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What Does Australia and New Zealand's Hollywood Boom Mean for Commercial Production?

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LBB’s Delmar Terblanche speaks to executive producers Roy De Giorgio and Michael Ciccone about the skills, cash, and trends ahead

What Does Australia and New Zealand's Hollywood Boom Mean for Commercial Production?


Australia and New Zealand continue to be major production hubs for some of the world’s biggest blockbusters, with graduates of film schools working with world-class filmmakers. The films of home-grown directors such as Baz Luhrman, Jane Campion, and Taika Waititi have been major highlights for the industry.

The reasons for these shoots are varied. Partly, the unique natural scenery of both Australia and New Zealand has proven attractive to fantasy franchises such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Lord of the Rings. But as virtual production grows ever-more advanced, location can't be the only draw.

Yet, both countries still boast world-class production facilities and talent. Avatar: The Way of Water, 2022’s highest grossing movie, was made almost entirely in New Zealand. Industrial Light and Magic is opening a Sydney office. Clearly, capability and capacity is not an issue. But what does that mean for local production?

Michael Ciccone, head of production and founding partner at Truce films, articulates a popular view.

“There's certainly a lot of nervous chatter in Victoria amongst production folk that the likes of Metropolis and a possible season three of La Brea alone will drain the crewing and talent pool locally. And of course it will have an impact, but time will tell just how much.”

It seems clear that the allure, not just of the scale or prestige of these productions, but of the CV credit, will prove a significant draw for many.

“Certainly,” Michael continues, “some speciality roles such as set builders, standby props, even tracking vehicles - where the options are already limited - are difficult to replace and that will present its challenges.”

Roy Di Giorgio, executive producer and founder of 13Co, agrees, but argues that the challenges are of a piece with general trends.

“Historically we’ve always had to deal with talent shortages - whether it be a preferred DOP working on an Australian feature film or favourite food stylist out for 3 months working on a new book, etc. The influx of Hollywood productions is no different to this.”

The question remains, though, of just how much the influx of Hollywood productions are materially helping the Australian film industry. On the one hand, there appears to be little bleed in terms of financing. This money (and the production facilities) are generally at the disposal of major studio films, which (with very few exceptions) are American pictures. In addition, it’s unclear that the presence of these large scale productions is helping more mid-budget local works to be made.

As for the impact on commercial creativity, this too is not readily apparent.

The one major upside to these productions, though, is the skill transfer. Yes, local companies may face a talent shortage, but the quality of the talent is increasing. On major productions, people have access to new technology and world-class knowledge (just think of all the things every VFX artist who worked on Avatar: The Way of Water now knows). And on smaller productions - especially in the realm of commercial creativity - they have more freedom to experiment creatively.

Roy is a strong proponent of this view. “Whether it be the appearance of new studios or post facilities... Rather than focus on the negatives, we tend to look at talent shortages as an opportunity. It gives our directors the chance to try someone different and find new collaborators - echoing one of my mantras “you need to change the input to change the output”. When I look at our call sheets, we’re working with more emerging crew now than five years ago - which is a result of the natural changing landscape that is production.”

Ultimately, it’s difficult to make definitive claims about the future of the industry. Predictions come and go, and trends continue to shift. What seems clear is that production in Australia and New Zealand is in a transitional state, and while that comes with its challenges, it also comes with opportunities.

Michael puts it simply: “We're a resourceful industry, and the optimistic economist in me believes that a gap in the market only creates a void for something else to step up and replace it.”

We look forward to seeing just what that “something else” will be.

 

 



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LBB Editorial, Tue, 17 Jan 2023 11:06:26 GMT