Bendigo overlooked for Hollywood film as regional rival prepares to host Ned Kelly movie

The Bendigo region is often celebrated for its heritage streetscapes and natural environment. But when it comes to hosting Hollywood productions, the city is being overlooked in favour of other central Victorian locations. 

Fairfax Media reported this week Hepburn Shire was in talks with filmmaker Justin Kurzel to bring production of new movie The True History of the Kelly Gang to the local government area. 

The high-profile project, based on the Peter Carey book, would be a boon for the regional shire. 

Greater Bendigo and Mount Alexander Shires had not yet been approached by producers.  

It was a project Mount Alexander’s economy and culture manager David Leathem said his council would be keen to assist. 

“While it’s too early to tell if we’ll receive any film permit applications for Ned Kelly we welcome inquiries and are keen to assist the production company in finding suitable locations,” Mr Leathem said. 

He referred to the municipality’s heritage streets, natural surroundings and cultural life as a reason why it was previously chosen as a filming location. 

“The picturesque town of Maldon is beautifully preserved with many relics that tell the story of our gold rush history in nearby parks and reserves such as the Maldon Historic Area or Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park,” he said.

In the past year, council staff assisted the production team behind Glitch 2, airing on the ABC, by coordinating film permits and providing local knowledge.   

“The mini-series has taken our iconic landmarks, local scenery and towns to a global audience,” Mr Leathem said.

“We also have many local businesses available to provide accommodation and catering for the cast and crew.”

The City of Greater Bendigo was listed on the Film Victoria website as a place available for filming.

Among the dozens of sites listed as potential movie sets were: Bendigo Pottery, Golden Dragon Museum, Lake Eppalock and even the Spring Gully Reservoir water tower. 

A spokeswoman said it was typically lifestyle shows and student films that sought permission to shoot in the city.

Bendigo will feature in an upcoming episode of House Hunters International, which recently went to air in the United States.   

Towns earmarked as possible sites for the new Ned Kelly feature include Ballarat and Clunes. The latter previously hosted a Kelly-inspired production, when it was used for a 2003 film starring Heath Ledger. 

Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh said in a statement to Fairfax Media that, while the city was yet to receive an application to shoot in the municipality, film inquiries were welcome. 

“Ballarat’s heritage buildings and streetscapes reflect a bygone era that is often chosen for the location of a range of productions,” Cr McIntosh said.

“Ballarat is also just a short trip from Melbourne’s studios, sound stages, equipment suppliers, warehouses, special and visual effects and post production facilities.”

That production was said to be worth $100,000 to Clunes during filming, with local tourism workers hoping it would continue to attract visitors to the area. 

In 2012-13, the film and television sector contributed $5.8 billion to the Australian economy.