The Australian industry is lobbying for an improved incentive to keep the country internationally competitive, while New Zealand’s vistas remain perennially appealing.
Australia’s combination of world-class studio facilities, generous filming incentive support and experienced crew pool has helped turn the country into one of the southern hemisphere’s main production hubs. International production in Australia is centred on Gold Coast, Queensland and further down the east coast in Sydney, New South Wales, as these are the places that offer the major studio facilities. Gold Coast’s Village Roadshow Studios has recently hosted Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and Warner Bros’ Aquaman. Fox Studios Australia in Sydney counts Pacific Rim Uprising and Alien: Covenant among its recent big-budget feature credits.
The major productions often shoot supporting footage on locations nearby but stage work tends to be the primary focus. Recent exceptions have included Sony’s Peter Rabbit, which built a set of the UK’s Lake District region in Sydney’s Centennial Park to keep the shoot close to Animal Logic, the movie’s Sydney-based visual-effects production company.
Australia’s main filming incentive for international producers is its location offset that is worth 16.5% of eligible local spending, although the government has this year announced an additional $140m in funding that effectively lifts the offset closer to 30%.
New Zealand is a similarly popular southern hemisphere hub. The mountainous vistas of the central South Island are among the country’s chief international appeals, bolstered by a competitive national filming incentive. Paramount Pictures filmed an elaborate helicopter chase in the Central Otago region of South Island for Mission: Impossible — Fallout and Ava DuVernay shot scenes in the same area for her Disney fantasy A Wrinkle In Time. DuVernay’s New Zealand locations team spent months irrigating rural fields to sustain visuals from the movie’s initial scouts through to the actual shoot (see case study, page 55).
International producers do sometimes film on location in New Zealand’s major cities. Paramount’s Ghost In The Shell shot extensively in Wellington, turning parts of the city into a far-eastern metropolis inspired by Hong Kong’s visuals. Stone Street Studios in Wellington has been a production base for Peter Jackson’s films over the past 20 years and will be hosting scenes for James Cameron’s California-based Avatar sci-fi sequels.
On the North Island, Auckland Film Studios recently hosted Sonar Entertainment’s US fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles. Warner Bros’ shark movie The Meg, starring Jason Statham, built New Zealand’s first water tank facilities outside Auckland when shooting in the country. This is now a permanent facility called Kumeu Film Studios.
Fiji, an archipelago of some 300 islands positioned 1,300 miles north east of New Zealand in the Pacific ocean, has a multitude of exotic visuals and a tax rebate of up to 47% for international productions.
The Lowdown – Australia
Financial incentives Australia’s main federal filming incentive for international producers is the location offset worth 16.5% of qualifying local expenditure, though as mentioned above this is effectively doubled by the government’s decision in mid-2018 to channel another $140m into the programme. The support is geared towards big-budget movies and high-end TV series, with producers required to spend at least $11.5m (a$15m) in Australia to access the support. Australia also offers the post, digital and visual effects offset (PDV), which is worth 30% of local expenditure for productions spending at least $385,000 (a$500,000) locally. Productions do not need to have filmed in Australia to qualify for the PDV offset, but it is an either/or arrangement with the location offset.
Full details of financial incentives in Australia: Ausfilm
Infrastructure and crews
Village Roadshow Studios in Queensland offers water tank facilities and nine sound stages, the largest of which spans 40,000 square feet. Fox Studios Australia in Sydney also has nine stages among its production resources. Docklands Studios Melbourne offers five stages in Victoria. Australian crews are world-renowned and experienced at working on big-budget Hollywood productions.
Australia is a big country but an integrated air transport network serves all the state capitals and many of the regional areas. Central Australia is dominated by the wilderness Outback region. The country has ample accommodation options for international productions including the InterContinental and Four Seasons in Sydney, while private harbour mansions are often the preferred choices of the Hollywood elite. Melbourne offers The Olsen or Como in South Yarra or Crown Casino, Southbank. Queensland’s Broadbeach and Main Beach have become popular accommodation options for productions shooting at Village Roadshow. European productions now benefit from the recently-launched non-stop flight between London and Perth in Western Australia.
First person to call
Kate Marks, executive vice-president, international production, Ausfilm
The Lowdown – New Zealand
New Zealand offers a base 20% cash rebate through the New Zealand screen production grant. Features must spend at least $11m (nz$15m) to qualify and $3m (nz$4m) for TV shows. A 5% ‘uplift’ is available on top of the base 20% figure for particularly high-profile projects that deliver specific economic benefits to New Zealand. Producers are invited to apply for this additional support. Recent recipients include Warner Bros’ The Meg, The Walt Disney Company’s remake of Pete’s Dragon and Paramount’s Ghost In The Shell. These productions committed to substantial quotas of key local personnel, tourism campaigns and skills and talent development programmes for emerging local crew. A base 20% incentive support is also available for post-production work on projects that spend at least $365,000 (nz$500,000) locally.
Full details on financial incentives in New Zealand: New Zealand Film Commission.
Infrastructure and crews
New Zealand has an enviable reputation for standout crews and creative collaborators. The film industry punches well above its weight internationally and a proactive local film commission funds talent development and mentor schemes. The diverse talent pool includes heads of department, line producers, costume designers and Oscar-winning post houses in Wellington. Crews are deeply experienced, with many having CVs dating back to The Lord Of The Rings films and earlier. Stone Street Studios in Wellington is the focal point, while Auckland Film Studios, Studio West and now Kumeu Film Studios offer stage infrastructure on North Island.
New Zealand has spectacular scenery and cosmopolitan cities within a relatively short distance of each other. International connections are plentiful and local travel is easy, whether by air, road or rail.
First person to call
Philippa Mossman, head of international screen attraction, NZ Film