Mad Max: Furiosa filming drives economic recovery in Hay after COVID-19 and drought

Home Arts Mad Max: Furiosa filming drives economic recovery in Hay after COVID-19 and drought
Mad Max: Furiosa filming drives economic recovery in Hay after COVID-19 and drought

With the Mad Max production bandwagon in southern NSW, the host town Hay has received a much-needed economic boost. 

Hundreds of film crew members have descended on the western Riverina town to film Mad Max: Furiosa.

Business owners are reporting an uptick in customers and hotels have been fully booked since March. 

Hotel manager Amiel Rabbelier said the influx of people into town had been great for business, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’ll notice the cafes and restaurants, they’re all getting [a] hit,” he said.

“Especially on the weekends when a lot of the people that are here working on this film are off and hang around town spending money.”

Mr Rabbelier said there was a lot of work on offer as businesses tried to cater to the visitors.

A man sitting on a couch smiling.
Amiel Rabbelier says his hotel is fully booked with Mad Max filming underway.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stephens)

A return to regional NSW

The last film in the Mad Max series, Fury Road, was due to be filmed in the state’s far west. But, at the time, Broken Hill was too green and production shifted to Namibia, in southern Africa. 

Film production has since returned to regional NSW and is set to move to Silverton, near Broken Hill, next. 

Chris Hemsworth smiles.
Chris Hemsworth is starring in Mad Max: Furiosa.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Details surrounding Furiosa, which is being directed by George Miller, are shrouded in secrecy and local participants have signed non-disclosure agreements.

It is understood the filming in Hay has been mostly for stunt work and the film’s main actors, such as Chris Hemsworth, are not expected to visit the town. 

In the past, Mad Max films have been action-packed features complete with explosions and daring stunts.

While technology has come a long way since the original 1979 film starring Mel Gibson, on-location filming is still needed.

Cafe manager Megan Griffiths, who has lived in Hay her entire life, said it was the busiest the town had ever been. 

A woman smiling in front of a cafe.
Megan Griffiths says business has really picked up with the film crew in town.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stephens)

She said her cafe sold more than 220 coffees in a single day. 

Perfect timing

Hay Shire Council Mayor Carol Oataway said the agricultural town of about 2,500 people was recovering from more than just a COVID-19 downturn.

“We’ve just come out of a very long drought and confidence was at an all-time low,” Ms Oataway said.

“We had businesses shutting their doors in the main street, we had a declining population, school enrolments were declining.

A field with a big top and buildings in the background.
Film crew members have descended on Hay to begin filming Mad Max: Furiosa.(ABC Riverina: Romy Stephens)

Loving the attention

Hay residents have also enjoyed the 15 minutes of fame filming has brought to the town. 

Christa Sheaffe said the town felt “alive again”.

“Unfortunately with COVID it was very quiet. I think people were nervous to get out and about but I feel like there’s a real buzz about town again,” she said. 

When asked if he would liken Hay to Hollywood, Mr Rabbelier said it was more like “Haywood”.

“It’s definitely got that feel. It’s a big thing to be a part of so I think everyone is excited in a way,” he said.

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