Fears Australia’s movie boom ‘dies out’ now that Hollywood is back with fewer COVID-19 restrictions

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Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and big-budget productions have taken refuge in Queensland’s COVID-free haven to shoot blockbuster films and keep the film industry alive amid the pandemic.

But now that Hollywood is back up and running with fewer restrictions, will the Australian blockbuster boom continue?

The Australian and Queensland governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to attract international film productions to Australian shores, with the Commonwealth alone spending $ 400 million.

Since the start of 2020, Queensland has secured 39 international and national productions, worth an estimated $ 437 million to the local economy.

Some of the more recent blockbusters shot in Australia include Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic, Escape from Spiderhead with Chris Hemsworth and Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, all shot on the Gold Coast.

The film Ticket To Paradise, starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney, is set to begin filming in Queensland, including the Whitsundays, in November.

Blockages and strict border restrictions have been blamed for cancellations, postponements and even some major projects, such as Chris Hemsworth’s Extraction 2 which was due to be shot in New South Wales, returning overseas.

“Things are starting to die out”

With no loosening of restrictions on Australia’s international borders, film producer Georgina Marquis has argued that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract high-profile actors and crews away from the United States. where they can work now anyway.

The executive producer of True Spirit, a screen adaptation of Australian sailor Jessica Watson’s record-breaking solo round-the-world tour, returned to Australia when COVID-19 struck last year.

A boat on the set of True Spirit, a world tour film by Australian sailor Jessica Watson.(

ABC News: Stéphanie Smail

)

Marquis’s resume spans over 20 years, with production credits on films such as Southpaw, Foxcatcher, and Up In The Air.

She appreciated the opportunity to work from home, but warned that border restrictions made it harder to sustain the boom.

“I feel like it’s already starting to run out of steam a bit,” she said.

“I’ve been back for 14 months now and have been fortunate enough to work solidly, but I feel like things are starting to die out.

“I think it’s mainly because of the restrictions we have with the borders and the entry of people into the country.

“It makes it really difficult. We’re really isolated here.”

Georgina smiles on the set.
Executive producer Georgina Marquis has worked on big-budget and big-budget film productions.(

ABC News: Stéphanie Smail

)

With no loosening of restrictions on Australia’s international borders, Marquis said it was becoming more difficult to attract high-profile actors and crews away from the United States, where they were now able to work mostly without COVID-19 restrictions.

“They’re taking care of it. It’s expensive to protect the crew [in the United States], with tests and PPE, ”she said.

“But they need to make movies and TV, so they’re going to go on and on.

“I think if they can do it there and get similar government incentives in the United States, Canada or Europe, which is closer, they will continue to do it.”

Travel restrictions at the border, a barrier for blockbusters

She said the proposed federal and state government funding in Australia would keep the cameras running, but significant headline turnover could slow.

“The incentives are worth the wait, but you have to be able to do your job and get around.

“If people are coming from the United States, they have to be able to bring their families or just go home and come back. “

A man smiles
Chris Hemsworth was on the set of Escape from Spiderhead on the Gold Coast.(

AAP: Mick Tsikas

)

She said jobs are now coming in for major projects in the United States, but she would prefer to stay here.

Writer and director Sarah Spillane has been in Australia for six months to shoot True Spirit, but intends to return to the United States as soon as filming is finished.

The award-winning Australian has said she would like to stay but there is more work in America.

“There are a lot more opportunities in the United States for me than here, but I would love to continue working here,” said Spillane.

She was convinced that as long as government funding continued to flow, the international film industry would continue to come to Australia.

“Incentives are an important part of the decision-making process,” she said.

“If they continue, then yes there will continue to be quality international productions made from Australia.”

Industry bosses confident Australia’s name will stay in the spotlight

Screen Australia boss Graeme Mason has acknowledged that border restrictions make filmmaking more difficult in Australia, but the outlook is still good, including next year’s big-budget Mad Max Furiosa which will be filmed in New South Wales.

“We have big incentives and it’s up to us to stay as attractive as possible, but I think there is more global activity to come,” he said.

A woman standing with her arms outstretched in a room.
Nicole Kidman in Seven Perfect Strangers, which was filmed in Byron Bay.(

Provided: Amazon Prime Video

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He argued that once big names have worked here, they keep coming back.

“[Hollywood actress] Melissa Macarthy Came Here To Do The Nicole Kidman Show [the television miniseries Nine Perfect Strangers] then did a block of her next show here because she enjoyed it so much, ”he said.

“People like her, the crew and the directors, I honestly believe, hand on heart, they will come back,” he said.

Kate Marks, CEO of AusFilm, a government-industry body that promotes Australia as a film and television production destination, noted that some projects would remain overseas now that Hollywood has reopened.

But she pointed out that most major film and TV projects are delivered over the years, and there are a lot more prospects going on.

“We always knew that at some point the world would open up and we would be back to this very competitive pre-COVID environment,” she said.

“But Australia really has an incredibly attractive offering for these international filmmakers, from venues to team facilities, we’ve had a solid track record for many years.”

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