Australia has made a concerted effort to contain the coronavirus and as a result has been welcoming back productions, including Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis for Warner Bros, which shot at Village Roadshow Studios in Queensland, and Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, which has been shooting at the now Disney-owned Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW).
Furthermore, Disney-owned Marvel will return to Australia to make Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love And Thunder at Fox Studios (Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok shot at Village Roadshow Studios before the Fox-Disney merger).
All of these productions received grants under the federal government location incentive. Love And Thunder received $17.4m (a$24.4m) and, at the time it was announced, was expected to spend more than $129m (a$180m), create up to 2,500 jobs and use the services of about 1,650 businesses. In addition to the federal government’s grant, the film also scored state government money via the Made In NSW fund, which was recently boosted with an additional $123m, on top of its existing $40m (a$55m) to support features and TV projects over four years up to 2022-23.
"With generous screen production incentives, diverse locations, world-class studios, and a successful effort by Australia's state and federal governments to contain the Coronavirus, filming in Australia offers producers and storytellers so many practical and creative opportunities. The Made in NSW fund further highlights the exciting opportunities to film in Australia," says Kate Marks, Ausfilm CEO.
Marvel’s commitment to shooting in Australia has been a boost to Sydney’s already film-friendly profile and follows the establishment of a VFX studio in 2019 by Disney-owned Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm’s visual-effects division.
While in Victoria, the local government has given the region a further boost by launching a new $33m package to entice productions, of which $19.2m will form a new Victorian Screen Incentive Program.
The vast majority of the fund is to be committed in 2020, including for the Hollywood action film Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson, which was shooting in Melbourne from November. The project will employ 340 local crew, more than 825 casuals, cast and extras, 50 local post-production, digital and visual effects professionals and support 30 Victorian businesses ranging from catering to transport.
In October 2020, the eight-part thriller Clickbait for Netflix and NBC-Universal resumed production at the government-owned Docklands Studios in Melbourne, which is soon to start construction on a nearly 40,000 square feet superstage. The federal government provided $3.5m (a$4.9m) to Clickbait, with support also coming through Film Victoria’s production incentive attraction fund.
The state of Queensland has built on its production infrastructure with the launch of Screen Queensland Studios in a suburb of Brisbane in 2019. The facility is adapted from former cotton sheds in Hemmant — just under 10 miles from Brisbane’s city centre — and includes a pair of 65,000 square feet soundstages, two 65,000 square feet warehouses and office space.
The studio is being positioned to cater for low- to mid-budget features, TV dramas and commercials, making it a potential competitor for Docklands Studios in Melbourne, which offers five stages and is due to start construction on a nearly 40,000 square feet superstage.
Also in Queensland is the Village Roadshow Studios, which offer water tank facilities and nine soundstages, the largest of which spans 40,000 square feet, and Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, which has nine stages among its production resources.
There are plenty of alternative studio options as well, such as the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre, which consists of a group of three adjacent buildings covering 70,000 square meters of space. There are three self-contained acoustically separated theatres, including the Goldfields theatre, which is a 9,000 square metre multi-purpose event space with a retractable 1,000-seat theatre and 39,000 sq m of pillarless space. Hollywood action movie, Blacklight, written, directed and produced by Ozark co-creator Mark Williams, has taken over the centre for filming.
Australian crews are world-renowned and experienced at working on big-budget Hollywood productions.
Australia is a big country and an integrated air transport network serves all the state capitals and many of the regional areas. European productions also now benefit from the recently launched non-stop flight between London and Perth in Western Australia.
To cover all of Australia’s incredible locations would take the entire Guide. The country offers beautiful sandy beaches, historic rock formations, colourful reefs, modern cities and endless national parks.
One of the surprise alternative locations worth looking into is Adelaide. The capital of the state of South Australia doubled for South Africa in Francis Annan’s Escape from Pretoria, for the UK’s Footprint Films. The film stars Daniel Radcliffe in the true story of white anti-apartheid campaigners who were jailed in 1978 for supporting the African National Congress, but then pulled off a daring escape.
Mark Blaney, Footprint Films, producer of Escape from Pretoria
“On our recce there, our production designer Scott Bird showed us a picture of Cape Town in the 1970s, and it looked exactly like Adelaide now.
“With the invaluable support of local outfit Arclight (the film’s sales agent), we took possession of the main street in Adelaide at 6pm the night before our shoot date and set about transforming it into Cape Town. This included putting in coin operated parking meters, old cars with South African number plates, changing the street signs and shop fronts. We did such a convincing job that a South African woman living in Adelaide felt like she’d been transported home.
“For the prison sequences, we took over an old Holden car factory, which was a massive site with huge warehouses. The interior of the two main prison wings were built in one of the warehouses.
“The project was a real combination of local crew and production talent and the support of South Australia Film Corporation who were also backers. If there was ever a moment where you weren’t quite sure of something you could pick their brains on the local angle on stuff.”
Australia is a large country with an integrated air transport network. Central Australia is dominated by the dry Outback. The country has ample accommodation options for international productions including the InterContinental and Four Seasons in Sydney, and private harbour mansions. Melbourne offers The Olsen or Como in South Yarra or Crown Casino, Southbank. Queensland’s Broadbeach and Main Beach are popular accommodation options for productions shooting at Village Roadshow. When international travel resumes at pace, European productions should benefit again from the non-stop flight between London and Perth in Western Australia.
First person to contact
Erin Stam, executive vice president, international production, Ausfilm