The 36-day shoot on Peter Farrelly’s comedy Ricky Stanicky, starring Zac Efron and John Cena, wrapped in March with Melbourne and environs doubling as Rhode Island and Atlantic City. “It was an iconic Hollywood script almost made many times… but it was hard to finance [in the US],” says the film’s Australian producer Paul Currie.
However, Ricky Stanicky was financed within six weeks once producer Thorsten Schumacher (All Quiet On The Western Front) locked in Prime Video and Currie secured the Australian incentives. Only Farrelly, executive producer/unit production manager Marc Fischer, first assistant director JB Rogers and the cast came from the US, although Los Angeles-based Australian DoP John Brawley returned home to shoot it.
“These [international] movies do not get made without the federal and state government incentives,” says Currie. The Location Offset and Location Incentive along with VicScreen helped finance roughly 28%-29% of the overall budget. “It involved a lot of trust and, if the government had reacted slowly, it would never have happened,” Currie adds.
Other international features to shoot in Australia since October 2022 include The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling, and Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, both for 20th Century Studios; an untitled Will Gluck romantic comedy (Sony Pictures); Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Legendary Entertainment); and Land Of Bad (Highland Film Group, Volition Media Partners, Broken Open Pictures) with Russell Crowe, Liam Hemsworth and Luke Hemsworth.
Television projects Nautilus (Disney+, Moonriver TV, Seven Stories) and season two of La Brea (Matchbox Pictures, NBCUniversal, Universal Television) recently wound down while Apples Never Fall (Universal Studio Group) are gearing up.
Since July 2020 when an additional $268m (a$400m) for Location Incentive grants was provided, about 25 international film and TV productions have utilised Australia — all bar one filming on the east coast, with Queensland the most popular destination. But much of the grant funding has been allotted and the Labour government’s recently published national cultural policy could make it trickier to support international shoots so generously in the future.
The availability of studios is the consistent limitation on incoming projects because producers want controllable soundstages. The big news in 2022 was Docklands Studios Melbourne installing the world’s largest LED volume. In addition, the government of Western Australian is one of several planning new studios, with one of the northern New South Wales ventures involving Russell Crowe. Screen Queensland has a facility in Brisbane and is building another in Cairns.
Currie’s general advice is to ensure the finance plan is locked down and A-list crew are available. He personally avoids films of a very large scale — “they’re just getting harder and harder” — and those where genuine collaboration is not welcome. “You should be prepared to work in the Aussie way, which is not too rigid.”
Australia’s three large-scale east‑coast facilities are world class: Village Roadshow Studios, an hour from Brisbane on Queensland’s Gold Coast; Disney Studios Australia in Sydney (formerly Fox); and Docklands Studios Melbourne. Smaller studios attract international production, but not consistently. North American producers who experience Australia often return because of the incentives, lifestyle and hard-working and likeable nature of local crews. Hoodlum is one company that regularly services international productions.
Australia remains a complete package: quality infrastructure, diverse locations, and experienced can-do technicians — along with a great lifestyle.
The main studios are part of Australia’s three biggest east-coast production hubs, so crew, airports, service companies and other needs are within easy reach. Nearby locations partly determine which studio wins the bidding. With a population of around 5 million each, Melbourne and Sydney do not have the traffic issues of, say, Los Angeles.
First person to contact
Erin Stam, Ausfilm USA: firstname.lastname@example.org