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August 09 Edition Cover

Docklands as San Jose in Winchester

28 Feb 2018

Docklands as San Jose in Winchester Image

The real Winchester Mystery House is located in San Jose, California, but when you’re watching “Winchester” on the big screen, you might be looking at Docklands.

Australia’s Spierig Brothers picked up the infamous American story of Sarah Winchester and her haunted house, secured Dame Helen Mirren for the star role and turned the project into an Australian production.

Sarah Winchester’s husband was the treasurer of Winchester Repeating Arms Company – responsible for the Winchester rifle.

When he died, Mrs Winchester inherited his estate and spent the rest of her life building her house into a mansion, from eight rooms to 160 at her death.

The mystery is, why?

A popular answer is that she believed she was haunted by those killed with Winchester guns.

The film was shot partly on location in San Jose, partly at different heritage buildings around Melbourne and partly at Docklands Studios.

For production designer Matt Puttland, this meant a return to Docklands.

“This was my third job at Docklands Studios,” he said. “I also worked on Predestination, and we based our offices there for the ABC show for Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane.”

Production designers are responsible for, more or less, everything on screen that’s not the actor or what they’re wearing.

That’s a lot of work for a Victorian-era story shot in modern day Australia.

”It was my first Victorian drama so for me it was a learning curve. It’s a whole other world of design and architecture.”

But, Docklands Studios smoothed the transition.

“It’s in a great position which is the best thing about the studios. It’s very central to Melbourne and close to a lot of antique stores,” he said.

Matt said Helen Mirren was also a helpful collaborator.

“She was great, basically one of the crew. There wasn’t that sort of divide between actors and crew,” he said.

“She would be there working out the best way to use her props and what props Sarah would use. She had a lot of ideas about what Sarah would be thinking or doing.”

Winchester is showing in cinemas now.

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