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Lights, camera, action!: state's screen boom goes from strength to strength

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A total of 36 blockbuster and local film and TV productions are being staged in Queensland this year, injecting $414 million into the state’s economy and creating more than 5000 jobs.

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The Screen Queensland figures show the extent to which the pandemic has fuelled one of the biggest screen production explosions ever seen in the state, raising hopes Queensland and Australian productions, not just international hits being filmed here, will be next in line to fill a looming drought in screen content for global viewers.

The number of productions the state has lured while other international film and TV hotspots suffer during shutdowns has created the great Queensland screen boom of the COVID era, with Hollywood A-listers and home-grown stars regularly roaming the Gold Coast, Brisbane and regional production hubs and a pipeline of new productions being rolled out almost weekly.

Screen Queensland chief Kylie Munnich said following Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives based on the 2018 Thai caves rescue mission that will start filming on the Gold Coast in March, more major productions would be announced in the new year.

“There’s just more interest than ever, it’s fair to say. We’ve got interest from all scales of production, both film and television, scripted and non-scripted, so there’s a lot of interest in working in Queensland,” Munnich said.

“It is a thriving industry, it is a mature industry and it should take its place alongside any of the great Queensland industries.”

The almost half a billion-dollar injection by the screen industry into the state’s economy in 2020 is a major jump on previous years and shows just how big the impact of coronavirus has been for the sector.

In comparison to 2020, the Queensland Production Attraction Strategy from 2015 to 2019 attracted a combined total of about $1 billion worth of spend and created around 13,000 jobs in Queensland.

By being able to return so quickly to production after just three months of lockdown during 2020, the state emerged as a productivity beacon while coronavirus continued to play havoc with filming opportunities in the northern hemisphere. At the same time, viewing figures during lockdown spiked massively, stimulating demand for fresh content particularly for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Stan and AppleTV+.

Munnich said demand was an opportunity for Queensland and Australian productions.

“We think our stories are global,” she said.

“We have seen so much production shut down in Europe and America because of COVID, which means eventually there will be a gap in what broadcasters and streamers have to offer to their subscribers and viewers. So, Australian content and Queensland content, to my mind, should be able to work anywhere in the world if it’s a good story, well-told and well-made.”

Under major changes to media laws proposed by the federal government, Netflix and other global streaming services could be forced to spend millions of dollars on Australian programs and films.

Netflix has already commissioned its first original Australian documentary, Microworlds: Reef, which is being filmed on the Great Barrier Reef.

It is the first Australian Netflix Original documentary production to get the green light and is expected to be completed in March.

Munnich said reality TV was another potential growth area for the state, with a reality TV specialist hub to be built at the Gold Coast following the success of reality game show Holey Moley being shot at Redlands.

“If we can get more large-scale reality series like (Holy Moley), it would be great and we are trying to work out a facility or a location that could support various different productions,” Munnich said.

The 2020 great Queensland screen boom:

• Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic starring Tom Hanks currently being filmed on the Gold Coast. Expected to inject about $105 million into the economy.

• Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, which starts shooting on the Gold Coast in March. Estimated $45 million

• Netflix futuristic thriller Escape from Spiderhead, starring Chris Hemsworth. Estimated $47 million

• TV pipeline of Young Rock, Joe Exotic and Irreverent, shooting in Brisbane, Gold Coast and far north Queensland, expected to inject $143 million

• Teen TV series Dive Club, Port Douglas $8 million

• Bureau of Magical Things Series 2, Gold Coast. $8.5 million

This Little Love of Mine, Cairns, $1.5 million

• TV Drama series Harrow Series 3, Brisbane $15 million

• Reality game show Holey Moley, Cleveland, $20 million

 

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