He has worked alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood, producing some of the most thrilling films to come out of the US.
However, film producer and assistant director Rob Cowan says the experience of filming San Andreas on the Gold Coast was one to remember, with Cowan now returning to the Gold Coast to shoot his next big film – Aquaman.
Described as an American 3D action-adventure disaster film, San Andreas’ follows the story of a rescue-helicopter pilot, played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, and his ex-wife as they attempt to rescue their estranged daughter following a devastating earthquake in San Francisco.
Since its release, the movie has received global media attention, putting the city’s film industry and the big business it generates in the spotlight.
While filming on the Gold Coast, Cowan chatted to More Gold Coast about why he chose the Gold Coast as a filming destination.
“We had been scouting in many different areas in the United States and we hadn’t really found anything that matched,” he says.
“When I landed here I felt comfortable; instinctively it felt like the right place to be.
“It wasn’t just because it felt similar to California. There were so many elements to draw from – we were able to get into farmland very quickly, we were able to film in a city that matched somewhat to San Francisco up in Brisbane and there were elements on the Gold Coast that we could use.
“There were a lot of varying looks and it really helped a movie that spans a big travel distance.”
The Gold Coast is famous for its natural attractions including 57 kilometres of coastline and 21,000 hectares of rainforests. However, it was more than the city’s beautiful backdrop that lured Cowan to the city.
“Professionally, 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 have really pulled off a lot of miracles for us.
“And, the facilities are terrific – Village Roadshow Studios has been a) very helpful and b) have really serviced us for what we need. They have got stages which we were able to use – we filled them all up – and they have a great tank which was essential to our movie; if we didn’t have the tank then it wouldn’t have really worked.”
Village Roadshow Studios offers world-class film production facilities compromising nine sound stages, three water tanks, ten production offices, editing suites, wardrobe, makeup, construction, paint and carpentry shops.
Recently the largest sound stage in the Southern Hemisphere was construed at Village Roadshow Studios, Stage 9, which is 18 metres high, 80 metres long and 47 metres wide.
Cowan says the skill of local film businesses added to the Gold Coast’s overall package for producers and film makers.
“The nice thing about coming into a place like this is we get to use so many vendors from all around the Gold Coast,” says Cowan.
“We have really been able to draw on a lot of resources from the area which has really been helpful. Especially when you are doing last minute things and you have to get something right away – we have been able to pull in things very quickly.
“It helps that you have a lot of the facilities, infrastructure and a lot of the elements needed to make a film, especially one of this size (San Andreas).”
It is estimated that Village Roadshow Studios has attracted about $3.6 billion worth of film since inception. Meanwhile, $1.8 billion has been physically spent in Queensland and on the Gold Coast.
In attracting big blockbusters to the city, City of Gold Coast together with Screen Queensland and Village Roadshow Studios offer incentives and financial assistance packages to assist with delivering optimum conditions for producers, directors, casting and crew.
Cowan says that is also a drawcard.
“It is always a constantly changing game, particularly in Los Angeles, of who is involved and who is looking for what,” he says.
“So the incentives are a big part of it – every movie we look at we want to monetise it to the most value.
“That also offsets wages and fringe rates and varying other money elements that come into play when you are budgeting a movie so certainly incentives are the number one issues to deal with.”
When asked if the San Andreas cast and crew enjoyed their stay on the Gold Coast, Cowan says there was nothing but praise for the city.
“All the actors loved it here; I think from the minute they landed they loved it,” he says.
“It is one of those things where you eventually end up with complaints from the crew or cast about something and this is one of those instances where we never heard one complaint. It is an easy atmosphere, having the beaches is great and the weather is terrific.”
Cowan’s career includes producing Life as a House, which scored lead actors Hayden Christensen and Kevin Kline a Golden Globe nomination.
He later transitioned into horror and action films with Enough, starring Jennifer Lopez, The Chernobyl Diaries and he also worked alongside Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the thriller Righteous Kill.
He then ventured into comedies with Tammy and The Boss, both starring funny-woman Melissa McCarthy.
However, his biggest win was in producing The Conjuring, the fourth highest grossing horror film of all time.