Premier kicks in $450,000 for penguin flick

A FEATURE film on how Warrnambool’s penguin population was saved by a chook farmer’s Maremma dogs has scored $450,000 from the state government.

Premier and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine yesterday visited the kennels at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village to announce the investment for Oddball which will star Shane Jacobson and be directed by his brother Clayton.

Film Victoria’s money comes a fortnight after Screen Australia announced an $11 million package for the Maremma story and three other feature films, as well as four adult drama productions and one children’s series.

The project was initially kick-started with about $75,000 from Film Victoria for scriptwriter Peter Ivan to develop the unique story after one of the film's producers Steve Kearney heard about the Maremma program during a visit to the Fun4Kids Festival in 2006.

Dr Napthine said Oddball was expected to create about 400 jobs for Victorians and generate millions in production expenditure.

“This is an economic investment,” he said.

“The project will be shot entirely in Victoria and inject significant money into our local economy and  provide jobs for our community through accommodation, catering and meals.

“It is set to provide not only national, but international exposure as our picturesque Warrnambool coastline and stunning surrounds are celebrated on the silver screen.”

He said the film’s release would bring more tourism revenue from visitors who would stay overnight in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland.

Filming is likely to take place during April, May and June with some of the roles played by local extras.

Award-winning filmmaker Richard Keddie will produce the movie which will tell how a local park ranger makes a last-ditch attempt to stop fox attacks on the Middle Island penguins by bringing chook farmer Allan “Swampy” Marsh to help train a Maremma named Oddball to deter the marauders.

Mr Keddie said the  Victorian investment was instrumental in securing the project. “We have one of the best comedy teams, Shane and Clay Jacobson, working together again with a fantastic script and crew,” he said.

“It is a nutty, eccentric comedy about a great Aussie character who saves a whole colony of penguins with an oddball idea.”

The penguin colony numbers dropped from an estimated 600 to about five in 2005 after attacks by foxes and stray dogs.

The 2006 trial proved successful and has become internationally famous.

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