Hollywood Down Under: Perth to Build Eco Film Studio

Saturday, October 26th, 2013
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When Hollywood icon Robert De Niro arrived in Perth last year, he said he heard the city compared to Los Angeles because it had sunshine and beautiful beaches.

But Perth may soon have even more in common with Los Angeles.

Local producer Stephen Van Mil is embarking on an ambitious plan to create the city’s first film studio, which he promises will be up to the standard of those in Tinseltown.

“This studio complex will have the capacity to make any feature film that anyone wants to make anywhere in the world,” he told AAP on Sunday.

The ambitious producer said it would not be long before A-list stars such as Steven Spielberg and Brad Pitt could start making films in Perth.

Mr Van Mil’s production company, Impian Films, has teamed up with British firm Extraordinary Group to build the Perth Film Studio, at an estimated cost of $50 million.

The facility – which could be at Murdoch University – will include three sound stages, a water tank for water-based film scenes, a production hub and a 260-room hotel with restaurants, bars, a cinema, nightclub and gymnasium.

The joint-venture partners hope to get final planning approvals next year and open the facility in 2016.

Perth’s facility and a studio in Spain, which is under construction, will be the first of six micro-studios around the world to be established by the Extraordinary Group at a cost of about $300 million.

Mr Van Mil said he had already been thinking about the studio and had discussed it with the university when he met the Extraordinary Group, which he described as a “magnificent meeting of minds”.

“They have some significant international backers behind them,” he said.

But Mr Van Mil said he would also reach out to the private equity market in Australia.  “It will be a balance of equity and debt,” he said.

A Perth studio is sure to encourage more filmmakers to the state, which is already enjoying recent buzz.

WA has attracted Hollywood stars such as Ewan McGregor, who worked on Son of a Gun, and Simon Pegg, who recently finished filming Kill Me Three Times with the director of Red Dog, Kriv Stenders.

But it is hoped the studio can attract international productions to WA, as well as support the local industry.  “In spite of a lack of infrastructure, we are attracting some great projects with great people,” Mr Van Mil said.

“For this to continue, to be sustainable, and more importantly, for it to grow, we should have a studio system.  “There has to be a capacity to be able to allow these films to keep coming in and for bigger ones to come in.”

Mr Van Mil said the two main problems facing filmmakers in Perth was the “embarrassing” infrastructure and the fact that the cast and crew had to stay at hotels throughout the city at exorbitant prices.

He said the accommodation prices “killed” a large chunk of the budget on films such as Son of A Gun.

“There is not another studio system in the world that has the capacity to house all the cast and crew under one location (like the proposed Perth studio),” he said.

The producer said Perth’s studio would be a “genuine, world-class” facility.  “I can’t wait for the thing to get up and running,” Mr Van Mil said.

Murdoch University vice-chancellor Richard Higgott said the proposed studio complex would be an exciting addition to the university’s eastern precinct.

“If it goes ahead, there is the potential for students in our performance and screen production programs to gain valuable practical experience in world-class facilities,” he said.

“It could also open up opportunities for students and graduates to assist on professional shoots and network with industry professionals.”

ScreenWest chief executive Ian Booth said he was pleased to learn about private investors working on potential investments in WA that would benefit the local film industry.


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