THEY rub shoulders with Hollywood stars, but filmmakers Jerry Grayson and Sara Hine just want to help the planet, writes SARAH HUDSON
Meet Jerry Grayson and Sara Hine and it's apparent they operate in a different sphere to the rest of us mere mortals.
For a start, their business, Helifilms – where Sara is producer and Jerry film director – is the world’s specialist for filming movies, commercials, documentaries and sports, all from the air, via helicopter or even airship.
Through this business the couple mix with the most stellar stars, from David Attenborough and his Planet Earth series, to Ridley Scott’s film Black Hawk Down; the Soccer World Cup, the Olympics and Bond movies.
But even from such lofty heights, every human has an urge to be grounded. And that’s how expat Brits Sara and Jerry came to call Heathcote, in central Victoria, home.
It’s on their 40ha where, they say, they put their feet back on the earth and breath.
"For us Heathcote is a culture relief, more than a culture shock," Jerry, 57, says.
"In the last three weeks alone I’ve gone to Korea to film the Formula 1 Grand Prix, then I went to Bangkok and London, rushing between meetings, and got home to Heathcote on Friday night, poured a glass of wine, sat on the deck and just sighed."
After moving to the town in 2003 and starting the local film festival two years ago, Sara says Heathcote is now most definitely home, providing a complete contrast to their jobs.
"It’s where we smell the roses, it’s where we have breathing space," Sara, 50, says.
Their move to Heathcote also marked a significant turning point in Sara and Jerry’s careers and lives, in the form of their latest project, a new Imax film due to be released in April, alongside a book about the film.
The Earth Wins shows haunting images of the planet shot entirely from the air, with music from various bands, including Coldplay and Melbourne’s The Temper Trap.
The first Australian Imax film to be released in 10 years, they say it challenges the viewer to consider whether we are damaging the planet or just damaging ourselves.
The initial concept for the film came while Sara and Jerry were in the US when Hurricane Katrina struck.
They immediately headed to capture the images – with nine minutes of that footage featured in The Earth Wins – and were overwhelmed.
"I’ve never actually smelt what I’ve been filming at 1500 feet," Jerry says, adding that the couple have been lifelong environmentalists.
Since 2005 they have gathered stunning images from across the globe to include in the film, including from Black Saturday.
Jerry says it was while filming the mines of Western Australia, that the title of the film occurred to him.
"It occurred to me that however long man is here, the earth will be here longer. We just damage ourselves. The earth will always win."
These are lofty concepts for a guy who was born on a caravan kitchen table "because my mum didn’t know she was pregnant".
Yet Jerry went on to join the British Navy at 17 and became the most decorated pilot in peace time, after being awarded the Air Force Cross by the Queen, for outstanding gallantry in search and rescue.
He left the Navy in 1979 to start up a helicopter business in Cornwall and found himself used by film companies and TV crews for aerial footage, including the Bond movies, Never Say Never Again and A View To A Kill.
One crew included Sara, who says the moment she worked with Jerry there was an instant respect. In 1989 Sara suggested they work together, and Helifilms was born. Their romantic relationship soon followed and two children, now aged 26 and 28.
Together they have an impressive combined resume, with their images used in such films as An Inconvenient Truth and Harry Potter, their company’s technology used in everything from Kate and Will’s royal wedding to the Athens Olympics, and their ideas now even branching out to simulated museum exhibits (astronaut weightlessness is one of their specialties).
As "experience junkies", with a gruelling schedule, in 2002 Sara and Jerry decided to move to Australia.
With offices in LA, Cape Town and London, they stay in Heathcote Saturday to Tuesday and work the rest of the week in their home/office, a cruiser moored at Docklands.
Being in the film industry, the couple constantly refer to light, the sky, space and environment. "We both felt like we had come home when we got off the plane,’" Sara says.
"You can see the sky wherever you are here and the light. In central London you’re overwhelmed by the noise, traffic, pollution, population growth and people on the street who seem more aggressive.
"That’s one of the things about Heathcote we love. You feel the sky and the stars. Without sounding wanky, you feel like you are part of the universe."