The genre: Moneyball, Any Given Sunday, Field of Dreams. “I’m a big fan of American sports films,” says Gray. “Even though we don’t know a lot about baseball or gridiron, they’re still great films.”
The premise: An Aussie Rules footballer (Ackland) returns to his hometown after 10 years away and a major scandal, to right some wrongs. Gray won’t tell us what that scandal is just yet. “Whether it’s AFL or Rugby League, every year since the 1960s there’s been a scandal – we just didn’t hear about them back then as much as we do now. Whether it’s Ben Cousins, or Wayne Carey, or the St Kilda scandal, it’s all normal stuff for human beings: cheating, underage sex, drugs… only when you’re in the spotlight it gets blown out of all proportion.”
The appeal to footy fans: AFL legends Glenn Archer, Adrian Gleeson and Sam Kekovich worked as advisors, but it’s about local footy, too – in fact, players from the Bellarine Football League star in the film.
The location: “It was originally set in the western suburbs, but I learned making Summer Coda that if you don’t have the biggest budget, you might as well show people around the world what they’re missing,” says Gray. “Torquay’s known the world around for Bells Beach, so we do our surfing scenes there.”
The production plan: “When we finish shooting in Torquay in May we’ve got a couple more weeks in Boston, because the lead character, Tom, is now making a living as a college football coach, which a lot of AFL players go on to do. Then it takes about six months post-filming, so the film will be ready by Christmas – but we might wait until about this time next year, when it’s football season again.”