IT was lights, camera, action yesterday as filming started on feature film Oddball, which adds a dose of comedy to Warrnambool’s unique story of Maremma dogs protecting endangered penguins.
Starring Shane Jacobson, of Kenny fame, the cast also includes Alan Tudyk, Sarah Snook, Coco Gillies, Richard Davies, Deborah Mailman and Frank Woodley.
Two Maremmas, several penguins and a fox will also play key roles in the family comedy, expected to be released internationally next year.
Cameras rolled yesterday morning at Williamstown and will move on Friday to a Dandenongs set resembling the property of Warrnambool district chook farmer Allan “Swampy” Marsh, who instigated the idea of using his dogs to save the penguin population on Middle Island in 2006. The 70-plus crew and most of the cast will then travel to Warrnambool on May 19 for a fortnight of filming at locations including Liebig Street, Flagstaff Hill, Stingray Bay and Viaduct Road.
Intricate filming of interaction between penguins and dogs will later be shot in the Docklands film studio, where a set will resemble sections of Middle Island, which is too environmentally sensitive for the crew to be tramping on.
“We are looking forward to our time in Warrnambool,” co-producer Ella Keddie said yesterday.
“There is a lot of outside shooting to be done and we want to capture the natural beauty of the area.
“We’ve added a few bits of comedy to the story.”
Animal trainer Luke Hura, of Red Dog fame, has Meeko ready to play the main role of Swampy’s dog Oddball, guarding penguins, and Kai will play Swampy’s other dog Missy, guarding the chooks.
Hura is also training a fox, which potentially will feature in a few shots, while little blue penguins recruited from Sea World will be used in the Docklands studio scenes.
The storyline is about how Swampy, with help from his granddaughter, trains his mischievous dog to protect the penguins and in the process reunites his family and saves his town.
It includes a chase scene at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, which will involve about 130 local residents who signed up as extras.
Jacobson plays the role of Swampy, Snook his daughter and Gillies the granddaughter.
Liebig Street, between Koroit and Timor streets, will be closed to vehicle traffic on May 20 while the production crew works from dawn to dusk.
Warrnambool tourism services manager Peter Abbott and Ms Keddie said there would be vantage points where residents could observe the filming action.