The tragic death of Daniel Morcombe is a story that resonates with all Australians. It involved one of our biggest manhunts and the nation watched in wonderment at the incredible strength and resilience of his grieving parents, Denise and Bruce, who were forced to accept the horrible reality of their son's abduction and murder in 2003.
But while Australians lived the headlines with the Morcombe family, only those close to the family knew what went on behind the scenes: the mobilisation of the local community and police that culminated in a fight for truth and justice.
These stories, plus the thrilling undercover police operation that finally caught the monster responsible for Daniel's death, will be revealed in a major feature film, 'Where Is Daniel?'
Daniel Motion Pictures and Heritage Films are bringing this remarkable story to the big screen to tell the story about what happened after Daniel disappeared. Director Peter Cousens told The Huffington Post Australia 'Where Is Daniel?' is not a horror story about an abduction and murder.
"It's the story of how his incredible family survived those harrowing, dark years and fought for justice for their son and brother. It's also about how a young police officer eventually unraveled the truth after eight years of an investigation that had exhausted almost every lead," Cousens said.
"It's an iconic Australian story. People lived with the story so closely and were so engaged with the tragedy. It is an extraordinary story that has some big things to say to multiple generations about courage and resilience, justice and truth."
Cousens and producers have been working closely with Denise and Bruce Morcombe, involving them in every step along the film making process.
"We spent 18 months involving them in a significant way because it is their story, so their input has been remarkable. We took the stance to be inclusive and transparent with them. The film will also have this subtle presence of Daniel in an ethereal way. Denise has said she feels very connected to him. She feels him around her frequently and sees signs of him. So, in many ways, she feels very close to him."
The Producers want to share 'Where Is Daniel?' in a way that allows everyone to be involved in the making of the film. A Kickstarter crowd funding campaign has been launched so people have the opportunity to take part in the making of the film. Anybody who contributes to the film will have their names in the credits and also the opportunity to be an extra in the film.
Producer Rod Hopping said involving the community is a way of acknowledging the fact that so many were affected by the story.
"It's a story that inspired a nation. It's why over one million people each year take part in the Walk for Daniel and why literally thousands and thousands of people tied a red ribbon around their letterboxes, to show their support," Hopping said.
"This support was very much a key factor in how our family survived and how Daniel was found and eventually laid to rest," Bruce Morcombe said.
Cousens is thrilled that cinematographer Dean Cundey will be working on 'Where is Daniel?' Cundey is known as one of the best cinematographers to grace celluloid, working on major features including Apollo 13, the Back to the Future trilogy, and Jurassic Park (to name a few). Cousens and Cundey last worked together on the 2014 Cuba Godding Jnr film Freedom.
"Dean Cundey is a great storyteller so this film will be quite beautiful. There are people who've been close to the story who will react in a very emotional way. The film, as well as the script as it stands now, is very uplifting and beautiful, as well as thrilling. It will be a film all Australians will be proud of," Cousens said.
Cousens is also the co-writer of the script with Elizabeth Mars who wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed feature film, The Tree, which closed the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
Filming of Where Is Daniel? is expected to begin early 2017, with a cinema release at the end of that year.