Arrowhead: the sci-fi movie from the Australian suburbs2 min read

Jesse O’Brien started by building a space ship in his living room.

“We spent all our spare time for three or four months slowly building this ship out of cardboard and scouting street corners on the way home from our jobs finding junk,” he said. “There were vacuums in there, old typewriters, piping and a lot of cardboard boxes.”


Once it was finished, the budding director shot a $600 short film as a step to what he hoped to be a full-length feature.

Three years on, O’Brien has finished his dream project – a home-grown sci-fi film called Arrowhead.

He calls it an old-fashioned science-fiction adventure tale that cost “just under $200,000.”

For sci-fi fans, the plot will sound a little familiar – a space mercenary (Dan Mor) is stranded on a desolate moon with a small talking robot (voiced by Shaun Micallef).


“It has its own unique tone but, at the same time, it’s heavily drawn from a lot my favourite films,” O’Brien said. “I don’t think you can create anything without borrowing a little bit from the things you love.”

The Melbourne editor-turned-director shot desert scenes in Coober Pedy and interiors in “our cinematographer’s sister’s shed” in a Sunshine backyard.

Like a generation of filmmakers, the 30-year-old has wanted to make films since seeing Star Wars.

“All of my favourite films happen to be of the sci-fi genre,” he said. “Not because of the genre; just because they’re great films.”


While he might not have the budget of J. J. Abrams‘ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, O’Brien has at least beaten him to the screen.

Arrowhead, named after the space ship that crash lands on that distant moon, has its world premiere at SciFi Film Festival at Parramatta on Saturday.

It has taken an intense burst in another suburban home, in Hadfield, to finish it.

Having made the film with his best friend since high school, cinematographer Samuel Baulch, O’Brien moved in with him so they could work around the clock.

“We just woke up every single day, went to his study where we had two iMacs set up next to each other and edited,” he said. “That sounds fun – and it was at times – but we were doing nothing but that for five months.

“We also did over 300 visual effects shots ourselves in that environment so it was tough.”

O’Brien, who sounds just as excited about having tickets to one of the first midnight screenings of The Force Awakens in December as his own premiere, feels he has found what he really wants to do with his life.


“The minute we wrapped the shoot in the desert, it was one of the best feelings,” he said. “It felt like I’d come back from war because it was so hard.

“But the biggest thing I learnt was my hunch was right: I’m meant to do this. All I want to do now is make another one.”

Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

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