Half an hour before his new bar Whitehart opened in the city, filmmaker Stephen Johnson received a call from Screen Australia telling him it was funding the film he has been working on for 12 years.
“The timing, was just incredible,” Johnson says. His background in film (including his cinematography work for Yothu Yindi) combined with his wife Sabrina Santucci’s work as an art teacher is what allowed the pair to design the bar, their first hospitality project.
Whitehart is a double-storey venue in the CBD, built out of massive steel beams and shipping containers.
“Building Whitehart was very similar to building a film set,” Johnson says. “In both processes you have to consult and use a huge number of people.”
The couple hired Melbourne-based graphic designer Daisylegs to create murals and digital projections for the space; builder Luke Aulich oversaw construction, while Aulich’s wife Fiona Scanlan (co-founder of Scanlan & Theodore) provided advice on the colour scheme.
“The site was actually a car park that we had been parking in for years,” says Johnson. “The land hadn’t been dug up in over 100 years, so we found all sorts of things, including heaps of bluestone, which we’ve repurposed into some of our seating.”