A tiny outback Queensland town is as far away as you can get from Hollywood, but its mayor hopes to put the region on the map as a movie-making destination.
Middleton, population three, has been transformed into a movie set for Goldstone, a contemporary western thriller.
The town’s pub and old dance hall are outnumbered by new set additions brought in to create a new town for the big screen.
Other productions have already been filmed in the region and there are more in the pipeline.
Winton Mayor Butch Lenton said productions like Goldstone could only help the local economy, which was being severely affected by the long-running drought.
“With the struggling rural industry, it is very important that we have all these little things to make things work a lot better in western towns,” he said.
Cr Lenton was also hoping the promotion would mean more tourists.
“Just the scenery out here – from Winton to Boulia – I think it is one of the great outback drives in Queensland, through the hills and then out into the flats,” he said.
“With the sets they have built beside the road, it is pretty spectacular.”
Publican Lester Cain has been in Middleton for 10 years and said the region was in need of some extra economic activity.
“We once rode on the sheep’s back,” he said.
“This might revitalise it a bit, put a bit of spark into it or something.”
Middleton transformed into new town
The makers of Goldstone have built a police station, an old shack, a mining camp and historic ruins, all within a few kilometres of Middleton.
But the isolation has meant everything needed has had to be trucked in.
Production designer Matt Putland said designing sets in such a remote location had been a satisfying experience.
“There wasn’t a lot here to start with, which is why we love it. We love the expanse of nothing,” he said.
“Middleton is beautiful. It’s a landscape that I haven’t seen anywhere in Australia. It is very harsh, and very dry, even the metal out here doesn’t rust.”
Goldstone producer David Jowsey said the council had been receptive and supportive of the film crew.
“We have bought 50 odd people here and we have built sets down the main road of Middleton,” he said.
“Now Middleton is the town of Goldstone.”
The western is a follow to Ivan Sen’s 2013 Mystery Road, about a bush detective Jay Swan, played by Aaron Pedersen.
“He is trying to unravel corruption – so he’s got to bring down the corrupt guys and I think audiences are going to enjoy that,” Jowsey said.
The strong cast also includes Jacki Weaver, David Gulpilil, David Wenham and Tom E. Lewis.
Jowsey said crew were eager to capture the big skies and sunsets of the outback for the screen.
“You have got really broad plains, beautiful sunsets and red rocky outcrops which just give it that really western feel.”
Goldstone is due to be released in 2016.