An exciting new Feature Film to be made entirely in Vanuatu!
When a TV producer leads her film crew into a remote mountain valley to discover the story of her Father’s disappearance 30 years before, she disturbs his Ghost, unleashing havoc on the valley and her crew. But is her film more important than their lives?
In 1982 a diary is found, opening new interest into the mysterious death of Chris Blackwell, a geologist who disappeared whilst living with a remote Melanesian Highlands Tribe in the 1950’s. His daughter, Bunnie Blackwell, an Australian TV producer, decides to make a documentary film from that diary.
Bunnie hires American Jay Peterson to direct it. Jay has extensive experience and a reputation for his work in remote tribal areas, but Bunnie knows she needs more than just a well-known director. She also needs a celebrity name attached to help raise the money. She persuades her friend and daytime TV personality, George Cousins, to join the expedition to the fictitious Wegan Islands to be her presenter/narrator and 'Marquee Star'.
As filming commences in the remote Yopa Valley where her father was last seen, George Cousins is soon changing from presenting the life of Blackwell to acting the real part. As he does this he falls in love with the beautiful Sanngai, a native Wegan woman.
Jay tries to convince Bunnie that she should get the locals to recreate the rituals and lifestyle from 30 years ago, to make it more than just a documentary. With a little more time and effort they could turn her mysterious search-documentary into a dramatic feature-movie and attract international attention and awards. Perhaps even an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.
Bunnie’s anxious production manager, Clive, feels that the film will take far too long, be too costly and extremely dangerous. But Jay is persuasive and is soon inspiring the villagers to demonstrate their old rituals, including tribal warfare. In doing so, Jay unwittingly rekindles old vendettas surrounding those warring days gone by. Soon Bunnie is caught between two warring men and two warring tribes.
The Valley turns into a battlefield for the first time in 30 years. Bunnie is horrified and orders the crew to leave the Valley at once before someone gets killed. But Jay insists this is the opportunity of a lifetime and they must not miss this genuine stone age war. Prize winning stuff! She wants to believe him, but the crew members are divided.
Meanwhile, Clive discovers that Blackwell not only found a love of these people, he also found gold! And when Clive's greed for gold and his menacing activities disturbs the Ghost of Chris Blackwell, the Valley becomes haunted and tragedy looms. When the only exit from the Valley is destroyed, they are inescapably involved.
Bunnie discovers that to keep the spirit of Blackwell at bay, another must be sacrificed in its place. With her own life now on the line, she must escape the Valley and get her crew to safety before it’s too late.
But Clive has other plans. He rallies the two warring tribes and incites an all out war, and Bunnie becomes separated from her crew. With Bunnie trapped by Clive, Jay risks his life and returns for her. Now Bunnie and Jay must work together to escape Clive, and unite the Valley before tribal warfare, Blackwells ghost, and Clive’s greed kills them all.
Telling a Ghost Story can be Deadly!
35 - TV Producer
Australian TV producer, Bunnie, finds the lost diary of her father, Chris B l a c k w e l l , w h o m y s t e r i o u s l y disappeared in the Melanesian Highlands while searching for gold in the 1950’s. Bunnie puts her house on the line and raises the money to hire a crew with a reputation in remote filmmaking to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. But everything unravels when her feuding crew disturb the spirits of the Valley
38 - Doco Director
The renowned American documentary director does not sign on to Bunnie's film for yet another tribal experience. He’s had plenty of that. Rather he’s a divorcee who needs the dough and Bunnie needs his expertise. But Jay would rather be following his dream of making a big screen movie, and he has a plan to do just that.
35 - Wegan Guide
A native Wegan from the Yopa Valley, Benjamin Natua was the first of his generation to travel out of the Valley, to the capital, for schooling. He now returns to his village as the guide for Bunnie's film crew. It’s his first time home since his marriage ceremony ten years ago. Now he must juggle his duty to the film crew and his father, Wahme. But will he get lost between two cultures?
40 - Production Executive
He’s the reason Bunnie lost her job, and now the studio insists he accompany her as production manager on this rigorous location film shoot. He's very hands-on, but unfortunately can't keep them off Bunnie. And when he discovers gold in Yopa, his greed causes a major incident that brings the Valley back into its first war in 30 years.
30 - Chief of the Yopa Tribe
Unlike his brother Benjamin, Weyak has rarely left the Valley. And now after 10 years being away, Benjamin has returned from the capitol with Bunnie's film crew. As the chief of the Yopa tribe and a fierce warrior, Weyak forms an alliance with the mad Clive when the film crew and the Valley are at each other’s throats.
45 - TV Celebrity
George is the much loved host of the daytime talk show Cousins and Friends, who agrees to help Bunnie by presenting and narrating her new film. Between trying to remember his lines, and trying to stay alive, George discovers himself in the Valley, and ultimately finds love in the most unexpected place.
35 - Sound Recordist
Irish Sound Recordist, Quinn, has w o r k e d o n m a n y l o c a t i o n documentaries and most often with Richard and Jay. He is a jokester and is always up for a laugh. He is especially cheery on this assignment when he finds a comical love of the Pidgin language. But this pastime soon becomes a very real necessity when all hell breaks loose and he finds himself in the middle of the battlefield with nothing but his microphone.
35 - Cameraman
Richard is not Irish, he’s American, but he and Quinn have formed an intimate working relationship, finishing each other’s thoughts. They are Jay’s go-to guys, and the perfect crew to help Bunnie get the film she wants. No one is better than Richard with a 16mm camera in remote locations. But he’s never seen anything like this, as he is sadly caught up in the havoc Clive is about to wreak.
35 - Leader of the Kamba People
The Kamba people are the second tribe in the Valley and Ari is their leader. He wants Bunnie’s crew to film more with the Kamba side of the Valley, and not only on the Yopa side. When he sees the Yopa tribe dressing and pressing their indigenous ways he becomes jealous. Ari’s envy is enough to ignite a rage. When combined with an asinine moment from Clive it develops into the first tribal war in 30 years.
30 - Sister of Benjamin & Weyak
Sanngai is Benjamin and Weyak's widowed sister. Bunnie loves her image and films with her whenever they need to portray the woman Chris Blackwell fell in love with before he disappeared. Her eight-year-old son loves George, and the three grow close as the weeks pass. And when Chris Blackwell’s marriage scene is recreated for the film, with George and Sanngai in the starring roles, the lines between performance and reality become blurred. Soon, the ghost of the prospector is not his only obsession.
30 Years Dead - Bunnie’s Father
Blackwell was the first white man to reach this notorious Yopa Valley. But in 1952 he mysteriously disappeared. His schooling in mining exploration never taught him what to expect once on the job in the wilds of the mountainous Wegan Highlands. He loved the valley and fell in love with a local woman, but may have also discovered untold riches. Bunnie wants to unveil the mystery of his time there and why his death is so intertwined with their tribal war. But telling a ghost story can be deadly.
Jo-Anne is an award-winning writer and director who s p e c i a l i s e s i n c r a f t i n g nuanced performances from both trained actors and real p e o p l e . A s a n A F T R S graduate, Jo-Anne brings bold stories to screen across short and long form drama and documentary
In 2017 Jo-Anne directed her debut feature film Zelos in partnership with Screen Australia, Definition Films (The Water Diviner, Samson & Delilah) and The Steve Jaggi Company (Rip Tide, Back of the Net).
Her second feature film Paper Champions features John Tui (The Hobbit, Fast & Furious, Solo: A Star Wars Story), Gary Sweet (The Pacific, House Husbands) and Genevieve Morris (Ride Like A Girl, Bloom) and is currently in theatrical release
Her films have aired on SBS and have screened in film festivals across Australia and around the world, including most recently, at MIFF, CinefestOZ and in the Academy accredited competition at Flickerfest.
Jo-Anne currently has multiple projects in development, including a comedy web series, various feature scripts and two TV series.
Bill has been producing film and television for over 30 years. His last feature film, the critically acclaimed, World War I epic, BENEATH HILL 60, picked up 12 Australian Nominations including Best Film, Best Director and Best Script.
His production of the short comedy Departure Lounge - A Bollywood Affair won the Best Comedy at the AFI Social Shorts Awards.
His most recent film on Australian Artist, Bruce Goold, Under the Lino played to packed houses and is now reaching wider audiences on www.artfilms.com.au
Bill attended University in California and Film School in London. He worked with the BBC and the UK Film industry for ten years before moving his production company to Australia in the 1980’s from where he has produced over 25 films for National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, BBC, ABC and SBS.
His company Lucky Country Productions is currently developing projects for both Feature Film and Television. Currently LCP is producing the feature film GARDENS OF WAR for theatrical release as well as for streaming audiences, and RED HOT, an 8 part TV series directed by Rachel Ward, about a woman pursuing an arsonist terrorising her fruit growing valley, driving the valley crazy with 300 fires in four years.
As a young Aussie, Bill began his career working on the road with a touring sound company across the USA. He later joined a f i l m c o m p a n y i n Michigan, initially as a sound engineer, but soon learned all aspects of the trade including lighting, cinematography, writing, directing, and producing.
In 1991 Bill moved back to Sydney with his young family to set up Flicks Australia, A highly successful company that’s had an incredible and diverse range of projects. From advertising to live events, television and documentaries, interactive multi-media, government films at all levels, and literally thousands of television commercials.
In 2010, Bill and his amazing wife Romina moved to Vanuatu to set up a new life. Besides a lot of other things, they run an Advertising and Events company out of Port Vila called DMC Vanuatu. So they have the experience, local knowledge and logistical support to manage the Vanuatu end of the film.
His most recent success was Last Cab to Darwin adapted from his own play into a feature film, starring dual Oscar Nominee - Jackie Weaver and Michael Caton. It was nominated for 8 AACTA Awards.
He has since journeyed through Vanuatu with Bill Leimbach and Bill Mulham searching for the perfect locations for GARDENS OF WAR. Then having been on the spot where it will happen, set out to do a new draft of Bill Leimbach’s original script.
He is currently working with Jo-Anne, honing the script and story until it rings perfectly, ready for filming in Vanuatu in 2021.
Co - Producer
Ashley is International Convenor and Head of Special Projects at Griffith Film School . He leads the school’s international coproductions and a range of award winning cross-cultural Filmmaking Bootcamps, which he has run in many countries, including Vanuatu.
While taking film students to Vanuatu over the years, he has worked with film and drama organisations like Wan Smol Bag. Very few people would know more than Ashley about the machinations of filming in Vanuatu. It is proposed that some of Ashley’s advanced students and ex students work in key departments of GARDENS OF WAR, alongside Vanuatu film crew, all under Department Heads from Australian and New Zealand.
Gods Of Egypt - Stunt Utility The Water Diviner - Stunt Actor Suicide Squad - Stunt Rigger, 2015 Unbroken - Stunt Actor, 2014 I-Frankenstien - Lead Stunt Double, 2014 The Great Gatsby - Stunt Utility, 2013 The Railway Man - Stunt Actor / Rigger, 2013 Absolute Deception - Stunt Driver / Actor, 2012 Life Of Pi - Stunt Rigger, 2012 Wolverine - Stunt Rigger, 2009
Gulliver’s Rushes and rehearsals for
Watch the trailer from The Valley with music by Pink Floyd
Just as Pink Floyd brought attention to The Valley 40 years ago, Lime Cordiale will score GARDENS OF WAR. Using their assortments of instruments and wealth of exotic musicians, they will produce an eccentric ground breaking musical score, to be marketed and released simultaneously, expanding the reach enormously.
Having been nominated for 8 ARIA awards in 2020, their popularity will bring an added audience as well as a fresh new stable of sounds that will bring GARDENS OF WAR to international attention. They also had 4 songs in Triple J’s Hottest 100 in 2020 and their new album, “14 Steps to a Better You” debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts.
With over ten years together they have had the opportunity to compose for all medium and genres, Television Commercials, Film Drama and Web series.
Lime Cordiale is part of the CHUGG International Group which is now part of the Mushroom Group.
GARDENS OF WAR is based on a true story from my 40 years making films in remote, exotic worlds not unlike the one we have fabricated with this action drama. With the people of Vanuatu we will create a unique tapestry of 1980s ethnography, clothes and music for both the tribe and the film crew.
The mysterious disappearance of an explorer in the remote mountains at 3,000 meters is the perfect puzzle to solve while presenting both the tribal story and a love story. I went in search of the perfect team to develop it with me. Partnering with my long term collaborator Bill Mulham, and Vanuatu expat for over ten years, was the first step forward.
We brought writer Reg Cribb to Vanuatu to see first-hand where it will be set and meet some of the locals involved. Together we met government officials to present our case as well as interested investors for development support.
Our budget has been developed with a production cost just under $6 Million AUD
This is based on filming over 40 days, with 30 days of preproduction, entirely in and around Port Vila.
We are currently in talks with Tess Haubrich, Ryan Corr and Jake Ryan for the main leads. Bill Mulham and his team in Vanuatu will search out the best Melanesian cast and support crew from across the 83 islands of Vanuatu.
Jo-Anne Brechin has already directed two feature films and teamed up with myself and Reg Cribb to bring the most recent script to life, adding a woman’s perspective.
Jo-Anne is skilled at both writing, and extracting drama from talented actors as well as amateurs. Together with Jack Shepard as her Director of Photography, and one of the world’s best stuntmen handling the fighting and bridge stunts, Jo- Anne will be more than comfortable at the helm.
She will work with our cast to tell Bunnie’s story full of bravery, passion and compassion. Our list of supporting actors has been chosen for their experience, but also because they will enjoy embedding with us in Vanuatu, binding with the local people to help make GARDENS OF WAR an historic event, for both Vanuatu and the international film world.
Very rarely does the opportunity to tell a big, bold, story like GARDENS OF WAR come along. Especially a story set in the highlands of the fictional Wegan Islands. When an adventure like this beckons, it’s hard not to heed it’s call.
Gardens of War is an escapist drama and survivalist thriller rolled into one. It employs the classic hero’s Journey structure, and places a strong, female protagonist at its core.
Essentially, it is a story about an Australian TV producer, Bunnie Backwell, trying to discover the story of her late father’s life, and how it ended. But when the lives of her crew and the people of the Valley are put on the line, Bunnie will come to learn that not all stories are worth telling.
Inspired by producer Bill Leimbach’s career spent documenting some of the most remote cultures and places in the world, the script has evolved in collaboration with myself and Reg Cribb. For me, a script is an everevolving blue print and I am excited to see how it can be transformed once again through creative collaboration with cast, HODs and Vanuatu creative consultants alike.
Setting the film in the 1980s not only gifts us the opportunity to tap into a nostalgic era of music, costume and design, but it also elevates the stakes for our characters.
Without the trappings of modern technology, our characters can become instantly, and more believably, isolated the second they arrive in the Yopa Valley, adding at once to both the drama and the danger.
This era also creates a poetic duality within the story world. The 1980s were defined by greed, shoulder pads, big business and even bigger hair. All of which Bunnie subscribes to when we first meet her in the ordinary world. But when Bunnie crosses the threshold and lands in the remote Yopa Valley, she could not be further from everything she knows. This creates the perfect ‘fish out of water’ scenario to put Bunnie to the ultimate tests - to discover her father, her past, the kind of filmmaker she wants to be, and ultimately, to discover herself.
This duality is echoed through many facets of the story and this theme is constant. The pairing of two opposites is further reflected in various character dynamics, ie. Wahme and Blackwell, Jay and Clive, Benjamin and Weyak, George and Sanggai. This duality mirrors Bunnie’s own character paradox, reflecting the duality within herself, and the very thing she must wrestle with by films’ end
This is a story with a strong female protagonist and it is told from her unique perspective. Bunnie’s wit, her inner strength and her determination despite all obstacles is commendable. But for me, it is her willingness to sacrifice her own work, her own film, for the lives of others. This is what makes her a true hero.
Bunnie sets out to make a film to save her career, her bank account and her life. But ultimately she must give it all up to save the people of the Yopa Valley. It is Bunnie’s dilemma and discovery of self that will elevate the story from the personal to the universal.
Visually, Gardens of War, will combine that classic 1980’s filmic look with the modern cinematic wonder of widescreen. Through this added layer of duality, we will capture the essence and beauty of Vanuatu - the old and the new - in every frame. Contrasting the stunning natural landscape of the place with the - at times - ugly actions of the people stuck within it. We will further explore our theme of duality through framing as we look to find the poetry of these two worlds colliding.
This story world is a place typically reserved for explorers, and for men. But Bunnie is our portal into this world and through her, we will come to experience this usual gritty world, with colour, joy and sublime detail.
Having a film made within a film creates a unique opportunity to experiment with POV at various points of the film. It allows for stylistic choices and creativity around the choice of when and how to contrast, and at others time blur, what is being filmed of the characters and what is being filmed by the characters.
Movement and energy of the frame and camera will be integral to track Bunnie’s journey across three acts, and to keep the action and stakes at an all time high. Smooth, controlled and sleek camera movements will carry us through act one as we are bound by the trappings of Bunnie's ordinary world.
But as we venture into act two, our camera’s approach and movement will shift to adapt to its new and vast surroundings, and by act three, hand-held, frenetic framing and movement will keep us guessing at every turn, as our characters must fight for their lives.
Bunnie’s dreams and imaginings play out as ‘hauntings’, at times shifting back and forth among memories in the protagonist’s life. Care must be taken to ensure these flashes are not clunky, and intrusive, but instead propel the stakes and the story forward.
Costume Design will be vital to track Bunnie’s transformation across the story, as her key turning points are reflected by her ever changing, and often diminishing, costume. Bunnie’s costume will mirror her journey, as the layers of both are peeled back as she discovers her past, her father, and her true self. By film’s end Bunnie will have journeyed 180 degrees from where she started, with not a shoulder pad in sight.
To further immerse our audience in this world, the score will utilise the inherent sound scape of Vanuatu. Together with the talents of Australian band, Lime Cordiale, I imagine a minimal yet emotionally-charged soundtrack.
The success of films like Netflix’s Unorthodox, weaved fiction and reality, but always drew on the truthful human portrayals of each and every character. In doing so, they created a full world, giving each character, and each culture a full and deep sense of identity. This is something Gardens of War should aspire to.
Working with local Vanuatu cast, crew and creative consultants is an exciting prospect and will be vital to telling this story. Having authentic Vanuatu voices guiding the creative across production design, set builds, language, culture, costume, etc will be pivotal in creating an authentic experience for both our cast and audience alike.
Vanuatu itself will be an ever-present character in the story, and it is a remarkable opportunity to be able to tell this story in Vanuatu, and to celebrate the beauty and talent within Vanuatu to an international audience. We will be sure to pack plenty of excitement and splendour into each frame as we showcase the rich visual and cultural tapestry of Vanuatu.
It is an honour to have worked on the project to date with such experienced practitioners like Bill Leimbach and Bill Mullham. I anticipate the crew and cast will be a great and varied mix of experience and I have faith in this team to bring this vision to life.
We know the world of drama has moved from cinema houses to streaming services like NETFLIX, AMAZON PRIME, APPLE and STAN. But there is also plenty of room for one-off tele-movies exciting 90 minute dramas! We are creating a uniquely attractive film for any one of these many streaming companies, all hungry for content and anxious for powerful Australian drama. With our distribution partners we will find the best home, domestically and internationally, for GARDENS OF WAR.
Whilst there is the obvious retro appeal of the 1980’s fashion and music, this is not just a nostalgic romp.
This major motion picture is a red-hot opportunity to develop something wonderful for Vanuatu. Over the past year we have spent considerable time there, introducing people to the project, looking for partners, working with Government and tourism groups to gauge the interest, not only for production, but also for investment.
Port Vila would become our hub of film production, with many months of production activity and production spend.
We worked closely with the City of Townsville in North Queensland, to develop our $10 million war movie, BENEATH HILL 60, made entirely in that city. They supported us with sponsorships, local and state government participation and local investment into the film.
Today, Townsville and its residents have a film they are proud of, with a legacy that will live on forever. We hope to do the same in Vanuatu, and that this project would lead to the establishment of a film hub in the Pacific.
The story of GARDENS OF WAR is set amongst a fictitious Melanesian tribal group, 3,000 meters above sea level, in a fictitious Melanesian Island nation called the Wegan Island.
After months of searching for the right location for the production, we decided on Efate, the main island of Vanuatu. Not only can we create that tropical mountainous atmosphere, but Port Vila, the capital, has access to all the film making materials and personnel we would need.
As you can see from the news and video clips on the weblink there is a buzz on the island which has resulted in local support as well as financial investment from the international private sector.
Vanuatu is the Jewel of the Pacific. The independent nation of 83 islands, offers great locations, a co-operative Government and friendly efficient workers, as well as a large pool of experienced locally based actors and extras.
It will be a wonderful working experience for all the cast and crew coming from Australia and New Zealand. As well as a great opportunity for local technicians and artisans to learn from some of the best, and in turn elevate the local standards.
Port Vila is only a short flight from Australia and New Zealand with a great range of long term accommodation to chose from.
Vanuatu is also steeped in rich culture - with more than 200 dialects spoken - meaning people on one side of an island can’t speak to those on the other side…. which makes for incredible cultural diversity in a relatively small place
It’s also currently COVID FREE which puts the production in a unique position to jump the tourism cue for general re-opening, and with the help of DFAT and the Vanuatu Government, we can set up special travel arrangements and protocols to get the film rolling, sooner.
GARDENS OF WAR has been in development for nearly two years. Within this time there have been several script drafts and the script is now ready to shoot. A budget has been established of $5.9 Million AUD. Several production schedules have been created that all point to forty days of filming which translates into 7 to 8 weeks. Initial casting has been undertaken as well as discussions with key crew members. We are currently gearing up to commence pre-production in Vanuatu from August 1, 2021, when we bring over the Australian cast and crew. There would be 4 weeks of pre-production followed by 40 days of filming over 8 weeks. The filming will wrap mid November. Assemble editing would be carried out during filming and the final post production would be done over December and January, ready for release in March 2022.
The 6 Million Dollar Movie and Music by Lime Cordiale will be financed entirely by the private sector.
A Vanuatu Limited company GARDENS OF WAR LTD has been set up and shares will be sold to a select group of investors.
Unlike a lot of complicated feature film investments, GARDENS OF WAR LTD and its investors will retain 100% equity of the film.
At the completion of the film, the investors will receive 100% of the net income from ALL REVENUE STREAMS: Cinema, Streaming, TV, DVD, Soundtrack Album, Merchandising etc.
Revenue will be disbursed equally among share holders annually, along with full financial reporting.
The advantage in financing the film entirely through private equity is that this avoids the slow and tedious Government funding bodies who can ultimately impose legislative and editorial controls.
And the producers would also have the ability to move quickly to accommodate the COVID situation and the rapidly changing market place.
COVID has translated into production lockdowns across the globe, and in turn created a huge shortfall of new content for an every increasingly hungry marketplace.
GARDENS OF WAR is now well placed to move quickly and capitalise on this demand. With a scheduled arrival date of August 1, 2021 we’ve got a cast and crew, eager to make this major Film and Sound Track Album an International Success.
A GREAT investment for Vanuatu
As an investor in Gardens of War, you are not only investing in a Major Feature Film, but you are also supporting hundreds of people and businesses in Vanuatu, at a time when the tourism industry has been silenced and people are desperate.
And not just desperate for income, but desperate to be more productive and to be proud of what they are doing. The film will employ many people in the transport sector, caterers, accommodation, carpenters and local artisans to create authentic tribal wardrobe.
Plus there will be actors required, extras, stunt performers and technicians, working with the Australian counterparts at a level that they’ve never before achieved. And working with the Griffith University Students who are are there to mentor and share.
It sets the stage for further development in the entertainment and arts sectors and a new generation of film makers.
We invite you to read the Investment Information Memorandum which outlines the complete investment package as well as the latest budget and production schedule.
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