Australia’s low Covid-19 caseload during the early stages of the pandemic led to its unprecedented demand as a shooting location, and production was always likely to tail off once the rest of the world opened up. Nevertheless, the country remains an attractive destination for international productions, with Ausfilm fielding enquiries for $893m (a$1.4bn) worth of production in the six months to early March 2022. “We are back in an environment that’s hugely competitive and are still seeing the benefits of strong incentives,” says Ausfilm CEO Kate Marks.
The latest confirmed big-budget production heading for Australia is Universal’s live-action feature The Fall Guy, based on the 1980s television series of the same name. The film will shoot in Sydney with Ryan Gosling in the lead; David Leitch directs and also produces alongside Kelly McCormick.
Michael Gracey’s biopic about singer Robbie Williams Better Man was the first booking at Docklands Studios Melbourne’s soundstage six, which opened in March, adding 60% to the controlled shooting space available. The second season of NBCUniversal’s La Brea is shooting on stages one and four until November. The original season, along with Paramount Television’s Shantaram and Netflix’s Clickbait, were among clients in 2021. Victoria state will also host Apple TV+’s reimagining of Metropolis in 2023.
Asked about any long-term impact of the pandemic, Docklands Studios CEO Antony Tulloch refers to the accelerated uptake of virtual production and other technologies, and to less-traditional industry sectors combining forces. “Workflows are shifting and companies that have supplied live entertainment and games have found an uptake in the industry,” he says.
Universal/Working Title’s feature Ticket To Paradise, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, Peacock and Netflix Australia’s crime drama Irreverent and season two of NBC’s Young Rock checked out of Queensland’s Village Roadshow Studios in early 2022. Now underway is Legendary Entertainment’s untitled next film in the Godzilla Vs Kong franchise and the third Kong film at the studio, along with Disney+ show Nautilus. Queensland is also hosting Russell Crowe-starrer Land Of Bad for Broken Open Pictures, Volition Media Partners, RU Robot and Highland Film Group.
“We are well-known internationally but, with all the streamers coming in, there have been some new clients,” says Village Roadshow Studios president Lynne Benzie. “When they get here on the ground, they’re blown away by what the crews can do. A lot say to me they are the best in the world.” Fox Studios Australia and, consequently, Sydney film workers have had some bad luck since Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings and Thor: Love And Thunder finished their shoots. HBO cancelled production on the Natalie Portman-starrer Days Of Abandonment just a week before filming was to begin, while Netflix moved Extraction 2 to Prague in August/September 2021. The studio was empty for some of early 2022, but the Walt Disney Company receives considerable revenue from the many service companies based at the facility.
Australia’s three east coast studios are internationally renowned. Village Roadshow Studios and Fox Studios Australia each have nine soundstages and Docklands Studios Melbourne has six. There are smaller facilities elsewhere. Australia’s west coast is likely to get a studio as a result of an election promise by the Western Australian government; plans are progressing.
National capacity depends on project size. Cameras rolled on 10 major international features and series in the 12 months to June 30, 2021 — alongside local production. This large number brought crewing issues. Generally, though, there is enough crew to go around, as well as world-class heads of department, experienced Australian television directors and excellent local service producers including Anne Bruning, Julie Forster, Jennifer Cornwell, Dean Wood and Naomi Cleaver.
Australia remains a complete package: quality infrastructure, diverse locations, and experienced can-do technicians — along with a great lifestyle.
Visitors from the US probably take the size of Australia’s land mass in their stride but not Europeans. Long-distance train services are poor, and it takes nine hours from Sydney to Melbourne and longer to Brisbane by car. Planes, however, are efficient. The Sydney and Melbourne studios sit in the heart of their cities; Village Roadshow is in Queensland’s thriving Gold Coast area with two international airports less than an hour away.
First person to contact
Erin Stam, executive vice president of international production (based in Los Angeles), Ausfilm: email@example.com