AFCI Member Spotlight: AusFilm

A Conversation About Film Incentives & Local Jobs Created by the
Academy Award Nominated Film, Hacksaw Ridge

The mechanics of filmmaking often involve an Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) Member providing invaluable resources and incentives to hundreds of global productions annually.

Ahead of the 89th Academy Awards, AFCI conducted a brief interview with AusFilm to discuss their involvement with the award-winning film, Hacksaw Ridge (Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing) shot on-location in Australia. 

What specific resources did your film office provide to the Hacksaw Ridge production? 

Ausfilm was directly involved in Hacksaw Ridge deciding to shoot in Australia. 

Ausfilm’s role is to help and support filmmakers and studios to find what they need in Australia to bring their stories to life.  Ausfilm is the national organization that markets Australia’s Screen Production Incentive Scheme, its diverse locations; sound stages; post-production and visual effects companies; and award-winning filmmaking talent. In March, 2015 Ausfilm was approached by Producer Bill Mechanic to discuss a World War II movie set in Lynchburg, Virginia USA and a penultimate scene set on Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa, Japan. The location requirements were very specific and the project had a very high profile director attached.

Bill Mechanic had filmed two of his previous films in Australia: 2:22 (starring Teresa Palmer) and The King’s Daughter (starring Pierce Brosnan and William Hurt - unreleased).

Ausfilm’s Los Angeles team worked with Australia’s state screen agencies in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria to pitch on this project.  With Ausfilm’s support through its inbound Australian Familiarization Program: Bill Mechanic and the Director Mel Gibson travelled to Australia in search of the perfect locations to match the story. Ausfilm is unique because it is a partnership between private screen industry companies and Australia’s federal and state governments.  So we were able to set up meetings and introductions to our membership and HODs for Bill and Mel.

The Hacksaw team travelled for 12 days across the three states with detailed itineraries that included location scouts, heads of department meetings, and Ausfilm member meetings, helping to maximize the team’s time in Australia.  As part of Ausfilm’s Familiarization Program, each participating state screen agency, in partnership with Ausfilm, develops a tailored schedule that highlights the varied locations and strong talent Australia offers international productions.  As a direct result of this partnership, New South Wales on the south east coast of Australia secured the production.

Did the film receive any film funds, grants or any incentives? 

Yes, the state screen agency, Screen NSW negotiated significant investment in the production by the NSW Government. Additionally their skilled Production Attraction and Investment team provided initial location scouting and ongoing location support, strategic advice and liaison with local services and authorities throughout the production.

The production was also eligible for the Australian Federal Government’s 40% Producer Offset for feature film administered by Screen Australia.  The Producer Offset is for Australian film and television productions. 

How many production days did the film shoot on-location in your market / region? 

The film shot in New South Wales for a 6-8 week period.

How many local jobs were created from the production?

Hacksaw Ridge generated around 720 local jobs and over AU$26 million in production expenditure. 

What locations did they use?

Sydney locations varied from the inner city film hub of Fox Studios and neighboring Centennial Park. These locations are also being used for the production of the Peter Rabbit (Animal Logic Entertainment and Sony Pictures) feature film, currently filming in Sydney.

Western Sydney also offered great locations with Newington Armory, Richmond, Bringelly and regional location Goulburn offering perfect locations for the look and feel of the World War II setting. These locations were key in mirroring the look of the hardened battle fields of Okinawa all the way through to the small-town feel of Lynchburg, Virginia USA.

Have there been any other past films from your region that have been nominated for an Oscar?

Yes, for a small country, Australians have garnered 172 Oscar nominations and won 56 Oscar awards since the inception of the Academy Awards.  In Sydney, in the past three years locally made films have collected eight Oscar awards. In 2014, The Great Gatsby won two Oscars, with Catherine Martin wining Best Costume Design and being joined by Beverley Dunn jointly for Best Production Design. In 2016 Mad Max: Fury Road took home a staggering six statues from 10 nominations.  

What significance does an Oscar Nomination or Win mean for your film office and region?

This year there is a record 14 Oscar nominations for Australians. The same number of nominations as record equaling La La Land. Ausfilm and the Australian screen industry are so proud and honored that Hacksaw Ridge received six Oscar Nominations with Mel Gibson returning to the Director’s chair with a nod for best director. Also nominated are Andrew Garfield for best actor, John Gilbert for best editing and the film's teams for best sound editing and sound mixing.

Over the years, Australia has had a limited number of films up for best picture at the Oscars. Having LionHacksaw Ridge and Tanna, nominated in the same year is an outstanding achievement for a country that produces just 20 to 30 feature films a year, especially after Mad Max: Fury Road won six awards last year.

These Oscar nominations for Hacksaw Ridge showcase Sydney, as the gateway to NSW, and well deserving of its status as a UNESCO City Film. One of only eight cities across the globe to share this title. These pundits reflect that Australia is a premier filming destination for screen production internationally, with outstanding screen agency support (film commissions); amazing locations, creative talent and Oscar nominated and awarded crews.  

Why should international producers consider making their next film in your market?

Australia has it all!

Diverse locations, world-class studios in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.  Our VFX and post and sound facilities, technicians and creatives are Oscar nominees, winners and all round champions in their field.  Australia is a first-world English speaking country that offers an amazing work/life balance.  The coffee, wine, food, lifestyle is all fantastic.  You’ll never want to leave… AUSFILM – CONNECTING FILMMAKERS WORLDWIDE TO AUSTRALIA -

Access the complete list of Academy Award Winners

AusFilm will Exhibit at the AFCI Locations, Global Production & Finance Conference
(Booth #104) - April 6-8 in Los Angeles