has provided many opportunities for individuals and groups in the community to work with the crew. The cast have been drawn from the community, the props and locations are all existing historical items and buildings in Rushworth. Bring the Story to Life Bringing a story to life in the historic township of Rushworth has taken on a whole new meaning as we progress with the Fire in the Belly, short film making, and community project.

We have now completed six full day shoots in and around the towns of Rushworth and Stanhope. Many locals and visitors alike have experienced the ‘double take’ as they wander the main street when suddenly a boy in turn of the twentieth century clothing on an old bicycle nonchalantly rides by eating a hamburger OR they are courteously greeted by a Policeman in jodhpurs and a Bobby’s helmet as he walks the beat in High Street.

The making of Fire in the Belly has fired the imagination of 34 cast members, 10 professional crew plus 10 or more amateur and/or trainee crew members with an overall volunteer base of 245 people. Open auditions drew such interest that the script for the movie was expanded to accommodate more roles; such was the enthusiasm of the participants. The Community outcomes of our project so far This project has brought the era of the early 20th century to life in Rushworth…. The town’s buildings of the era contain unfolding lives of contemporary folk but through this project we have experienced the effect of transporting ourselves back in time to where we imagine certain dramas may have played out. It has allowed all involved to gain a glimpse behind the veil of time to a past that is still palpable. We have a cast of 34 people – locals from the town and across the Goulburn Valley who have gained so much through their involvement in the filming process to date. We have people of all ages involved in all aspects of the film making process. Some of the responses from our participants…….

Darcy – Senior Secondary School ‘For years I’ve aspired to work in the film industry when I’m older, but I hadn’t really had any experience in the industry. Being a part of Fire in the Belly has been such a valuable experience for me, and confirmed my future ambitions. Having such a wonderful project being so close to home is great, and really helps bring a community together and makes the town feel all the more special.’

Nick – Senior Secondary School ‘I am part of “fire in the belly” crew team I am working as the sound assistant and when i have a free moment i help out other in the areas. Working on this film has really shown me its never going to go to plan. Because you see all these movies and some 5 seconds scenes may have taken anywhere from five minutes to an hour. things such as a car driving by to a sneeze can be somethings that can make you have to restart everything. This movie has definitely opened my eyes to a new set of jobs that actually interested me. In the movie, I’m that guy you all should feel sorry for, Having to hold the Boom mic. really high in the air so it doesn’t show on the camera. It’s definitely showed me it takes a lot more skill than i originally thought when i first showed up. Has also Changed my perspective on how i watch movies now’

Shane – Adult Participant ‘I would like to write to express the joy I have received from being part of the Fire in the Belly film project. I have always been interested in the making of a film, but I have never had the courage to step outside my comfort zone and get involved in such a project. After seeing a social media call for expressions if interest in Fire in the Belly, I plucked up the courage and went to an information session not knowing what to expect. I offered my ability to use my hands, an eye for detail, an interest in history and a keenness to learn to the production team. I was welcomed with open arms and this was the start of my love for film making. I have met and worked with the most amazingly creative and talented people. I have created objects and props that have been used in the film. I have learnt about lighting, cameras, costumes, wardrobe, location, sound, props, makeup, gaffing, dolly’s and many other things to date. I know I have not even scratched the surface of the mine of information and knowledge that is available, but this taste has certainly whet my appetite. The most amazing experience I have had is the sense of community and achievement that comes from a group of people working towards a common goal and working in harmony (even in the wee small hours when you have been on set all day and everyone is getting tired) and not in competition with each other. This joy and elation far outweighs the exhaustion of a 3am finish. I cannot express enough how much this experience has changed my life. I’m looking forward to completing and seeing the end result of The Fire in the Belly and I am looking forward to my next project.’

All good movies require great sets and while the township of Rushworth has an overwhelming choice of possibilities -The Historical Museum being one of them, with the old Rushworth telephone exchange taking a starring role in the unfolding story of Fire in the Belly. It is up to the art department to make sure the detail in each location is convincing. An enormous amount of research and care has gone into dressing each set and the members of the props team have learnt how to make it all seem real as they transform each location from 2016 back to the war era of 1917. Many of the large carpentry props have been made by the participants at the Rushworth Men’s Shed who have enthusiastically contributed their time and effort to the task. After being on set for hours at a time, with the cast in the costume of the day, it is quite a shock when you suddenly find yourself back in the twenty-first Century!

The Crew

Director -Cecelia Hedditch

Writing Workshop Facilitator – Kate Kennedy

Script Development – Steve Boltz in collaboration with community members

1st Assistant Director – Jessica Kneipp

2nd Assistant Director – Autumn Loveday

3rd Assistant Director – Stacey Quine

Cinematographer – Raffaele Giordanao

Lighting – Lewis Eyers-Stott

Sound – Millie Levaskis & Nicholas Runciman-Forster (mentoree)

Producers – Mimi Leung, Angie Russi, John Minehan, Will Kendrew

Editors – Cecelia Hedditch & Zac Millner-Cretney

Photography Stills – Linda Marikar, Billie Lees

Additional Crew -Community Members

Dramaturge – Sue Meeking

Art Dept/Props – Shane Trevena, Angie Russi, Heather Wellington, Rushworth Men’s Shed

Make up – Vicki McKenzie

Hair Stylist – Sheryl DeLucca

Costume – Robyn Thompson, Jennifer Fantig

Runners – Eva James, Beka McPerson, Craig Seemer, Judy Forster, Sarah Lang-Richards.

Catering – Betal Tuner

Unit – Margaret Lock

The Cast

Britney Evans, John Minehan, Craig Seamer, Beka Macpherson, Dale Potter, Lynda Clarke, Les Pelle, Connor Deakin, Jay Bryce, Tina Campbell, Andrew Ferguson, Annette Morris, Eva James, Andrew Skinner, Sue Meeking, Dave Derby, Ashley Raven, Greg Robson, Nick Buzza, Brendan Hawking, Bret Peterson, Eva Tam, Shane Trevena, Grady Dickason, Tom McCormick, Damian Batten, Anne Bromley, Blair Docking, Dean Gardiner, Iris Ambrose, Darcy Rathbone, Georgina Jaudzemis, Margaret Lock, Bruce Feldman, Maurice Dent, John Kean, Morris Clark

Risks and challenges

We are committed to finishing this film and with your help and pledge of funds we are assured of achieving our goal of producing a quality product that honours the community with whom we are working.

We are at this point because we underestimated the cost of producing the quality finished product that we are aiming for. We also underestimated the community enthusiasm for the film and grew the script to include enthusiastic community members – the cast grew from 10 to 34!

If it wasn’t for the sheer amount of volunteer hours and in kind commitment of all involved the project would never have progressed to the point we are at now and there is a commitment to raise the funds to get the project finished and ‘In the can’! We have learnt that good projects and good art take time, commitment, money and a great deal of generosity of spirit and we have bags of everything except money! We have learnt that there is a huge appetite for film – the need for skills development in the artform and the lack of availability to learn those skills in a rural environment. We have seen the good will and sheer determination of a community of committed people create positive community outcomes. We will continue on and complete this task!


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