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Gold Coast racks up blockbuster credits as screen production peaks

Sam Cleveland | February 2019

The Gold Coast’s film production sector has hit record volume in recent years, with more TV series and films shooting here than ever before. Part 1 of a 2-part report.

With credits as diverse as The Great Gatsby, three seasons of Underbelly and the Gold Coast-shot Unbroken, film location manager Lauren Cooper is used to coordinating complex shooting in public places.

The Queensland local looked twice, however, when the producers of Pacific Rim: Uprising tasked her with shutting down parts of central Southport, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise to shoot the sci-fi epic.

The filmmakers were here to fly drone cameras between the Gold Coast’s coastal high-rises to mimic Santa Monica’s skyline. A film crew of about 150 would be on the ground.

To make it happen, Cooper and assistant location manager Tony Brown were faced with closing roads to local traffic, rerouting busses, clearing parking street spaces and even coordinating shooting with GoldLinQ’s light rail schedule.

Her first stop was the City of Gold Coast’s film unit, a team dedicated to helping visiting film productions achieve their goals.

“Council didn’t shy away from it at all; they saw it as a challenge and had faith in our ability to act responsibility,” says Cooper.

She says the City of Gold Coast (City) coordinated a round table meeting between all stakeholders – parking officers, police, city planning, traffic control and community groups – that aligned everyone who had input on the complex enterprise.

“The key to shooting smoothly on location is knowing that all stakeholders are on the same page,” says Cooper. “If we know the common goal from the get-go, then it all works really well.”

Months of further planning between the production and City representatives went into the three-day shoot, which was executed without a hitch.

“The great thing about shooting on the Gold Coast is that you can make promises to a producer about what can be achieved with some surety,” says Cooper.

“Having worked in other cities – Sydney in particular – you can never say with full confidence something will happen, but here you know council are behind you and will make it happen.”

Cooper was also location manager on the Gold Coast-shot Kong: Skull Island, with the producers so happy with the city’s film-friendliness they’re back here right now shooting the sequel Godzilla vs. Kong.

Alongside the monster spectacle Godzilla vs. Kong, the Gold Coast is currently hosting the first season of TV thriller Reef Break, produced by US giant ABC Studios.

The two productions continue a growth streak for the Gold Coast’s film industry, which has in recent years hit new peaks of volume and economic turnover.

Local screen production has matured into a sector with the depth to concurrently support blockbusters such as Pirates of the Caribbean 5, high-end TV series and smaller independent films.

The sector is anchored by Village Roadshow Studios, the largest production facility in the southern hemisphere, and offers filmmakers a base of experienced resident crew, favourable weather and photogenic natural assets such as the coastline and hinterland rainforest.

The Gold Coast now has an established global reputation as a high-end production hub, according to a highly placed screen industry insider, who offers the region’s “repeat business” from the world’s largest content creators as proof.

“When Disney brought Pirates 5 to the Gold Coast, they had some challenges with the lead actor, but council was flexible and the local crews did not waiver and produced a handsome-looking film,” she says.

“That faith in the local industry’s capacity to deliver certainly played a big part in Disney later shooting Thor Ragnarok here, and you’re seeing it again with Legendary Pictures coming back to do Godzilla vs. Kong here after Kong: Skull Island.“

For Part 2 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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