ON THE EDGE: Aaron Pedersen, as the Aboriginal detective Jay Swan, investigates a murder in Mystery Road.
ON THE EDGE: Aaron Pedersen, as the Aboriginal detective Jay Swan, investigates a murder in Mystery Road.

Murder mystery shot in Ipswich

Hugo Weaving plays a police detective in Ivan Sen’s thriller Mystery Road.
Hugo Weaving plays a police detective in Ivan Sen’s thriller Mystery Road. Claudia Baxter

THE old Ipswich police station was the perfect location to shoot the atmospheric interior shots for the Ivan Sen-directed film Mystery Road.

The murder mystery used the former station in East St for the filming and producer David Jowsey says it is a "dream location" due to the spacious interiors and the fact that it is empty.

Mystery Road was released on the big screen last year and will be shown on ABC1 on Sunday night at 8.30pm.

The movie continues a remarkable list of films being shot in the Ipswich region including The Railway Man, The Tree, 500 Miles and the telemovie Mabo.

Mystery Road was largely shot at Winton, but all the police station scenes were filmed in Ipswich.

"The town in the film is not any particular town, but it is supposed to be bigger than Winton. So we needed a police station that looked like it was in a town," Jowsey says.

"We knew we weren't going to be able to shoot out at Winton so we were looking for somewhere in or near Brisbane.

"We have a location scout and he knew about the Ipswich station.

"The good thing about the Ipswich police station is that it is empty, so it is easy to film ... and it still has the police insignia and signage on it. There is plenty of space in there, so it was a supreme setting.

"It is amazing how many movies have police stations in them, especially murder mysteries like Mystery Road.

"We were able to use the police station for the exteriors and interiors and we were in Ipswich for quite a few days shooting. The Ipswich council was most user-friendly, so it worked out extremely well."

There are outstanding Australian actors in the film, including Jack Thompson as a wizened old stager and Bruce Spence as the town coroner.

Ipswich-born Tony Barry is the commanding officer at the station while Aaron Pedersen is superb as the main character, the Aboriginal detective Jay Swan who has returned to his outback town and is investigating a murder after a young girl's body is found by the side of a road.

Hugo Weaving plays a detective whose presence is malevolent and whose motives are unclear.

"The performances are very strong. We owe a great deal to our cast," Jowsey says.

"Aaron Pedersen is terrific ... and Hugo was the first big name that we were able to attract and we are very grateful that he agreed to do it.

"It is an arthouse film and it has got a classical pace. It is not a blockbuster.

"But it is still playing and we have just hit $410,000 at the box office, and we are happy with that. It was only released in a small number of screens.

"The DVD comes out on February 12, so it is all happening. And the ABC having Aboriginal content on Australia Day is also a really good thing."

Director Sen is a master at giving a sense of the vastness of the interior of Australia.

He did that in his 2002 film Beneath Clouds, and the widescreen photography in Mystery Road is also spectacular.

The characters, such as Weaving and the kangaroo shooter played by Ryan Kwanten, are mysterious and right on the edge.

Actor Tony Barry during a break in filming at the old Ipswich police headquarters.
Actor Tony Barry during a break in filming at the old Ipswich police headquarters.

"Ivan said to me that he wanted to juxtapose gritty, urban close-ups of faces of people who are socially in trouble, and contrast that with a very wide horizon," Jowsey says.

"So he shot a lot at dusk and dawn to get that glow and characters in silhouette.

"Out at Winton it is a very flat horizon and the sunset is quite stable for about 20 minutes, so some scenes were shot over a few days where we would get ready and wait for the sun to be in the right position and then we'd shoot for about 20 minutes on the verge of sunset.

"Because of the use of silhouettes, it does have a noir quality and feel. In a lot of scenes Aaron is operating in that darkness.

"But technically I think the genre is murder-mystery, where you are wondering who did this murder, while the style and look of the film is contemporary western."

Jowsey and Sen jointly own a production company and have made the films Toomelah, Dreamland and Mystery Road. They have another in the works called Loveland which is set in a futuristic Chinese metropolis.

Jowsey predicts Ipswich will continue to be a hub for filmmakers.

The Mystery Road film crew also shot a Chinese restaurant dining scene at Hong Kong Cuisine in Brisbane St, Ipswich.

"It is a usable location and I think you will find films continue to be shot in Ipswich," Jowsey says.

"We would recommend it. Ipswich has a town centre with a lot of old buildings that are quite handy if you want to have a period look. There are plenty of locations in Queensland where you can set a period film or television series because a lot of those old buildings are intact."

* Mystery Road screens on ABC1 at 8.30pm on January 26.



Value of council's 'junket' CBD company to be revealed

premium_icon Value of council's 'junket' CBD company to be revealed

Ipswich City Properties will be wound up

Stink squad's staggering number of sewage smell complaints

premium_icon Stink squad's staggering number of sewage smell complaints

The Odour Abatement Taskforce has been responding issues since July

'Broken-record resident' tired of making dust complaints

premium_icon 'Broken-record resident' tired of making dust complaints

Dust is choking suburbs as dump companies fail to follow regulations

Local Partners