A SLICE of Hollywood came to Wongan Hills recently with a pivotal scene from the upcoming feature film 'The Canary' shot in the region's canola paddocks.
The film is set in the 1800s and follows the story of a young woman, Claire, who is cast away at sea.
Alone in her lifeboat, with nothing but a caged canary for company, the film goes on the journey with the young woman as she finds the strength to overcome the wild and her own internal struggles.
The feature film is a project of love from writer, director, producer and lead actress Emilie Lowe who wanted to create a story that highlighted a young woman overcoming adversity both physically and emotionally.
Ms Lowe met her co-director, Peter Renzullo at university.
While working on various short films the pair bonded over the challenges they have had to face.
Ms Lowe is a script writer with dyslexia and Mr Renzullo is a legally blind director and filmmaker.
"We've worked together before and we both have this sense of comradeship, as a dyslexic writer and a legally blind cinematographer, it's not what you would expect," Ms Lowe said.
The film had its first iteration as a poem before it evolved into a short film and eventually found its way to a feature film, as it is now.
Ms Lowe made the decision to set the film as a period drama to emphasise the key theme of overcoming, which is important to her on a personal level.
"As a writer with dyslexia I struggled for a long time to find what worked for me, to feel like I was worthy of following a career in film," she said.
"There was a lot of personal growth for me in that sense, which I wanted to reflect in the film.
"I really like and relate to tales where the character overcomes both internal and external struggles, so 'The Canary' became a story about being a woman in the 1800s who is trying to overcome internal struggles, while she also tries to survive the outback, which is pretty crazy."
An advocate for local talent and local landscape, Ms Lowe wanted to show off the incredible landscapes we have here in Western Australia.
With an eye on international feature film circuits, she hopes to bring exposure for the local film talent and to the natural Australian environment on show in the film.
"I wanted to highlight the Western Australian landscape," Ms Lowe said.
"This is part of the reason why we chose to shoot a pivotal scene in Wongan Hills, alongside the ocean and the forest because we wanted to showcase how diverse Western Australia is.
"We knew we wanted this particular scene to be visually unique and when one of our producers was driving through the Wongan Hills area with its stunning canola fields, we knew it was the perfect fit, matching perfectly with the colour scheme we have going for the film.
"We are very grateful to Alfreda Lyon and the Wongan-Ballidu Football Club for allowing us access to their charity canola fields for filming."
Not one to shy away from a challenge, Ms Lowe has been working full-time, studying script writing full-time and producing this film throughout 2020 and 2021, finding energy and passion for what she does because of an innate love for the craft.
"I just really love this film, but film is my life," she said.
"I love every element of film, from script writing, storyboarding, to being there in the editing room and colour grading - the whole process."
Although a passionate filmmaker there has still been many new learnings and opportunities for growth for the aspiring actor and director.
"The biggest challenge for me during this production, was learning how to direct and act at the same time," Ms Lowe said.
"I have never directed while being a lead in a big production before and I am a perfectionist, so watching myself back has been really hard.
"I've had to learn where to draw a line and say, OK that's the last take and move onto other things.
"I am grateful for the team, they have been really supportive of me and encouraged me when I have not been so sure of myself."
Battling with the desire to look good or pretty on camera is another challenge Ms Lowe has had to face, a similar learning many young actors grapple with.
"The situations the character gets in for this role needs to be gritty, she needs to look messy, and not perfect, almost grungy," she said.
"It's been important for me to learn as an actor but also as a young woman that it's okay to not look pretty and perfect.
"But that has been difficult."
The feature film has operated off a shoestring budget and the kindness of strangers, with the lifeboat and filming locations generously loaned for the shoot.
The most expensive item was the featured yellow dress, which needed to be custom made to accurately reflect the period of the film and support the authentic character journey that the audience follows.
"It's important to me that it's quite realistic to the time period," Ms Lowe said.
"Especially around how people expected women to act."
Ms Lowe made sure to spend a lot of time in researching the time period, especially around how women were treated.
She then let this research inform how the character developed, what decisions she made and how she would behave.
With a volunteer cast and crew, Ms Lowe hopes to find some success in the international film circuit, with any money awarded seeding the next project.
"After this film, that's what will be next, my next feature film," Ms Lowe said.
"I'd love to make a career out of script writing and filmmaking, to work with likeminded people who just love making films with no agenda behind it.
"Just enjoying the process and enjoying the outcome whilst creating a fun on set environment, that would be my dream."
To turn this dream into a reality she has started her own production company Salt and Honey Productions which will focus on creating local Western Australian films.
"Salt and Honey productions is my baby, I named it salt and honey as I want to make films that show the sour nature of reality through the sweet, beautiful lens of film." she said.
'The Canary' is set to be released mid 2022.
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