Recently M&G NSW was contacted by a 15 year-old film maker and student from the Central Coast NSW named Noah Lawson.
Noah told us that he and a bunch of his friends had recently won Best Film International Youth Silent Film Festival in Melbourne for their film The Station made onsite at the Lake Macquarie Heritage Centre. We were intrigued.
Clicking the YouTube link we watched as a romance between an artist—bound for WW2—and a pretty girl on a train station unfolded. We wouldn’t want to spoil the ending so we will just say it’s a beautifully written three-minute story that borrows from classic silent films of the era. Noah had to be interviewed.
He explained that a group of 14 young people, aged between eight and 17 were involved in the production of the film. Many hours were spent developing the plot and in researching suitable props, authentic costumes and hairstyles, as well as “preparing the set” so that impact on the fabric of the historic building itself was avoided.
The set he’s referring to is the 1891 wooden railway station on the edge of Lake Macquarie at Toronto. A darling of a building, it began its life as a private tourist tramway before becoming part of the Government Railway network in 1910. It was acquired in 1992 by the Lake Macquarie and District Historical Society to house their local history collection and a heritage centre.
The building is beautifully presented in the film, something that Margaret Berghofer Heritage Centre Treasurer, said the Historical Society takes pride in despite the property’s upkeep being time-consuming and costly. She mentioned that the building is vulnerable to vandalism and graffiti attack, and was part-way through reporting another break-in to the police when we rang to talk to her.
Berghofer said the Historical Society was thrilled with the film and working with Noah and his friends couldn’t have been better. They worked around the museum opening hours and scrupulously tidied up after themselves. They approached the committee and provided their own Public Liability insurance for the project.
Many hours were spent developing the plot and in researching suitable props, authentic costumes and hairstyles, as well as “preparing the set”.
The train has long gone from this area and while the station building and platforms remain, the tracks themselves are covered in grass. The absence of a viable railway presented one of the challenges for the film makers. This was cleverly managed by shooting parts of the film from below the platform deftly avoiding any reference to the now grassy railway line.
With the help of train enthusiast Graham Swanson from Lake Macquarie Light Rail, the team filmed additional scenes of running steam trains and spliced them seamlessly into the action where necessary, adding an extra heritage touch.
Eight hours were spent on site filming and many more in production. Steve Lawson, Noah’s father led the group in the technical aspects of film-making, having experience as a photographer and a long interest in cinematography. Being an enthusiastic and resourceful group of home-schoolers, they called on the skillset of parents, friends and family to fill in the gaps.
They’ve done a marvellous job and we think it’s a win for everyone involved: the local community, Lake Macquarie Light Rail, Noah and his team, and the Historical Society for getting on board and supporting the initiative. A happily symbiotic relationship, and one that goes to the heart of preserving local heritage and history.
The International Youth Silent Film Festival celebrates the recreation of silent movies. Films are submitted from students in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, The Middle East, Europe, Canada and the USA.
There’s also a behind the scenes version of The Station. Check it out below.