A NEW teen drama featuring Kenny star Shane Jacobsen and recently retired rugby league international Andrew Johns begins filming on Monday, with the rich surfing culture of the NSW city of Newcastle as its backdrop. Writer and director Dan Castle makes his feature debut with the film, which is called Newcastle, after a number of award winning short films, including The Visitor which starred Barry Otto, a former Newcastle resident who has also been cast in this film. The story will revolve around a professional junior surf competition in which Johns and seven-time world surfing champion Layne Beachley will play themselves as judges. A cast of rising stars will also be joined by AFI Award-winning Anthony Hayes, who filmed Suburban Mayhem in the Hunter Region capital last year, and Australian TV drama veteran Joy Smithers. But the film's star will undoubtedly be the city itself, with its sublime surf beaches a notable omission from previous films shot there, including Bootmen and Suburban Mayhem. Newcastle, funded by the Australian Film Finance Corporation, Cinema Investment Corporation and Shadowfire Entertainment, will be filmed in the next five weeks and is due for release in early 2008. "Newcastle is a story that young audiences will know to be true to their own reality and older audiences will relate to on a nostalgic level," Castle said. "The movie is about passion and connection. I can't wait to begin filming in this great city that's opened its heart to us," he said.