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DIY thriller flick lands streaming release

Making her first feature film Darklands on a shoestring budget, Sarah Mayberry needed a place to bury a body.

“That’s always a fun request to put out on the local Facebook,” she jokes.

Fittingly for a former Neighbours scriptwriter, her local community on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula was keen to help out, with a couple offering up their land for her film crew to use.

“They had acreage and lots of different options on their property for us to create a really cool atmosphere – her husband was actually a policeman and dug the hole for us with his bobcat,” Mayberry told AAP.

Starring Nadine Garner and Samantha Cain, Darklands is about a small town policewoman who fails to act after a shooting at a local school and a journalist who pursues the story so far she pushes the officer over the edge.

Mayberry and her husband funded the film from their savings and managed to raise another $27,000 with the cast and crew agreeing to defer their fees.

The psychological thriller will be released on Australian streaming service Stan on September 1.

Apart from its tiny budget, making Darklands during 2021’s lockdowns was a challenge, with rehearsals on zoom, production delayed three times and the constant fear of catching COVID.

On top of that, Mayberry was diagnosed with breast cancer just as filming began.

But she says the production process became the ultimate distraction as she dealt with the diagnosis, even telling her doctors she had a film to make.

“It was absolutely an amazing, wonderful experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat even though it was also the most stressful experience of my life,” she said.

Her low-budget, radically collaborative approach bore fruit in other ways too: the local council provided access to a cemetery, while the peninsula’s Railway Preservation Society found a spot for a night shoot.

Residents of her Mt Eliza street offered up their gardens and garages, with one family moving into a campervan for a week so the crew could use their entire home.

Much of the violence is only implied but the even the cast and crew found the material disturbing, Mayberry says.

“People who have seen the film are still very moved by it and shocked, and it just makes you realise how little you need sometimes to get where you need to.”

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