The Gold Coast film industry is booming with more and more big-budget Hollywood productions choosing the city and its surrounds for filming locations.
In addition, the Gold Coast Film Festival (GCFF) grows each year in attendance and reputation, and more and more local filmmakers are gaining national and worldwide recognition.
In 2013 the New York Film Academy (NYFA) trusted the Gold Coast as the place to set up its first established campus outside North America, with a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Southport catering to the growing number of aspiring film students in the region.
Founded by veteran producer Jerry Sherlock in 1992, the NYFA promotes a ‘learn by doing’ method. David ‘DJ’ Stonier, Campus Manager of the Gold Coast Academy, believes this approach is more efficient than years of theoretical study.
“This educational model allows students to achieve more in less time than at all other film or acting schools in the world,” says Stonier.
With 200 students and 60 staff and faculty, students receive intensive practical training in smaller groups.
Many Gold Coast campus alumni have gone on to successful professional careers, working on high profile productions such as Thor: Ragnarok, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Alien: Covenant and Kong: Skull Island – both in front of the camera and in a range of roles behind it.
Tasha Cooper, Director of NYFA Gold Coast, believes the Academy’s unique approach produces work-ready graduates.
“Our students are taught organisational, leadership, writing, and critical thinking skills by working on producing complex productions,” says Cooper.
“They become project managers with an impressive portfolio of work and that in itself is an incredible skill-set for any industry.”
The Gold Coast film industry is currently experiencing an upswing in international interest at the same time as a blossoming local scene.
“Unlike other cities, the Gold Coast has an amazing mixture of vastly different locations all contained within the one location,” says Stonier.
“A production can shoot a beach scene down at Burleigh Heads followed by a scene in the rainforest at Springbrook and then another within the downtown CBD of Southport all within a matter of hours.
“On a financial front, the Gold Coast is far more competitive in production costs with a competitively skilled workforce.
“The fact that we are seeing a surge in the number of Hollywood blockbuster productions stands testament to our city as a leading location for production.”
Lucy Fisher, Director of the Gold Coast Film Festival, agrees that it is an exciting time for film on the Gold Coast.
“The city’s film industry is thriving,” she says. “Screen Queensland and the City of Gold Coast have attracted some fantastic big budget shoots like Thor and Aquaman to the city.”
The number of blockbuster filming spots on the Gold Coast has now grown to a point where the GCFF organisers were able to develop a Gold Coast Movie Locations Tour as part of the 2017 festival.
“It’s an opportunity to begin a film tourism industry here on the Gold Coast – like they do in New Zealand with the Lord of the Rings and more generally in New York, London and LA,” says Fisher.
“This year we also became one of a handful of film festivals nationwide to become an AACTA-Award qualifying festival, which means films selected for our festival can go on to be nominated for an AACTA Award.
“But what’s exciting is to see Gold Coast based emerging filmmakers having success with their short and feature films. I hope the Gold Coast can continue to cultivate filmmaking talent and that we can keep that talent here.”
Cultivating filmmaking talent is what the NYFA is all about. The surge in employment opportunities in the Gold Coast film industry means that the Academy’s unique approach and facilities are well-placed to supply qualified graduates to meet demand.
“New York Film Academy Gold Coast campus is the only film education institution in Australia to have a studio out on the Village Roadshow lot,” says Stonier.
“We call it our studio among the studios where students can gain hands-on industry experience rather than just theoretical.
“It is a key point of difference of the Academy and we also have our Southport campus to ensure that students learn in state-of-the-art facilities.”
Cooper goes into more detail regarding the Southport amenities.
“Our brand new, 2,000sqm, purpose-built creative space at Southport Central includes 14 classrooms, three editing suites, ADR booth and a 90 seat theatre,” she says.
“Its industrial, modern feel was designed by Elle Bailey, NYFA VP of Business Development, to capture the essence of the New York Film Academy campuses in New York City and Los Angeles.”
Current qualifications on offer at NYFA Australia are an advanced diploma, diploma, workshop and high school programs in filmmaking, acting for film, screenwriting, producing, documentary and 3D animation. It also offers pathways to the US to qualified students for credit transfer into their US Degree programs.
“No other Australian film school comes close to our truly unique, hands-on curriculum,” says Cooper.
“In order to make movies, one must actually make movies. Our students are constantly in production, living and breathing the creative process while being trained by industry professionals from day one.
“Learning on set protocol by training alongside major Hollywood productions is something that cannot be taught in a classroom alone. Our students are miles ahead of the game and industry ready.
“That’s the reputation we have built here in Australia and indeed globally where professional production companies come knocking on our doors to work with our alumni.”