Stan is producing a new family Christmas feature to be released this December.
A Sunburnt Christmas has been shot mostly near Callington, bringing much-needed work to SA cast and crew, along with business to the small hills town.
Glam was lucky enough to be invited on set recently to watch production in an empty farmhouse surrounded by some gorgeous South Australian scenery.
The film tells the story of a single mum and her three kids doing it tough on their outback farm, during a drought. One day, a runaway criminal dressed as Santa Claus crashes into their property and their lives. The emphasis is on laughs and warmth: just what we are all in need of.
On set we chatted to director Christiaan Van Vuuren (Bondi Hipsters, The Other Guy).
Van Vuuren had an interesting start in film.
“Ten years ago I got quarantined in hospital with tuberculosis: I ended up spending six months in quarantine all up and then another 12 months hospitalized. During that time I ended up making silly YouTube videos. My brother had been through film school, so when he saw me making videos he wanted to do some stuff together: he understood that it was part of my healing. When I got out of hospital we entered a film contest which we won, winning a budget to make a pilot for MTV and it went from there. “
He sees it as worthy of note that his ten-year career has been bookended by disease and quarantine.
“This year has been the busiest of my career. When COVID hit people were looking for collaborators who could work on low budgets, with minimal people etc, so I got to make some quarantine music videos with Tim Minchin and Kate Miller-Heidke among others. Then this job came up to make a Christmas movie with a short turn-around with relatively limited resources.”
Australia has had a tough year, not just with COVID, but with floods, fires and drought. Van Vuuren is acutely aware of our collective need for some healing. He sees A Sunburnt Christmas as “a chance to make a Christmas present for Australia after a really hard year.”
Breaking the two “rules” of film-making, Van Vuuren is working with both children AND animals on this feature! The three child actors in the cast are all locals, and he can’t speak highly enough about them.
“We cast a really wide net: there would have been nearly 600 auditions that came in from around the country. And we got so lucky with those three kids: they are super special. Eaden [McGuinness] was literally the first tape that I opened and I was like ‘That’s Tom!’ Lena [Nankivell] is such an incredible little performer. Every single day she learns something more and stays real and authentic. Tatiana [Goode] has been beautiful to watch. Alongside Daryl [Daniel Henshall] she pretty much carries this movie.”
Over the lunch break in a busy day’s shooting, we chatted with twelve-year-old Eaden McGuinness. Not the typical child-actor, he came to performing via writing.
“I wanted to improve my writing and I thought I needed a grasp of acting as well, because I wanted to get into screenplays. At the time I was writing plays and short stories, just for fun. I’ve been doing acting for about six years now, and it turns out I’m pretty good!”
Although we didn’t get to chat to Baa Baa the Sheep who stars as the family pet, her agent did allow us to have a pat. She was originally only going to be in one scene, but was such a delight she ended up with a much bigger role.
A Sunburnt Christmas also stars Sullivan Stapleton and Ling Cooper Tang, and was written by Gretel Vella, Eillot Vella and Tim Walker. It will premiere exclusively on Stan later in the year.