The truck fire that threatens to bring down a $10m Australian war movie

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The film was supposed to portray some of Australia’s greatest military victories, with an apparent budget of almost $10 million for an independent movie set during World War One.

But more than two years after filming wrapped, Before Dawn is yet to hit cinema screens, with its 27-year-old filmmaker facing a half-a-million dollar lawsuit over fake prop bodies used in battlefield scenes that were allegedly uninsured and then destroyed in a truck fire.

Before Dawn filmmaker Jordon Prince-Wright is being sued for $500,000.Credit: Instagram

Behind the scenes, Jordon Prince-Wright – who wrote, produced and directed the film – certainly looked the part of the young upstart making his way in the movie business.

Photos on social media show him wearing Before Dawn merchandise as he directed a cast of well-known local actors in army uniforms, including Stephen Peacocke (The Newsreader and Home and Away), Myles Pollard (McLeod’s Daughters) and Levi Miller (Pan and A Wrinkle In Time).

In an interview in July 2021 with ABC local radio in Esperence in WA, where much of Before Dawn was shot, Prince-Wright said there had been “quite a few setbacks” in making the movie, mainly with the weather.

It was a big step up from Prince-Wright’s previous film, The Decadent and Depraved – a low-budget western released in 2018. According to reports, Before Dawn was supported by local councils, the RSL and businesses.

Stephen Peacocke was one of the actors to appear in Before Dawn.Credit: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

“It’s been a very, very challenging film to make so far but what we’re getting is amazing,” he said.

However, according to court documents, the biggest challenge lays ahead, after Prince-Wright was sued over the loss of loaned gear which threatens to blow a hole in the community-funded project.

According to filings in the County Court, Prince-Wright and his associated companies are being chased for a debt of $517,202.40 by Sharp FX, a Melbourne special effects company which makes prosthetics for stage and screen.

Prince-Wright did not respond to repeated requests for comment about the court action or the status of Before Dawn. He is yet to file a defence.

Behind-the-scenes footage of Before Dawn being shot.Credit: Instagram

The movie was due to appear last November; the last update posted on Anzac Day stated that Before Dawn was in post-production and “coming soon”.

The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald contacted one of the other executive producers of Before Dawn who was not aware of the legal action and said that production of the movie was continuing.

According to court documents, Prince-Wright had an agreement with Sharp FX to return props hired between May and July in 2021 in good condition and that he would bear the entire risk of damage if the equipment was lost.

A special effects company has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the filmmaker behind the film Before Dawn.Credit: Instagram

That’s exactly what happened on September 7, 2021, when Prince-Wright informed Sharp FX that 19 silicone and foam bodies were destroyed in a truck fire while being transported back from Western Australia to the company’s warehouse in Springvale.

One week later, Sharp FX’s lawyer’s sent an invoice for the full replacement value of the equipment.

On the same day, court documents show Prince-Wright made an enquiry to film and entertainment insurance broker Sura about how to lodge a claim to cover the loss of the gear.

Prince-Wright was allegedly told by an employee of Sura that the premium for the policy had not been paid, meaning a claim could not be made.

The film is yet to hit cinemas, more than two years after filming ended.Credit: Instagram

That was disputed by Prince-Wright’s lawyers, according to court documents, who sent an email to Sura in November 2021, copying in Sharp FX, with a screenshot of a bank transaction which purported to show a payment of $10,229 for the insurance premium.

But Sharp FX claims the screenshot redacted key information, including the account balance to show the amount had been deducted. It is also alleged that a bank statement could not be provided as evidence of the payment.

As part of its legal action, Sharp FX claims that Prince-Wright failed to maintain insurance of the gear that he loaned, which was a breach of their agreement.

Sharp FX is seeking full payment for the destroyed props, as well as interest.

Sharp FX’s lawyers declined to comment on the case.

Do you know more? Contact the journalist: [email protected]

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