Why big blockbusters choose the Gold Coast

Arts & Culture
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When it comes to the film industry, the Gold Coast has it all.

Boasting award winning crew, world-class film and TV production facilities, a comprehensive network of experienced film service companies, cutting edge technology and diverse locations, the Gold Coast is a screen production hotspot.

The glue that holds it together is Village Roadshow Studios – one of the largest film studio lots in the southern hemisphere.

Originally opened in 1986 by prolific film producer and financier Dino DeLaurentiis, the Studios has more than doubled the number of sound stages since inception to nine.

Under the stewardship of Village Roadshow, which took control in 1988, the production facility has also grown to include three water tanks, ten production offices, editing suites, and wardrobe, makeup, construction, paint and carpentry shops.

“We have created a one-stop-shop for screen production, offering unique incentives and opportunities for filming” says President of Village Roadshow Studios, Lynne Benzie.

Village Roadshow Studios is home to Australia’s largest soundstage which sits at 3,716sqm (40,000 sq ft) as well as one of the biggest water tanks in the Southern Hemisphere. The water tank, which holds six million litres of water, can be used for both surface and underwater sequences and has been utilised by a number of big-name films including ‘The Shallows’ starring Blake Lively and ‘Fools Gold’ starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.

Other blockbusters to head down under include San Andreas, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and Marvel’s Thor: Rangnarok.

Benzie, who has worked at the Studios for close to three decades, says the Gold Coast’s unparalleled natural landscape plays a significant role in attracting national and international film productions to the city.

“We have to look at what makes a production want to come to the Gold Coast and a lot of it is location and incentive driven,” says Benzie.

“The locations are very diverse on the Gold Coast; within a short drive of the Studios you can find jungle landscapes and we have doubled for the Asia-pacific region, and then if you head the other way, you have the beaches which can double Miami.

“San Andreas doubled for San Francisco and Los Angeles which was a major drawcard for the team behind the film.”

From beautiful beaches and national parks to hinterland retreats, cane fields and sub-tropical rainforests, the majority of locations are located within 45 minutes of the Studios.

However, it is not the only feature attracting international films to the shores of the Gold Coast.

Benzie adds that the city has built a reputation for having some of the best crew in the world.

“Another big selling point for the Studios is our amazingly talented crew who have been on the Gold Coast for a long, long time,” says Benzie.

“Crew will travel between Sydney, Melbourne and other states depending on where the film will be based, and the Gold Coast is lucky that we have a lot of the Australian crew based here.

“Arguably we have some of the best special effects technicians, some of the best stunt crew and some of the best underwater technicians. They are regarded around the world – Life of Pi took some Queenslanders overseas and even Skull Island took some Queensland crew to Vietnam.”

Hollywood producer Rob Cowan, who has worked on films including The Conjuring – the fourth highest grossing horror film of all time and The Boss – starring funny-woman Melissa McCarthy, could not agree more.

Cowan was on the Gold Coast for the filming of San Andreas starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and praised local crew for their efforts.

“The crews have been top notch; they have literally been the best I have worked with in the world,” he says. “They were really professional and hardworking and really pulled off a lot of miracles for us.”

Cowan will return in 2017 to shoot his next big film – Aquaman.

Meanwhile, the relatively low Australian dollar is also playing a role in enticing international productions to the city.

The City of Gold Coast works together with Screen Queensland and Village Roadshow Studios to offer incentives and financial assistance packages.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Gold Coast is the tourism capital of Australia, meaning there’s world-class accommodation, dining options and an array of attractions for visiting cast and crew.

It is estimated that Village Roadshow Studios has attracted about $3.6 billion worth of film since inception, reaffirming the city’s position as a movie-making heavyweight. Meanwhile, $1.8 billion has been physically spent in Queensland and on the Gold Coast.

“Films are a massive coo for the Gold Coast for the amount of money they inject into the economy,” says Benzie.

“If you get an event to the city, it might just be here for three days. But with big features, and even with small Australian features, they are here for so much longer. That money can get spread out over six to eight months and it has a roll on effect – you have to take into account where the cast and crew go during their spare time and what they spend their money on.”

Village Roadshow Studios is also set to be front and centre at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The Studios will host the table tennis, boxing, squash and badminton training at its facilities.

Stage nine, the most recent infrastructure upgrade at the Studios, was a joint initiative of the Queensland Government, City of Gold Coast, Village Roadshow and GOLDOC and has resulted in the largest sound stage in the Southern Hemisphere which creates a legacy for the local community.

The sound stage, which is 18 metres high, 80 metres long and 47 metres wide, will not only be used for filming but will house the squash competition in 2018.

“The soundstages, have also be utilised for product launches, car launches, a wedding, Cirque de Soleil, band rehearsals and of course films,” says Benzie.

“It is important for the Studios to continue to diversify and look at other opportunities that the site can be utilised for making sure we support employment of crew and the local community” says Benzie.

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