Visiting film productions don’t impact Gold Coast locals much beyond the chance to scan the stars’ social accounts for mentions of favoured local cafes and landmarks.
For the record, Blake Lively plugged No Name Lane when she was here shooting The Shallows and Aquaman himself Jason Momoa was snapped at Café on Hedges and the Broadbeach Tavern.
But alongside the injection of glamour and gossip, film has grown into a significant economic driver spreading dollars throughout local industries.
On a big-ticket production like Warner Bros’ Aquaman, filmed here in 2017, production equipment companies hired out crucial gear, while creatively ambitious sets and costumes were fabricated using local materials and skill.
And beneath the surface (the absolute first and last aquatic pun in this story, promise) a host of support businesses not readily associated with blockbuster filmmaking also contributed to the process.
When Aquaman stars retreated from set to study lines, for example, they got comfy in luxury motorhomes leased by a Gold Coast company.
A local outfit managed on-set toilets and food waste, while Gold Coast real estate agents provided warehouses and arranged big volumes of cast and crew accommodation.
Aquaman’s local economic impact is not yet calculated, but local suppliers’ impact on the production is well known to Hollywood heavyweight Rob Cowan, who produced the DC Comics epic and the 2015 disaster pic San Andreas here.
“The key to a smooth production is the outside support,” Cowan told We Are Gold Coast from Los Angeles.
“On the Gold Coast, our outside vendors and suppliers of everything from cranes to catering to lumber were attentive and production-friendly.
“They were quick to respond to whatever our needs were, or emergencies that came about, making all of our departments’ jobs that much easier.”
Swagman Motorhomes – Dave Suttor
Swagman Motorhomes CEO Dave Suttor has been renting cars and trucks to Australian film productions since the 1970s, and has worked on more than 500 productions.
Today, his specialty is leasing luxury Swagman motorhomes to films to serve as on-set retreats for stars and the director.
Gold Coast productions including Thor Ragnarok and Pirates of the Caribbean 5 housed their A-listers in Suttor’s Swagmans.
“I was always on the lookout for a high-end product like the Americans were wanting when they came out here,” says Suttor, who leased nine Swagmans to Aquaman, including a 40ft dream machine for star Jason Momoa.
Suttor says the key to servicing the film industry is flexibility.
“In this industry, we say “yes” first up and then work it out later, because production schedules can change all the time,” he says.
Gold Coast Cranes – Ian Bourner
Gold Coast Cranes specialise in mobile cranes, with its machinery usually found on local construction sites such as Oracle, Soul and The Wave.
Its gear is also rented out to film productions for use in everything from stunt rigging and lighting, to suspending enormous screens in midair to shield filming from the Coast’s hard sunlight.
Co-owner Ian Bourner – whose cranes have been on Aquaman, San Andreas and the just-wrapped Dora the Explorer – says film bookings nicely round out his company’s work calendar.
“Film jobs are great because they employ our blokes and our use gear during what might be slower times in the building industry,” he says.
“Whenever our cranes are on set, we are too, with our riggers and operators working directly with the film crew.”
Serious Waste – Floyd Hastie
Serious Waste hire portable loos to construction giants such as Multiplex and cultural events on the scale of Byron Bay’s Bluesfest.
Owner Floyd Hastie says the Gold Coast company also provides commercial waste management to film productions, encompassing air-conditioned VIP loos, catering waste and even compliant disposal of paints and other set-building waste.
“Basically we follow the film unit around to make sure the waste is collected and compliant with Department of Environment and Science standards,” he says.
His company has spent about $1 million on innovative equipment to better serve film clients, including sound-muffled pumps that can run on set without interrupting the shoot.
Hastie, who loves his work and is proud of his team, says film industry jobs are distinguished by a warmth between collaborators with diverse skills.
“On some jobs you pull up to clean the toilets and people look down their nose at you, but you don’t get that on film jobs – there’s a real camaraderie between all the departments,” he says.