The Australian regions stepping up - and cashing in - when Hollywood comes calling | Kanebridge News
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The Australian regions stepping up – and cashing in – when Hollywood comes calling

Since Hollywood ‘discovered’ Australia during COVID, the local film industry has gone from strength to strength, reaping rewards across regional economies

By Mercedes Maguire
Mon, Jul 31, 2023 9:13amGrey Clock 5 min

When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was shut down in early 2023 so Ryan Gosling could film a stunt on it for his latest movie, The Fall Guy, all eyes were on the handsome leading man – and why not? But did you stop to think of the Aussie company that provided his lunch that day, the makeup artist who got him looking just right, the supplier who provided portable loos for the day’s filming, or even the helicopter crew tasked with helping shoot the adventure scene?

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Australia has long been a popular choice for Hollywood to film their blockbusters – The Great Gatsby at Manly, The Pirates of the Caribbean on The Whitsundays and Gold Coast, The Matrix in Sydney and Wolverine in Parramatta, to name a few.  Behind the press conferences that congratulate the government for bringing such productions down under and the media snippets that catch glimpses of the leading man or lady caught walking our streets, it’s small businesses that benefit.

Since 2018, 39 international movie productions have been filmed in Australia – predominantly the east coast states of NSW, Victoria and Queensland – which has generated more than $3.3 billion in private investment and provided more than 24,100 jobs for local cast and crew, according to data from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.

A report titled Creative Industries Ripple Effect by UK-based consultancy Olsberg SPI found that 63 percent of the expenditure derived from making a movie or film went to businesses outside of the film industry – to the construction, catering, hair and makeup, real estate, tourism, hospitality and countless other businesses that benefit when an international film production company rolls into town.

The town of Hay in south western NSW was struggling last year after months of COVID state border lockdowns decimated their Sydney to Adelaide drive-through tourism. When a big budget Hollywood action film (that cannot be named) chose the Riverina town to film, it was a lifeline.

“The impact was immediate and tangible,” says the economic development officer for Hay Shire Council, Alison McLean. 

“There was $7 million in economic activity just from the cast and crew being in town. It was also incredible from a confidence-boosting point of view for our businesses; all of a sudden there were 400 extra people spending money in the region and the businesses really stepped up and took a lot of pride in providing excellent service.”

The regional town of Hay has seen a $7 million boost from being used as a film location.

She said the most obvious impact was on the accommodation sector which had suffered a 60 percent downturn in revenue and as a result of the filming in town, there was a 72 percent increase.

For The Whitsundays in Queensland, it is hoped the long term benefits of movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and, more recently, Ticket to Paradise starring Julia Roberts and George Clooney will translate to tourism dollars.

Julia Roberts and George Clooney starred in Ticket to Paradise, shot in The Whitsundays.

“After the movies are released, we reap the tourism rewards as our stunning region is up in lights,” says Tourism Whitsundays CEO Rick Hamilton. “If you Google Ticket to Paradise, you’ll find it was filmed at Palm Bay Resort and Hamilton Island, both island resorts that are bookable by visitors.

“The beauty of The Whitsundays is that it’s hard to disguise. Hollywood can change the location, but it still looks like The Whitsundays.”

Locations manager Jeremy Peek — who has worked on Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Alien: Covenant (2017), Peter Rabbit 1 and 2 (2018 and 2021) and Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022) — says international film production is a growing sector. He says COVID shone a spotlight on Australia as an ideal filming location and the effects of that have continued beyond the opening of borders.

Jeremy Peek on location in Broken Hill

“Early on when COVID hit it was felt that we were just about the only country in the world who could keep going and the world looked to us as a safe haven to film in,” Peek says. “(Netflix series) Pieces of Her, for example, was due to start shooting in Vancouver when COVID hit, they’d built sets and everything, but they moved the shoot here. And Three Thousand Years of Longing, which was originally meant to be shot in Sydney, London and Turkey, was re-scouted to Sydney because there was confidence in Australia being a safe place to work.”

Peek says the government incentives and rebates are important now that the COVID scare has passed because they show Australia can compete on a world stage. 

It’s for this reason Ausfilm CEO, Kate Marks, believes the incentives the State and Federal Government offer to attract the likes of Disney, Universal, Marvel and Netflix to our shores need to be increased.

There is the Location Incentive grant, which is a merit-based offer that entitles an international production company to a grant worth 13.5 percent of their production expenditure. A secondary offer, the Location Offset Rebate, provides a 16.5 percent tax break. When used together, they result in a 30 percent carrot dangling in front of production companies. But only the Location Offset is permanently legislated.

“On its own the 16.5 percent Location Offset is not going to stay competitive for Australia on a world stage for too long,” she says. “Ideally, we would love to see a 30 percent Location Offset incentive as it’s the best option to provide ongoing certainty for companies. 

“There are studios who are coming back again and again; NBC/Universal have done 13 film and television projects here, and studios like Disney and Warner Bros also keep coming back.

“We need to see that continue.”

And it appears the Federal Government has listened, announcing an increase to the Location Offset from 16.5 per cent to 30 percent for eligible productions in the recent budget. 

It’s a move Peter Davey, co-CEO of law firm EMT, who specialise in entertainment, media, sport and technology advice, has welcomed.

“With the offset established, Australia will remain a highly attractive location for international productions and the investment in talent and jobs here will continue to grow,” Davey says.  “In the details of the Government’s announcement, there are also requirements for international companies to, for example, commit to training and to work with Australian digital, visual effects and post production companies.”

Film and television producer James Hoppe adds Australia needs to expand its studio space, evolve the foundation of film technology and increase the local labour force in order for international film production in Australia to grow.

“The labour force can only handle so much and when an international production comes in, they suck up all the labour pretty quickly,” the owner of Maker Films says. 

“There needs to be an implementation by local council so they can handle the influx of an international production. When Marvel took over Fox Studios and Elvis was being filmed on the Gold Coast and Robbie William’s Better Man was being filmed in Melbourne, it sucked up a lot of the labour force and production facilities and it was difficult for other international or local producers to access required resources.”



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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.

 

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