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Local support helps drive film and TV production on the Gold Coast

Sam Cleveland | February 2019

The Gold Coast’s film production sector hits record volume as more TV and independent films choose to shoot here. Part 2 of a 2-part report.

The Gold Coast’s screen sector routinely hosts production of the most valuable film properties in the world: blockbusters such as Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok, Aquaman from DC and Warner Bros, Nickelodeon’s Dora the Explorer and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 5.

Shooting these mega-productions means building ambitious sets, herding hundreds of extras and sewing racks and racks of costumes.

“Stage 9 up at Village Roadshow Studios is now the largest individual sound stage in the southern hemisphere,” a screen sector insider told We Are Gold Coast, “so it’s only natural that these complex productions gravitate here.”

The local sector’s growth, however, has also been driven through the attraction of smaller independent films and – increasingly – television to maintain production volume and economic impact.

Season one of ABC Studios’ Reef Break is currently shooting, on the heels of the Australian drama series The End, a top-secret Netflix project from We Can Be Heroes creator Chris Lilley and the AACTA award-winning fantasy series The Bureau of Magical Things.

“Shooting TV generally means a longer filming period, just because there’s more of it to make than a two-hour film, and than means longer for the production to be here spending in the local economy,” says our insider.

“And if a show filmed here gets picked up for additional seasons, the Gold Coast will likely be the producers’ first choice as the location, so you’re seeing longer “tails” on TV shooting than feature films.”

The City of Gold Coast’s Film Attraction Program – the only screen production incentive offered by local government anywhere in Australia – offers tangible assistance to inbound TV, as well as films ranging from blockbusters to smaller independents.

Alongside a cash incentive, council officers from the Film Attraction Program help producers access locations, manage shooting permits and road closures, and also support local business and residents.

Debra Richards, CEO of Ausfilm, the Federal Government body tasked with attracting international screen production to Australia, praised the City’s program.

“The City of Gold Coast has developed a flexible and supportive film unit that understands the nuances and idiosyncrasies of film production,” says Ms Richards.

“Repeat business relies on good customer support and knowledge of a product, and the City of Gold Coast supports productions in tricky and sometimes far-flung locations, as well as guiding productions through council policy and approvals.”

On Swinging Safari, the ‘70s-set comedy from Priscilla Queen of the Desert director Stephan Elliott, location manager Kathryn Metcalfe engaged with council’s film unit to shoot for two weeks on beaches at Snapper Rocks.

“Council were a one-stop-shop for road closures and permits,” says Metcalfe.

“They understood what we wanted to achieve and even helped negotiate with lifeguards around how the production integrated with their operations.”

For Aquaman, location manager Duncan Jones had to co-ordinate building a coastal Canadian bar set on The Spit, including a jetty in The Broadwater complete with fishing boats.

Delivering the location meant engaging with seven government agencies, making it one of the most complex briefs of the veteran’s career.

“We were working on the land, on the surface of the water and even under the water to build the jetty, so we spent a lot of time engaging with fishermen, local businesses and environmental groups,” says Jones.

Council’s film unit, he says, supported the production throughout and dovetailed the approvals process.

“I always invite local government to meet on set with the producers and on the Gold Coast someone always comes out – that’s very comforting,” says Jones.

“It’s fair to say the Gold Coast’s production sector would not have the success it does without council.”

For Part 1 of We Are Gold Coast’s report on the Gold Coast’s screen production sector – including a look at how television could drive the industry’s next growth phase – click here.

 

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