More than a mini Hollywood: indie Gold Coast film productions on the rise

More than a mini Hollywood: indie Gold Coast film productions on the rise

As the home of Village Roadshow's (ASX: VRL) Australian operations, the Gold Coast has garnered itself a reputation as being the country's home of blockbuster Hollywood productions.

But new research has found local production of independent content is on the rise, transforming the city into Australia's very own film and television hub.

The study, conducted by researchers from QUT's Digital Media Research Centre and supported by the City of Gold Coast, found that over the last decade the city has become more than just a mini Hollywood.

Between 2009 and 2019, 35 independent films were filmed on the Gold Coast outside the Village Roadshow Studios.

Gold Coast-based production companies produced 17 of those films (49 per cent of the total), nine were shot by Brisbane-based companies, and a further nine by largely Sydney-based entities.

Further, between 2015 and 2019, the number of active ABNs in the Gold Coast film and television industry grew from 608 to 921.

One of study's lead researchers, Dr Mark Ryan, says the number of new local productions has transformed the Gold Coast into a veritable hub of film and television production, attracting both large Hollywood companies and small indie producers.

This is currently exemplified with the new Baz Luhrmann film based on the life of Elvis Presley, which is understood to have recommenced filming, to take advantage of the city's production facilities and large workforce of skilled professionals.

"Until 2009, the number of Gold Coast-based writers, directors and producers creating intellectual property and developing projects was small, production was infrequent, and talent-drain was common," says Dr Ryan.

"A key finding of the study is that there has been strong growth in Gold Coast-originated screen production over the last decade, from the killer-shark movie Bait (2010) and the alien invasion film Occupation (2018), to the documentary Nothing on Earth (2013) and the web series Stage Mums (2018).

"It's now a productive hub for locally produced low-budget indie feature films, online content and commercial corporate production.

"Scripted web series and online content activity is also growing and feeds the ever-hungry platforms of YouTube, other social media channels, subscription video on demand, and web-series, as well as short form commercialised content."

Dr Ryan says the growth in local production has been driven by an increase in the number of key content creators, such as producers and directors, living and working on the Gold Coast.

"Other factors include the growing number of freelance screen workers working in the city more generally; the lowering of production barriers due to filmmakers' ability to film on low-cost and high-definition digital video; and the growth in online platforms stimulating greater levels of production in digital/social media content and web series," says Dr Ryan.

However, despite the support given by local and state governments, the industry still faces "considerable" barriers, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The report recommends the establishment of a producer developer and mentorship program, as well as a program to help proven commercial corporate producers make the transition into creative production.

"There is a lack of established producers involved in the formal screen industry and large production companies with significant and ongoing slates of core screen content. Indie productions can lack professionalism in financial practices and industry networks are weak," says Dr Ryan.

"The Council's Film Attraction program, while an excellent initiative, is not necessarily designed to support lower-budget Gold Coast-originated projects. We recommend the $1.5M threshold be lowered to support local low-budget and Indie production."

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