Baz Luhrmann’s Australia ‘holds the Kodak record’ for most footage captured on film

Two-million feet of film was shot on the set of 2008's Australia, which broke a record for DOP Mandy Walker.

In June it was revealed that Baz Luhrmann’s 2008 film Australia would be re-imagined and re-cut into a limited Disney+ streaming series called Faraway Downs.

And last week SXSW Sydney guests were treated to an exclusive viewing of the first episodes of Faraway Downs for the festival’s closing night gala.

Alongside performances from Electric Fields and Budjerah, Luhrmann himself was present for a Q+A alongside costume designer Catherine Martin, DOP Mandy Walker, writer Steven McGregor and host Narelda Jacobs.

You can watch the trailer for Faraway Downs below:

The Faraway Downs series, comprising six episodes centring on an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman), a rough-hewn cattle drover (Hugh Jackman, and an Indigenous child Nullah who join forces to protect the million-acre cattle ranch of her late husband, will premiere all at once on Hulu in the United States, Star+ in Latin America and on Disney+ in Australia and all other territories on 26 November this year.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 21: Baz Luhrmann speaks alongside Catherine Martin, Mandy Walker, Steven McGregor and Narelda Jacobs during the “Faraway Downs” world premiere at SXSW Sydney on October 21, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for SXSW Sydney)

When asked why he had decided to revisit Australia, which cost $100 million to make, after more than a decade since its release, Luhrmann made it clear that it was a case of unfinished business.

‘When I started re-looking at the footage,’ Luhrmann told the SXSW Sydney crowd, ‘I realised the theme we were reaching for – which is a reversal of this Gone With The Wind story told from an Indigenous child’s point of view – needed to go much deeper … and we needed to re-focus on Nullah.’

‘With over two-million feet of film from the original piece my team and I were able to revisit anew the central themes of the work.’

And it’s not an exaggeration – there is indeed a lot of leftover footage from the original shoot of Australia, which should make Faraway Downs a fresh and invigorating streaming work. Those reels of footage, shot by DOP Mandy Walker, earned the crew the Kodak record for most film shot on negative – a record that Walker says they ‘still hold today.’

‘That’s why there’s a lot of extra scenes in this series that were not in the final film,’ said Walker at the Faraway Downs premiere.

She also emphasised her excitement at the upcoming series ‘because there’s quite a few sequences we shot that enhance the story, but we had to cut them for time. Now I feel like we’re getting all of Baz’s vision, which makes it more emotional and more special.’

Faraway Downs premieres on Disney+ on 26 November 2023.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports