Close encounters of the Yowie variety

Dane Millerd at the Yowie sign in the Pilliga. The former Blaxland boy has produced There's Something In The Pilliga. Photo: Stefan Smith.

Dane Millerd at the Yowie sign in the Pilliga. The former Blaxland boy has produced There's Something In The Pilliga. Photo: Stefan Smith.

Craig Hawley stars in There's Something in the Pilliga. Photo by Paul Denham.

Craig Hawley stars in There's Something in the Pilliga. Photo by Paul Denham.

He's an ex-Blaxland boy who is about to see his first feature film get off the ground.

Dane Millerd started writing the script for There's Something in the Pilliga while living in the Mountains in 2006 and has featured some Mountains locations in his indie horror film about a phenomena that refuses to go away - that of the mythical Australian creature known as a Yowie.

Mountains locales include the Imperial Hotel in Mount Victoria - and surrounding bushland where they spent three days on location. Casting was conducted at the Gearin Hotel in Katoomba back in September, 2010.

Plenty of his friends from the Mountains (and surrounding towns) were part of the operation, including film production student Stefan Smith from Glenbrook as "2nd unit cameraman and data wrangler" and Paul Denham from nearby Lithgow, who signed on as cinematographer.

Smith said it was a "good experience ... I had a great time on set and made some amazing friends".

"The shoot was challenging and unique. I was responsible for looking after all the day-to-day footage." He says he wouldn't be surprised if there was a sequel. "There's an opening for a follow-up - I hope everyone enjoys the movie."

Millerd, 34, a former advertising sales representative and freelance journalist, said he "accumulated the stories for the film while working as a reporter" around NSW. He wrote, directed and produced the film which has been eight years in the making.

"It's mostly set in an area [the Pilliga] where, what makes it really eerie is that everything looks the same, it's like being in a maze," he said of the red soil country.

But he said he believes the Blue Mountains could have its own creature. "I think there is something in the Blue Mountains and the Pilliga. What that something is I can't say definitively."

"There's lot of other inspirations [for the film] but it's basically about four people who should have played golf instead."

The Pilliga State Forest is in northern NSW at the gateway to the outback. It's NSW's biggest natural forest, about 300 square kms in size and about eight hours from Sydney.

The story is about four people who become stranded in the Pilliga scrub. Unbeknownst to three of them, Jay, the movie's main character, is on the hunt for the legendary Yowie. But the hunter soon becomes the hunted.

Using supposed 'found footage', reminiscent of techniques made popular by the Blair Witch Project in 1999, the film deals "with a unique subject matter".

"There's nothing done on the Australian yowie .. and the film has mystery, suspense [and] thriller [aspects] ... enough to keep horror fans satisfied- but it's not over the top," says Millerd.

Comparisons will be made with many popular horror flicks and Millerd has said it is like Razorback meets Wolf Creek meets Housos with a bit of Wolf Creek and Blair Witch Project thrown in for good measure. He could be right on all counts if the haunting trailer is anything to go by.

While Millerd says his own grandmother may not be horrified, others certainly will.

"My grandma, she knows what I'm like - I'll admit it's not everyone in the family's cup of tea, but provided they are entertained, that's okay."

The film has been an all-consuming part of Millerd's life for the better half of a decade and he's relieved to see "this child, I've fed, nurtured, cared for and now it's like the first day of school".

Millerd, originally from Gunnedah, said if they added up the figures the film has cost about $500,000, achieved mostly through private investors. Millerd and his journalist wife Amy Slessor-Millerd are still negotiating with film distributors.

"We've put a lot on the line," he said.

- with Sophie Harris, Forbes Advocate

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