After a dry spell with virtually no runaway prods heading Down Under in the past couple of years, the announcement last month that “X-Men” spin-off “The Wolverine” would lens in Sydney caps off a positive 12 months for the local biz.
The Hugh Jackman starrer joins Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” with Leonardo DiCaprio; the Jonathan Teplitzky-helmed “The Railway Man,” starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman; and local production “I, Frankenstein” — which is produced by Hopscotch Films, which pacted with Lakeshore on the Aaron Eckhardt starrer. And all these films have provided a shot into the arm for an industry that was moribund at this time last year.
“The announcement that ‘The Wolverine’ will film in Australia will result in meaningful benefits for the industry and the economy; including jobs, skills and training and investment back into the local industry,” says Debra Richards, topper of industry org Ausfilm. “This announcement shows substantial government support of the Australian film industry and highlights the importance of an increase to the Location Offset to attract and compete for large scale international production to shoot in Australia.”
In the details of the “Wolverine” announcement was an interesting fact, the revelation that the Oz federal government made a one-off $A12.8 million ($13.2 million) payment to “The Wolverine” to attract it to film in Sydney. Pic is said to be worth $82.6 million in investment and will create up to 2,000 jobs.
Said the minister government at the time: “The payment effectively provided ‘The Wolverine’ a one-off investment package equivalent to an increase in the existing Location Offset to 30%.”
The Location Offset stands at 15% but it is hoped that the payment to “Wolverine” is an indication that a permanent increase is not far off. Last year’s budget saw an increase in the post, digital and visual effects offset from 15% to 30%, and there was widespread disappointment the same was not done for the location coin.
“Wolverine,” of course, has the support of Jackman, a local boy known for his support of the biz Down Under. The previous Wolverine pic “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” shot in Sydney. Wrapping up last December in the same city was another local hero who likes to bring Hollywood back home — Luhrmann, whose 3D take on “The Great Gatsby” now enters a 12-month post phase, much of which is also being done locally.
“Over the past 18 months it has been very encouraging to see the return of large-scale international production to Australia including films such as ‘The Great Gatsby,’ ‘I, Frankenstein’ and most recently ‘The Wolverine,’ ” says Richards. “The turnaround in difficult economic circumstances with the continued strength of the Australian dollar showcases the caliber of the production services on offer in Australia.”
Andrew Mason, producer of “I, Frankenstein,” the Stuart Beattie-helmed adaptation of the Kevin Grevioux graphic novel, agrees.
“The Producer Offset is doing what was always planned, which is attract our higher-profile filmmakers back to Australia,” says Mason. “It would be easier for the talent that have left to make films here. Baz is the perfect example of someone whose unique talent fit into the Producer Offset equation, ‘I, Frankenstein’ is another. With Stuart Beattie having made ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ (in Australia) it would be easy for him to have gone to make a film in the U.S.”
Mason is also exec producer on “Grandmothers,” another local prod with Hollywood trimmings, featuring Naomi Watts as well as Robin Wright; the two thesps portray lifelong friends who come into conflict when they fall in love with each other’s teenage sons. Pic recently finished filming in Sydney.
TV has also played a role in the revival starting with the premiere season of the Fox’s time-traveling skein “Terra Nova,” which lensed in Queensland during its lifetime, while Melbourne recently attracted the NBC pilot “Frontier” from “American Gothic’s” Sean Cassidy.
“The support and services we have received from Film Victoria have been outstanding, as has the crew and Victoria’s exceptional facilities,” Cassidy says. “Victoria’s beautiful regional areas help create the perfect backdrop for this production.” If picked up, skein will follow a group of 19th century pioneers as they head across America.
But it was not all wins. Fox canceled “Terra Nova,” local frightener “Wolf Creek 2,” the sequel to Greg McLean’s breakout horror hit, has wound up stuck in the courts with one of its private investors, while one of the biggest losses was the shuttering of the Alex Proyas pic “Paradise Lost,” which was set to film in Sydney and star Bradley Cooper. Legendary Pictures pulled the plug on in February citing budgetary issues — something the Location Offset should help avoid.
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