In the early days of film and television, Los Angeles, California became a haven for filmmakers due to its diverse landscape, year-long warm climate and reliable sunlight. These days, however, the epicentre of American film industry is slowly migrating south, to a small city in Australia.
The Gold Coast, a seaside city an hour south of Brisbane, Queensland, had a fairly sizeable impact on film production even in the days before Covid-19 stopped the film industry in its tracks. Now, with the industry at a standstill in the States, this relaxed beach community is experiencing a boom in overseas productions.
With an endless amount of red tape and growing safety concerns, the US film industry turned to the relatively unaffected and safe environment of the Gold Coast, a city with extremely low Covid infections and minimal restrictions. When asked about why Ron Howard chose to shoot his upcoming biographical survival drama Thirteen Lives on the Gold Coast during the pandemic, he admits it was not only due to the safety aspect, but the financial as well.
“We recognise that it’s a [COVID] safe environment to begin with—that’s huge for an ambitious project like this,” he said “And then of course the government support on the financial side makes a world of difference to making an ambitious project like this viable.”
During the pandemic, The Australian government injected over $400 million into The Location Incentive, a grant that provides up to 13.5% of a film’s expenditure. When combined with the existing 16.5% Location Offset tax rebate, international films effectively can expect a 30% tax rebate. Gold Coast, which will be the filming location of almost half of Australia’s 23 international productions, has been at the forefront of many Hollywood films, due to further generous tax incentives from the Queensland Government, as well as it being home to the renowned Village Roadshow Studios, the largest studio lot in the Southern Hemisphere
Village Roadshow Studios has been steadily attracting international productions since it was established in 1986 due to the diversity of its locations, depth of crew and incentives, and its Australian exclusive water tanks, according to Village Roadshow Studios president Lynne Benzie. The state-of-the-art tanks, which hold up to 6 million litres of water, have been a driving factor for a number of international productions, including Godzilla vs Kong, Aquaman, Thor: Ragnarok, and Pirates of the Caribbean, which ultimately feeds back into Australian led films.
“As the Studios are the only facility in Australia that has water tanks, [we] were able to attract [a number of high-end productions].” Benzie claims. “These international productions have larger budgets, [and] are able to increase infrastructure that local productions can benefit from.”
A funding boost of $540 million over the next 7 years is expected to further cement Australia as the place to shoot a movie. With production on the new Disney+ series Nautilus, based on the classic Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, coming to the Gold Coast early into 2022, it’s evident that this train can’t be stopped!