Saturday 27 November 2010

Lights! Camera! St Kilda!

I spend yesterday afternoon in Melbourne's bayside suburb of St Kilda, being an unpaid extra.

Myself and dozens of other volunteers were taking part in crowd scenes for an episode of the upcoming Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV sitcom Outland.

Written by my brother John Richards and featuring the members of a gay science fiction fan club, it's a story about belonging, no matter who you are (according to the ABC's blurb).

The episodes mostly take place in characters' homes, but the final episode includes sequences played to the backdrop of a gay pride march in St Kilda.

So there we were in Catani Gardens, a beautiful stretch of parkland by the sea which was decked out with multi-coloured banners. Many volunteers had put in an effort to look fabulous, wearing an assortment of feathers, leather, PVC and/or nun's habits.

The ABC's art department had produced a fascinating array of placards for extras to carry, bearing slogans from the topical ("Gay Marriage Rights Now") to the slightly surreal ("Adam and Steve in the Garden of Even"). I was at first carrying a placard adorned with a rainbow-coloured heart, then later a placard with a mystifying symbol. Maybe it'll all make sense on screen.

While we milled and mimed, the paid actors (including singer Christine Anu) performed scenes in lurid purple sci-fi uniforms. They looked lovey. Well, lovely-ish. As lovely as one can look in a purple knee-length frock.

The interesting thing is that this isn't the only time I've seen a TV episode filmed in St Kilda. A few years ago I was walking along the Esplanade above the iconic Luna Park and Palais Theatre, to see a collection of characters dressed in 1920s gear being filmed, along with period cars. I realised years later that they were filming an episode of Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes.

St Kilda is also famous of course as the setting for the popular TV drama series The Secret Life of Us which screened a few years ago. It seemed as if an episode of Secret Life was incomplete if the characters didn't play a casual game of soccer in Catani Gardens.

And I also once stumbled across a film set in Little Lonsdale Street in Melbourne's downtown area, which turned out to be part of Ghost Rider, starring Nicholas Cage.

In fact, with big movie studios located in Melbourne's Docklands, you have a decent chance of bumping into exterior scenes of a movie or TV series being shot in the city's streets - and you can read more about that in this posting at at John Richards' Outland Institute blog.

But remember to present your best side to the cameras. Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd - action!

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