Making a scene: Victoria’s screen industry attracting global attention

Construction will begin next year on one of the largest sound stages in the Southern Hemisphere, Docklands Studios Melbourne.

Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.

Victoria is becoming one of the most desirable filming locations in the world.

Jobs and investment are tracking well in our screen sector. The cherry on top is actor-and-now-director Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl, supported by Film Victoria, which was the number one Australian film at the box office for 2019.

It’s been a bullish period for our screen industry. In the past five years alone, production generated by Film Victoria investment has surged 45 per cent, funnelling $1 billion into the state. And 8347 local creative, technical, administrative and commercial jobs were created in just the last year.

Such robust figures are thanks to screen projects choosing to film locally, plus our ability to lure large international productions.

Portrait shot of Caroline Pitcher“The global screen industry is growing at an unprecedented rate, and the government is capitalising on this growth with strategic investment, positioning our state as a centre of screen excellence,” says Caroline Pitcher, Film Victoria CEO.

To that point, the Victorian Government will begin construction next year on one of the largest sound stages in the Southern Hemisphere at Docklands Studios Melbourne, measuring 3700-square-metres.

“The new sound stage will not only make it easier to attract large-scale international projects, but with more studio space available, the facility will be able to host multiple projects at the same time, and this means local productions will have even greater access to the world-class studios,” says Caroline. “It will increase the site’s stage capacity by 60 per cent, and will enable Victoria to entice bigger productions than ever before, and host more productions overall, including smaller local ones.”

A turning point for the studios, the stage will help to create thousands of jobs for Victoria’s world-class crews and talent for years to come, she adds. “Melbourne’s already regarded as one of the world’s best screen cities, and the Victorian Government recognises how much value international productions can bring to the state, and the positive impact they can have on the economy.”

In other related news, the Victorian Government has attracted Dick Cook Studios (DCS) – an international studio headed by former Walt Disney chairman Dick Cook – to establish its company headquarters at Docklands Studios Melbourne.

Why did DCS choose Melbourne and not, say, California or elsewhere in the world as its base? “When considering locations across the globe, Dick said Melbourne was the clear standout, because of the state government’s support of the arts and Australia’s fantastic talent pool of directors, cinematographers, musicians, editors, and visual effects experts and beyond,” recalls Caroline. “He praised Melbourne’s strong track record of local and international productions and noted that he’s proud to now be a part of the wonderful industry here.

Blockbuster, 'Ride like a Girl' directed by Rachel Griffiths, stars Teresa Palmer as the 2015 Melbourne Cup winning jockey, Michelle Payne.“DCS has a pipeline of family-focused projects in development – production starts next year on Ranger’s Apprentice, based on the best-selling adventure series of novels by Australian author John Flanagan,” says Caroline. “Also set for production is The Alchemyst, based on the series, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by author Michael Scott. These projects will each inject more than $100 million into Victoria and employ more than 1500 locals from crew to construction, security and transport services.”

Film Victoria has also recently supported Melbourne-born stars to bring two local stories to life.

In her directorial debut, Rachel Griffiths’ Ride Like a Girl, based on Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, was nominated for three AACTA Awards [Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts] – evidence there’s an appetite for local content.

Regional Victoria will also be centre stage in Eric Bana’s The Dry, a thriller due for release in 2020 that tells the story of Aaron Falk, who returns to his drought-stricken hometown after an absence of 20 years, to investigate an apparent murder-suicide committed by his childhood friend. With filming and post-production spanning four months, the entire 38-day shoot took place in the harsh yet beautiful Wimmera and Mallee regions with their unique and striking terrain providing the story with a sense of place.

The Dry spent more than $8 million in the state, injected $1.2 million into regional Victoria, created 160 jobs for Victorian crew, filmed in 17 regional towns, and used 40 local businesses and service providers.

That’s not all. “Other recent Film Victoria-supported success stories include Preacher season four, and Australian-Chinese co-production feature film The Whistleblower,” says Caroline. “These projects employed over 1580 people and generated up to $100 million for the state. And currently in production we have two high-end series: Shantaram will employ 725 people and spend $46 million in the state, and Clickbait will employ 900 people and generate $24 million.”

It’s a mighty productive and creative time for our local industry, adding immense value to Victoria’s screen culture.

For more about the Victorian screen industry, visit Film Victoria.