Australia is as popular as ever with international filmmakers looking for competitive incentives, world-class crew and diverse locations. With a steady influx of international productions in recent years, the country’s premium facilities have invested in expansions and upgrades. Queensland’s Village Roadshow Studios now features the largest soundstage in the southern hemisphere. A superstage of 4,000 sq m (40,000 sq ft) opened in July 2016 and was christened by Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. The facility will next house James Wan’s DC underwater origin story, Aquaman, which will make full use of the onsite water tank and also shoot on location in south-east Queensland until mid-year.
In New South Wales, the Fox Studios Australia lot has added another soundstage, and increased its backlot facilities to include nearby Centennial Park. Another new space has opened up in western Sydney, in a decommissioned water reservoir. During the Sydney shoot of Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott was so impressed by the industrial design elements of the historical site, he declared it “one of the best movie backlots in the world”.
Production of Legendary Pictures’ Pacific Rim: Uprising took place at Sydney’s Fox Studios Australia and harbourside locations, and also in locations in both Brisbane and the Gold Coast. New South Wales locations will feature in live-action sequences from Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit hybrid animation, produced by Animal Logic, and Mandarin-language series Chosen for Sony Pictures Television/iQiyi, an adaptation of the Crackle serial, which starts filming at Fox Studios and Sydney locations in April. Victoria and Tasmania featured in Garth Davis’s Lion for The Weinstein Company, and Docklands Studios Melbourne is the facility of choice for otherworldly thrillers Winchester for Eclipse, Studiocanal and CBS, which stars Helen Mirren as an eccentric firearms heiress haunted by the souls of people killed by the Winchester rifle; and Stem, a Goalpost Pictures Australia and Blumhouse Productions feature directed by Leigh Whannell, co-creator of Saw and Insidious.
Qualifying film and high-end TV projects are able to access a locations rebate of 16.5%, with the possibility to scale up to a 30% rebate under special circumstances. Australia also offers a 30% rebate for international post/VFX work, and a 40% return for official co-productions with local producers. In the past 12 months a number of state bodies have bolstered their own incentives packages to attract more footloose productions. A ‘Made in NSW’ $15m (a$20m) fund, available until 2018 for use by local and international filmmakers, helped Sydney secure Heyi Pictures’ Bleeding Steel, starring Jackie Chan. Further north, the Queensland government has committed $22.5m (a$30m) towards keeping the state competitive. Western Australia has launched a $12m (a$16m) regional film fund for all film and TV productions that meet agreed market thresholds and local spend targets in regional areas.
Full details of financial incentives in Australia: Ausfilm
Infrastructure and crews
Australia’s crews and heads of department are world-renowned. In addition to Queensland’s Village Roadshow Studios and New South Wales’ Fox Studios Australia, Victoria also offers backlot facilities at Docklands Studios Melbourne. Both South and Western Australia offer boutique facilities. All studio spaces are within a short drive of a major airport.
Australia is a big country but five local carriers serve all capital cities and many regional areas. Central Australia — ‘the outback’ — is a vast region the size of France. Australia has ample accommodation for international productions. Popular hotels in Sydney’s CBD include the InterContinental, Four Seasons and QT, Private harbourside mansions are the residences of choice for A-list actors and directors during extended stays.
Preferred accommodation options in central Melbourne include The Olsen or Como in South Yarra or Crown Casino in the city. Crews working in Melbourne tend to stay in serviced apartments in the CBD of beachside St Kilda. Queensland’s bustling Gold Coast features hotels and serviced apartments that often cater to productions. Broadbeach and Main Beach have become key hubs for productions shooting at nearby Village Roadshow Studios. Perth’s dining districts of Northbridge, Leederville and Mount Lawley are popular with visitors and locals alike. European travellers will benefit when national carrier Qantas introduces a 17-hour non-stop flight between Perth and London in 2018.
Jackie Chan, actor and executive producer, Bleeding Steel, says:
“I love working here. Any chance we have we come back, because we know the crew, we know everybody here. I know Australia well. I’m like a tour guide.”
First person to call
Kate Marks, executive vice-president, international production, Ausfilm
Need to know
- DO get in touch with Show Group or Stage And Screen Travel Services. Both provide expertise in handling production freight and travel within Australia.
- DO contact Screen NSW for all information about shooting in public buildings and at iconic Sydney landmarks.
- DO dine at Donovans in Melbourne, a favourite of Nicolas Cage.
- DON’T forget that many sites in central Australia are sacred to the country’s Indigenous population and may require extra approvals. Government and state agencies can assist.