Doors opening for Shepparton film maker

By John Lewis

Whistling ants that glow in the dark, evil spirits that steal parents, and giant ant mounds containing sleeping people — move over Steven Spielberg and make way for Michael Hudson.

These are just some of the fertile ideas that have earned the award-winning Shepparton film-maker a place in a new nationwide film project.

Mr Hudson's latest short film pitch is one of 10 projects selected out of 220 submissions for further development by Screen Australia and SBS in a new initiative titled Digital Originals, which is aimed at providing opportunities for unheard voices in the Australian screen sector.

Earlier this year, Mr Hudson's short film Ties That Bind scooped the best short screenplay award at the Sydney Film Festival.

His 2016 short film Leonids featured Shepparton actors and premiered at the Ballarat Observatory before screening at La Trobe University in Shepparton.

He said his latest film project, which has a working title of Summer of Evil, came to him in a dream.

“I dreamt I was lying in a shack and I saw trails of glowing ants leading out into the bush and when I followed them I came across this thing covered in ants. Then I woke up and I thought, that was interesting, I need to think about that a bit more,” he said.

Michael Hudson's latest film idea was inspired by a dream about ants. Picture: DPA.

He then developed a plot involving a small town of Indigenous teenagers who notice their parents are missing. They go searching for the adults in the bush and come across glowing, whistling ants controlled by "evil colonialist" spirits.

“What I'm playing with is nostalgia and suspense and kids working together to solve a problem,” Mr Hudson said. "Think Round The Twist meets Stranger Things with an Indigenous twist.”

A Bangerang and Yorta Yorta man, Mr Hudson, 34, said the idea of whistling ants came to him from his late grandmother Aunty Irene Thomas.

“She always told me: never whistle at night, it brings evil spirits,” he said.

He said his big influences were Steven Spielberg, and science fiction and horror genres.

Late last month, Mr Hudson was invited to a Sydney workshop with film teams from across the country who pitched their ideas to the Digital Original co-ordinators.

“They were firing questions at us to gauge our ideas — it was pretty intense,” he said.

He said he felt "quietly confident" that his ideas were received positively.

“We got the strongest response from the entire group,” he said.

Mr Hudson said he would now work with fellow film producer Gillian Moody to further develop a screenplay before returning to Sydney in February when three projects will be selected for production.

“I'm excited and humbled I've got this chance,” he said. "I grew up poor, and now doors are opening.”