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by Matthew Eeles
At the beginning of 2020, before the world turned upside down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cinema Australia announced that pre-production had commenced on Andrew Walsh’s debut feature film, How Deep is the Ocean.
Since then, there have been new developments with the film, including minor story changes, and the re-casting of some characters.
“Due to lockdowns, many of our original cast were unable to commit to the project long-term which meant we had to bring in new actors who were thrilled to join the production,” Walsh tells Cinema Australia.
“Once we had set dates for shooting and brought a new approach to the film, it worked out just as well as originally planned.”
The production welcomed Adam Rowland in the role of Charlie, originally to be performed by Ryan Bown.
Rowland’s previous credits include a small role in Seth Rogan’s Preacher series, and John Balazs’s Rage in which he played a moody Geelong detective.
Chris Cochrane (The Legend of Ben Hall, Innuendo) has replaced Richard Aspel as Roy.
Thankfully for Walsh, no re-shoots were required, and the lockdowns in Melbourne have allowed more time to focus on post-production now that principle photography is complete.
How Deep is the Ocean follows Eleanor (Olivia Fildes), a mysterious young woman who arrives in Melbourne during the height of a scorching summer with only the clothes on her back and a difficult past she can’t discuss.
Taking up residence in a decrepit house on the cities ugly and violent fringes, Eleanor sets about creating a new life for herself.
Facing adversity at every single turn, Eleanor’s attempt to reinvent herself is thwarted by her own self sabotaging behaviour as well as the harsh realities of life in the big city.
As summer gives way to winter, Eleanor gradually begins to find her feet, spending most of her time pursuing a doomed affair with her married neighbour, Charlie, while ignoring the man who really cares for her.
By the end of the journey harsh lessons are learnt, small victories are won and peace is briefly found and lost.
Eleanor now must go to the ocean in order to get the answers she needs and finds a strength she never knew she had.
Despite the interruptions to the production, Walsh has maintained his strong passion for the film. Not only did the writer and director spend fourteen months on the film without rest, he also welcomed a child.
“At the end of the day, the more people said that the film couldn’t be made, the more determined it made me to complete it. I never backed down,” says Walsh.
“Strangely enough, Covid-19 and Melbourne’s harsh lockdowns helped me maintain my passion.”
Principal photography commenced mid-March and Walsh is now aiming to complete How Deep Is the Ocean by the end of this year.
“We’ve already been approached by distributors which is a positive indicator we’re onto something good. It’s still too early in the process to commit to anything yet,” says Walsh.
Walsh is more excited at the prospect of How Deep is the Ocean being played on digital platforms such as Stan, where it could potentially join other Australian indie gems like Cerulean Blue, Reflections in the Dust, Outback and The School.
“Even in this desolate cultural landscape dominated by endless Hollywood remakes and comic book adaptations, I believe there’s a bigger demand now than ever for simple human stories that audiences can relate to on an emotional level,” says Walsh.
You can keep up to date with How Deep is the Ocean by keeping an eye on cinemaaustralia.com.au, or by following the film’s Facebook page here.