Have you ever heard of Waikerie? This small town is about to star in an international feature film

It’s not often that a small town like Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland hosts the cast and crew of an international feature film.

The $8million thriller Run Rabbit Run is based on a screenplay by South Australian novelist Hannah Kent and will partly be filmed in locations around Waikerie and Swan Reach in February and March.

Much of the script was written with the Riverland region in mind, and the local council hopes the production will showcase the area’s natural beauty to international audiences.

South Australian actress Sarah Snook – who starred in US drama series Succession – stars as a fertility doctor struggling with issues with her daughter.

Snook, along with The Handmaid’s Tale director Daina Reed, will be among the film’s 60 cast and crew.

Riverland takes center stage

Waikerie is a town of about 2,500 people, located just off the Sturt Highway, about two hours drive from Adelaide.

The film’s location supervisor, John Greene, said the town and nearby Murray River would feature prominently in the production.

“We had to find a place that used the high cliffs above the Murray River, and there were also a number of other written areas that showed that particular area, which is fantastic,” Mr Greene said.

“Although the film is actually set in South Australia, our first three weeks are going to be filming in Victoria and then we will come here and finish the film in the Riverland area.”

These cliffs along the Murray River form one of the locations spotted by the film’s producers.(Provided: Jackie Haines)

Paul McCormick, vice president of the Riverland West Chamber of Commerce, said the film would put the region on the world map.

“It will be a fantastic thing for Waikerie,” he said.

“The film is aimed at a global audience and it will feature the entire Riverland region, so this is a great opportunity for the region to be showcased internationally.

“When the movie comes out, I hope some of the COVID restrictions will be lifted and people around the world can see our fantastic, beautiful part of the world and they’ll come here and visit us.”

Injection of expenses for the community

The production will also be a welcome boost to the local economy.

Mr McCormick said it would be the region’s biggest short-term outlay he’s seen in recent years, with the production team estimating they pump $200,000 to $300,000 into the region during filming.

A brunette woman smiles at the camera in front of a beige wall.
South Australian novelist Hannah Kent wrote the screenplay with the Riverland region in mind.(Supplied: South Australian Film Corporation)

Mr Greene said that while the production would use local resources during filming, it would not extend to local talent on screen.

“Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t have a lot of extras,” Mr. Greene said.

“It’s usually a way to get locals involved, but there will be quite a lot of spending in the area in a short period of time, so we’re looking forward to energizing the area and helping out a bit.”

To gauge local support for the production, Loxton-Waikerie District Council polled its social media followers to ask the community if they would support the local pool being closed for a week for filming.

Of the 473 people surveyed, 97% voted in favor of the temporary closure.

A sign with the words Welcome to Waikerie sits along a highway.  There are green brush all around.
The town of Waikerie prepares to welcome the cast and crew of the film.(ABC Riverland: Samantha Dawes)

Loxton-Waikerie District Council chief executive David Beaton said the benefit to the town was multifaceted.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from the community and good engagement on social media, so it’s been really good and really positive,” Mr Beaton said.

“Waikerie is a beautiful town, but the freeway doesn’t run right through it.

“If it becomes a bit more notorious, it gives people a reason to go see the city and see how pretty it is, to engage with the locals and enjoy the vibe.”

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