You never know where a chance encounter will lead you in life – just ask Ross Murdoch. Back in 2000 he was a house carpenter having a quiet drink in a pub when he struck up a conversation with a stranger, who happened to be a set painter on a popular kids’ TV series, Saddle Club. Murdoch went away with the phone number of the series’ art director and within days found himself on set building horse stables.
Fast forward to 2017 and Murdoch is one of the busiest construction managers in Victoria’s film industry. He’s in charge of sets for the new sci-fi thriller Stem, by writer-director Leigh Whannell, who’s back home in Melbourne after a big splash in Hollywood with Insidious and Saw.
In the cavernous workshop at Docklands Studios – a former maintenance depot for the Port of Melbourne – Murdoch leads a 25-strong crew creating a world in the near future where technology controls almost everything. Stem is the story of a paralyzed technophobe using an experimental computer chip to avenge his wife’s murder.
As trucks rumble in with building materials and machinery, Murdoch pauses to reflect on a career spanning two dozen film and TV productions, building sets or heading construction. Highlights include an elaborate old London street scene for the Gold Coast shoot of Peter Pan (2003) and a dilapidated Mexican church for the Docklands shoot of Ghost Rider (2007). For the West Australian shoot of Red Dog: True Blue (2016), Murdoch created an underground cave filled with water. On a tight budget and a fast turnaround his team sculpted the cave from concrete in Perth and trucked it in sections to the filming location where it was sealed and filled with water.
Murdoch’s longest project was the $200 million blockbuster The Pacific (2007-08), at the time the most expensive mini-series ever made. As second in charge of construction, Murdoch spent six months in tropical far north Queensland crafting bloody battle scenes from World War Two. Then came five months based at Docklands Studios, including the re-creation of 1940’s Melbourne in the city’s CBD for the dramatic re-enactment of US troops arriving in town.
Along the way, he had a stint on the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, running a fleet of 80 trucks transporting crew and equipment for the ambitious World War Z (2013) – a job he rates as his most stressful to date.
“Murdoch seems to thrive on tight timelines and budgets, along with the pattern of working feverishly for weeks on end.”
Over the years, Murdoch’s steady-as-a-rock persona has served him well in the high-pressure world of film – 12 to 13 hour days crafting sets, adding finishing touches as the cast and crew move in, while making every dollar count. “When we start a shoot, I’ll discuss ideas with the art department and they’ll get their people to start drawing things up. That’s when I start costing things, trying to justify each expense to the art director.”
These days Murdoch spends most of his time in his hometown Melbourne, and has been a familiar face at Docklands since it opened in 2004, on productions such as Where The Wild Things Are (2009), Predestination (2014) and Childhood’s End (2015). As sets take shape in the workshop, Murdoch has created a family atmosphere among the tight knit crew. His wife, Jess Rogers, coordinates travel and transport while their Blue Heeler, Zissou, greets visitors with a friendly lick.
Murdoch seems to thrive on tight timelines and budgets, along with the pattern of working feverishly for weeks on end interspersed with down time. With the Stem shoot close to wrapping up, he and Jess are looking to grab a quick break before the next project comes along. In April, he’ll be keeping an eye on the small screen for the launch of Season 3 of The Leftovers. Murdoch was construction manager on the acclaimed mini-series, shot at Docklands Studios and around Melbourne during 2016.
Bringing filmmakers’ visions to life is an unexpected career path for a bloke who used to knock together house frames. So, what about the guy he met in the pub all those years ago? Well, fate has brought them back together, making sets for Stem. “If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably still be building kitchens,” Murdoch laughs.
(Staff writer Belinda Tromp spoke to Ross Murdoch in March 2016)
Docklands Studios Melbourne continues to attract high profile productions with the December 15 public announcement of writer-director Leigh Whannell’s new sci-fi thriller Stem.
Creating around 200 jobs and injecting millions into Victoria’s economy, Stem is in pre-production at Docklands and was brought here through Film Victoria’s production incentive fund. Starring Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus, Spider-Man: Homecoming), Stem will be made in association with Goalpost Pictures Australia and Blumhouse Productions.
Docklands Studios CEO Rod Allan says Stem enhances the international reputation of the studios, with Helen Mirren’s new thriller Winchester also to start pre-production and HBO’s The Leftovers wrapping up filming in September. “We’re delighted that influential film-makers like Leigh Whannell, along with Goalpost and Blumhouse, recognise the world-class facilities we have at Docklands.”
Whannell says “It is not only hugely exciting for me to be making Stem but to be doing it in Australia makes it extra special, utilizing the incredibly talented artists we have here to realize the film with me. And to be shooting this science fiction film on the streets of my beloved hometown of Melbourne is a dream come true for me.”
Stem will start filming in early 2017 and centres on a technophobe who avenges his wife’s murder with the help of an experimental computer chip called Stem.
Award-winning production company FINCH took over Sound Stage 4 for two days to shoot a new anti-speeding campaign on behalf of Clemenger BBDO for Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission.
A number of crashed cars were placed inside an arc of street lamps to depict what happens when a car runs into boy on a bike – seven different scenarios at seven different speeds.
FINCH Producer Kate Merrin says Docklands is the only space in Melbourne large enough to accommodate the cars in light-locked space.
45 crew worked on the shoot which was seamlessly stitched together with computer generated elements.
There was magic in the air at Docklands Studios in November as many of the world’s top circus acts performed together for the very first time.
Circus 1903 includes acts from all corners of the world – including acrobats from Ukraine, a high wire act from Mexico, a knife thrower from Brazil and jugglers from France.
The biggest drawcard is two live elephants. Well not actually live, but close enough to the real thing – mother and baby puppets created by the award-winning team behind War Horse.
Two weeks in a Docklands sound stage gave the 60 performers the chance to rehearse Circus 1903 from scratch.
Executive Producer, Andrew Spencer says using Docklands Studios was a ‘no-brainer’ because it was the only place he could find in Australia that was both high enough for the 12-metre circus truss and close to cafes where cast and crew could have a break.
“We divided the sound stage in half using a humungous black curtain, with one side as a rehearsal space and the other side was where the set was built.”
The set was assembled around an old-style circus wagon shipped from Brazil with additional scenic props and soft furnishings made in Docklands Studios’ workshops.
“Not only were we rehearsing, but we were also running a scenic studio, and a wardrobe space to fit costumes. Music was being composed in the venue as well — our composer came from the UK for three weeks and sat in one of the rooms adapting the music to how the show was evolving”, Spencer says.
Circus 1903 bills itself as a turn of the century circus spectacular and comes from the producers of the ‘biggest selling magic show’ The Illusionist and puppeteers from London’s Significant Object.
The show is touring Australia from December through January before heading to the United States.
When you’ve been around the Melbourne screen industry for as long as Vanessa Cerne then Docklands Studios feels like a second home.
Cerne’s talents as a set decorator can be seen in more than half a dozen filmed-at-Docklands productions, including Predestination (2014), Partisan (2015), The King’s Daughter (2017), Childhood’s End (2015) and The Leftovers (2017). Now Cerne’s back on the lot, this time for the supernatural thriller, Winchester.
Cerne’s brief is to bring to life the interiors and exteriors of the mansion built by firearm heiress Sarah Winchester in San Jose from 1884, following the deaths of her daughter and husband. Helen Mirren will play Winchester, a woman who believed she’d been cursed by the spirits of all those killed by Winchester rifles over the years. Winchester thought she’d be able to appease the spirits by adding more rooms to the mansion, and by the time she died in 1922 the house had 160 rooms, 2,000 doors and 10,000 windows.
These days the ‘Winchester Mystery House’ is a popular tourist attraction in San Jose and will be used for some of the exterior shots. Recreating and imagining the interiors is no mean feat – the mansion’s rooms were completely stripped when Winchester died and little trace is left of the original contents. Cerne is researching images in books and online relating to the Winchester mansion that was built in the Queen Anne style and is renowned for its architectural curiosities.
Fresh from the successful HBO series The Leftovers, Cerne is on a roll. For the shoot on Winchester, Cerne is working with production designer Matt Putland, writer-directors Michael and Peter Spierig and other art department personnel that also worked on Predestination. “It feels a bit like getting the band back together”, jokes Cerne.
Cerne, who won an Australian Production Design Guild Award for Set Decoration for her work on Predestination and Partisan, thrives on collaboration. “After establishing an overall visual style with the designer, my team and I revel in transforming the blank canvas of a set. With specific details, I’m able to create an authentic environment revealing more about who the character is and the worlds they inhabit.”
Produced by Blacklab Entertainment’s Tim McGahan and Imagination Design Works’ Brett Tomberlin, Winchester starts an eight week pre-production in January 2017 with shooting to begin in March.
As the new bushranger epic, The Legend of Ben Hall continues its tour of Australia, the movie’s producer explains how he stayed on top of a tight schedule and budget.
From the first production meetings for The Legend of Ben Hall producer Russell Cunningham knew one thing for sure: “We needed a sound stage to save time and money.”
While director Matthew Holmes had had little experience with sound stages, Cunningham saw the advantages. “I wanted a roof over our heads so we weren’t bound to the weather and didn’t have to hire expensive facilities like toilets, electricity or water. I couldn’t bear not knowing if it was going to rain or not, or worrying about getting sets from one place to another on the back of a truck”, Cunningham says.
With this in mind he knocked on the door of Docklands CEO, Rod Allan who, according to Cunningham, was “flexible, accommodating and keen to support Holmes as an emerging director”.
What Holmes managed to do in just two weeks at Docklands was to capture almost all the indoor scenes for the movie. One key scene was set was in the tiny town of Binda in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. It was here on December 26th, 1864 that Hall and his gang held the entire township captive at the Boxing Day ball in the local hotel.
The sprawling set of the Binda Ball was a hive of activity over two and a half days of shooting. Extras rehearsed colonial style dances while teams of wardrobe, hair and makeup staff worked their magic. The set itself was constructed at Docklands to recreate the feel of an 1860s hotel, complete with wooden dance floor.
To get through the Binda Ball scene quickly and efficiently, Holmes decided not to shoot the sequence shot by shot. Instead, he had two cameras covering every scene at all times, with the sizeable cast performing in long takes of up to two or three minutes. The resulting sequence came together smoothly in the edit suite and is one of the movie’s most dramatic.
Another way the Ben Hall crew made the most of every dollar was designing sets that could be reconfigured to create different interiors. One particular hut was redressed by the Art Department in seven ways.
The Docklands Studios sound stage was used for two of the eleven weeks of shooting, a decision that Cunningham says kept stress levels in check. “Having the costumes, make up, wardrobe right there, we couldn’t have done it without that. Thank God we had toilets and kitchens and so on – you don’t get that luxury on location!”
Production days at Docklands were a contrast to the shooting of outdoor scenes in rural Victoria and New South Wales, where cast and crew faced extreme weather. One outdoor scene for the Binda Ball was shot in sub-zero temperatures after midnight with actors in thin costumes for a summer evening in December.
The Legend of Ben Hall is the story of the last months of Hall’s lengthy criminal career. His life has been unravelling since his wife Biddy ran off with his friend Jim Taylor, taking Hall’s 3-year-old son, Henry. Ben Hall is played by Sydney actor Jack Martin who appears to bears a strong resemblance to the bushranger.
American-born Cunningham – a long-time fan of Westerns – is confident The Legend of Ben Hall will have broad appeal. “Australia is a tough market, you can’t just focus on the domestic audience. You need international appeal and this movie has that already.”
On the prospect of bringing future projects to Docklands Studios, Cunningham is unequivocal. “One thousand per cent we’d love to come back to Docklands. No, make that two thousand percent, or three thousand!”
The producers of HBO’s critically acclaimed The Leftovers did not have far to look for a leading art director when they shifted production of the series to Melbourne’s Docklands Studios this year.
With an impressive list of film and TV credits including The Railway Man, Lion, Tracks, The Sapphires and The Slap, Melbourne’s Janie Parker was an obvious choice to lead an art department of around 60, with all but one drawn from the city’s large pool of creative talent.
The Leftovers tells the story of a world where two per cent of the population has inexplicably vanished, seen through the eyes of two families dealing with the aftermath. It was co-created by Damon Lindelof, Emmy winner for Lost, and Academy Award nominated writer Tom Perrotta.
While viewers have to wait until 2017 to see how this third series takes The Leftovers story from Texas to Australia, it’s already clear that Victoria’s vast landscape will be heavily showcased.
Featured locations include the wide vistas just west of Melbourne, the city’s expansive Port Phillip Bay and picturesque green landscapes. Additional filming took place at Docklands Studios where sets and props were also constructed.
“One of the challenges with a TV series like The Leftovers was the fast turnaround of sets built both in studio and on location compared with some feature films which have longer pre-production times”, Parker says. “The layout of Docklands Studios was perfect for us. Our art department design hub was upstairs so I could run down to see progress on the sets and props, or check in with the costume department or production office also located on the lot. And the amount of parking so close to the city is a big bonus for saving time.”
New York based Production Designer John Paino (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) created a different look and feel to the first season of The Leftovers with a new colour palette and design style. Parker set about marrying Paino’s preferred use of vivid colour with the typical bleached look produced by Australia’s sometimes harsh natural light.
Paino’s detailed mood boards were a vital reference point to introduce the style to the art team, along with gathered images from magazines, books and the internet. Even Australian landscape painters Tom Roberts and Albert Namatjira served as inspiration for the look of The Leftovers.
With the series now in post-production, Parker has handed over the design bibles to leading Melbourne VFX studio Iloura to ensure the visual effects blend seamlessly with the physical space depicted on screen.
Production took place in and around Docklands Studios Melbourne over 21 weeks from May 2016, with a cast led by Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Liv Tyler.
The Leftovers series 3 is due for release in 2017.
CEO, Rod Allan, took to the stage in Sydney recently to honour the work of creative artists in stage and screen at the annual Australian Production Design Guild Awards.
Allan presented the Docklands Studios Melbourne Award for Production Design for a Feature Film to Jonathon Oxlade for Girl Asleep.
The Docklands Studios Melbourne Award for Set Decoration for a Feature Film went to Lisa Thompson for The Dressmaker.
The Dressmaker, starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, was filmed at Docklands Studios in 2014 before going on to become one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all time.
Docklands Studios is a principal sponsor of the event, which recognises creative artists in stage and screen.
A total of 24 awards were announced at the event at NIDA on November 7, capping off a year of great celebration for Australia’s creative talent with successes at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Emmys.
Docklands Studios Melbourne has resembled a giant house party of late during filming of the popular Big Music Quiz.
The mad-cap musical extravaganza sees two teams of celebrities showing off their knowledge of music trivia.
A roll call of Aussie stars, including Hollywood funny girl Rebel Wilson, Eurovision runner up Dami Im, and Olympic gold medallist Giaan Rooney were tested on their recall of well-known songs and artists.
Along the way they burst into song and dance along with the large, exuberant studio audience, egged on by host Darren McMullen.
The Big Music Quiz, produced by Endemol Shine Australia, screened on Channel Seven during August to October.
The third and final season of star-studded HBO drama series The Leftovers is getting ready to shoot at Docklands Studios Melbourne.
Created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers explores a world in shock (and the lives that are changed forever) when 140 million people inexplicably vanish. In the second series, the show expanded on the original concept of The Rapture that was explored in Perrotta’s bestselling novel of the same name, while the third series moves the action to Australia.
Set construction has begun in the studio workshop and the production has booked two sound stages on the studio lot.
The Leftovers Season Three cast includes Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Kevin Carroll, Christopher Eccleston, Scott Glenn, Lindsay Duncan, Regina King, Jovan Adepo, Janel Moloney, Margaret Qualley, Jasmin Savoy-Brown, Liv Tyler, and Chris Zylka.
Docklands Studios Melbourne is delighted to welcome back HBO and Warner Bros. – both of whom have used the studio before, Warner Bros. on Where the Wild Things Are, and HBO on The Pacific.
The Leftovers is produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television; created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta; executive produced by Lindelof, Perrotta, Mimi Leder, Tom Spezialy, Gene Kelly, Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey. Lindelof serves as showrunner.
START YOUR ENGINES
Docklands Studios Melbourne has been attracting plenty of traffic of late … in car commercials!
Ford, Jeep, Mazda and Nissan have all been on the Lot in recent weeks shooting new television commercials.
In March, Renault chose to unveil its bold new Formula One racing colours at the studio ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
THE DRESSMAKER HAS DESIGNS ON THE US
Following on from its highly successful run in Australian cinemas The Dressmaker is now cutting a swathe through cinemas and film festivals across Europe, Asia and South America. Amazon Studios will release the film in the US on 300 screens on September 23.
Produced by Sue Maslin and written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, from a book by Australian author Rosalie Ham, and with a top-notch local and international cast led by Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving and Liam Hemsworth, The Dressmaker is a film made by women for women, delighting audiences at home and abroad, winning awards and critical acclaim. The Dressmaker was shot at Docklands Studios Melbourne and on location in Victoria in late 2014.
More recently, Docklands Studios Melbourne welcomed two other feature films produced by women. Berlin Syndrome produced by Polly Staniford of Aquarius Films and directed by Cate Shortland, stars Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt, in one of the most anticipated Australian films this year.
A psychological thriller about a holiday romance that takes an unexpected and sinister turn when an Australian photographer wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave, Berlin Syndrome was shot on specially created sets at Docklands Studios Melbourne and on location in Germany.
Aquarius Films’ Angie Fielder also used Docklands Studios Melbourne as its production base for Lion, the eagerly awaited debut film from Top of The Lake director Garth Davis, written by Luke Davies (Candy) and starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and David Wenham.
After a wrong train takes a five-year-old Indian boy thousands of kilometres from home and family, he survives many challenges before being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only the scantest of clues, he learns of a new technology called Google Earth and sets out to find his lost family.
Lion is slated for release in the US on November 25 and January 19, 2017 in Australia. Aquarius is producing in association with Academy Award-winners See-Saw Films (producers of The King’s Speech).
Economist and strategy expert David Hanna has joined the team of Docklands Studios Melbourne as the new Chair of the Board.
Currently the Director of Business Strategy at Monash University, Mr Hanna has more than thirty years’ experience in the public sector in Victoria and Canberra. He has also lived and worked in many parts of Asia.
He has a strong connection to film and has been a longstanding committee member for Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund – which provides government grants to attract productions to Victoria. He is also a member of the Course Advisory Committee for the VCA’s School of Film and Television.
Prior to his Monash appointment, Mr Hanna held a variety of senior management positions in the Victorian and Australian Governments with a focus on economic development, international policy, trade and innovation.
Docklands Studios Melbourne welcomes David Hanna to his new role and thanks outgoing Chair Elizabeth Eldridge for her tireless work and leadership over the last eight years.
DSM welcomed French car manufacturer Renault, who chose to unveil their striking new Formula One racing colours at DSM ahead of the Australian Grand Prix last weekend.
On hand for the yellow carpet launch were champion drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, and Australian pro surfer Ellie-Jean Coffey.
The very next day, the champions of the AFL were on site for the launch of the 2016 Toyota AFL Premiership Season which was broadcast on FOX FOOTY.
But it wasn’t all sport. ABC TV’s must-see national debate program Q&A was broadcast from its newly designed set here at DSM.
Host Tony Jones was joined by Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria; Jacqui Lambie, Independent Senator for Tasmania; Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Resources and Energy; Clementine Ford, Fairfax columnist and feminist speaker; and Elizabeth Proust, Businesswoman and Chair, Bank of Melbourne.
Now in its second year, the Docklands Studios Melbourne ‘Best Set Trophy’ for 2015 has been awarded to Production Designer Melinda Doring for the ‘Apartment 402’ set for Berlin Syndrome.
The in-house award, judged by DSM staff, is given in recognition of a studio set that demonstrates innovative art direction with fine craftsmanship while overcoming any inherent complexities within the storytelling.
Berlin Syndrome (due for release later this year) is a psychological thriller from the book of the same name by Melanie Joosten. It was filmed at Docklands Studios late last year, following a period of on-location shooting in the German capital.
The themes of intimacy, captivity and obsession are explored when Clare, a young Australian woman holidaying in Berlin, meets handsome and charismatic local man, Andi. What begins as a holiday romance turns into a nightmare as Clare becomes a prisoner in Andi’s apartment … and he has no intention of letting her go.
As most of the plot takes place inside ‘Apartment 402’, Melinda Doring was faced with the intricate and complex task to recreate the distinct ambience of a European apartment, matching it with the exterior shots filmed in Berlin. Everything from windows to light switches formed part of a meticulous challenge.
The engraved trophy was presented to the film’s Art Director Janie Parker on 1 February.
The 2014 ‘Best Set Trophy’ was awarded to Michelle McGahy for her ‘Underground Cavern’ set for The Moon and the Sun.
Tomorrow When the War Began has finished filming and is scheduled for ABC viewing next year. John Marsden’s popular stories of teenagers, who return from a camping trip to learn that their country has been invaded by a foreign power, will star rising talent Molly Daniels (You’re Skitting Me, The Librarians) as Ellie and Jon Prasida (Hiding) as Lee. They will be joined by Deborah Mailman, Sibylla Budd, James Stewart and Alison Bell.
Aquarius Film’s The Berlin Syndrome, directed by Cate Shortland and based on the novel of the same name by Australian writer Melanie Joosten, was shot at the Studios following a period on location in Berlin. A psychological thriller, The Berlin Syndrome examines the themes of obsession, captivity and truth as a young Australian photojournalist, Clare (Teresa Palmer) meets a charismatic stranger, Andi (Max Riemelt) while holidaying in Berlin. What begins as a one-night encounter turns into a nightmare as Clare gets locked in Andi’s flat and he has no intention of letting her go!
The new six-part Jack Irish television series recently wrapped its filming at the Studios and will air on the ABC in 2016. Based on Peter Temple’s novels and following the success of three popular telemovies, Guy Pearce will again feature in the title role of the former criminal lawyer turned private investigator.
In its new format, this next instalment of Jack Irish welcomes Claudia Karvan and Marcus Graham to the cast together with Jack Irish ‘regulars’ Marta Dusseldorp, Shane Jacobson and Aaron Pedersen.
In a year that Screen Australia has described as record-breaking for Australian film, we’re enormously proud that two features filmed at Docklands are contributing to this success.
Oddball, the true story of the Maremma dog who saves a penguin colony in Warrnambool, is in its 11th week in cinemas. With its family appeal and top cast including Shane Jacobson and Sarah Snook, Oddball is one of the most popular domestic films to come out in recent years and ranks in the top ten highest performing films at the Australian box office for 2015. It is even beginning to make its mark overseas and in Rome it is a big hit, sporting the name, Giotto l’amico dei Pinguini.
The Dressmaker, described recently by its director Jocelyn Moorhouse as ‘a spaghetti western with a sewing machine’ opened nationally on 30 October. In its first two weeks it took close to AU$10 million before opening in UK cinemas on 20 November. The Dressmaker is leading the forthcoming AACTA awards for 2015 with recognition in all the top categories including Film, Direction, Leading Actress (Kate Winslett) and Supporting Actor and Actress (Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis). As a story that extols the power and influence of ‘haute couture’, it is no surprise that The Dressmaker has also been nominated for Best Costume Design.
With its permanent base at Docklands Studios, Open Channel continues to attract both emerging and experienced filmmakers to its short courses, workshops and conferences. Three hundred participants gathered here in late August to investigate all aspects of micro filmmaking as part of the Generation Next conference series.
The principal ethos of micro filmmaking, according to conference convenor Daniel Schultheis is ‘Exploring the means to turn limited resources and levels of constraint into creative advantage.’ With the support of Film Victoria and Screen Australia and with a range of highly acclaimed Australian industry professionals leading each session and panel discussion, the Micro Movie Conference examined and explored the rising trend of microbudget filmmaking – movies made on small budgets invariably below AU$250,000.
The international success of the first Mad Max movie (created on a very small budget) inspires the notion that imagination and resourcefulness can shape a project when less funding is available. Together with the ever increasing rise of the digital market, micro filmmaking is continuing to provide more opportunities for emerging filmmakers and creative personnel to launch their ideas and shape their projects. The Micro Movie Conference provided an invaluable forum for the sharing of information in order to achieve quality filmmaking – on a budget.
‘The Short & Sharp Microbudget Pitching Competition’ held on the first day gave five finalists the opportunity, in three minutes, to pitch their micro movie idea to a panel of judges. We congratulate the winner, filmmaker Steven Tandy from Melbourne whose prize includes a support package for his next feature film including script consultations with writer Stephen Cleary.
Throughout 2015, a wide range of TVCs and unique events have taken place in our soundstages, guaranteeing Docklands’ reputation as a highly flexible, adaptable and multi-purpose studio environment.
Stage 2 was transformed into an arena for an indoor match for young Melbourne footballers with a surprise visit from Real Madrid in July. Sponsored by Adidas, more than twenty members of the most famous football club in the world arrived by boat and attended a corporate function before watching and judging some young local players in what would have been, for them, the experience of a lifetime.
A TVC entitled Astra vs Drones, was shot for Holden’s latest Astra VXR launch. Holden engaged VICE Media who built ten quad-prop drones, designed to replicate menacing insect-like predators hovering around a vehicle built to withstand anything!
As part of the City of Melbourne’s Spring Fashion Week, the avant-garde Fred Hates Fashion team held its show here, transforming Stage 2 to accommodate a catwalk set before a large screen. Celebrating local designers and attracting a large audience, the event was lauded as a major highlight of a week devoted to Melbourne’s aspiring and established fashionistas.
With the ongoing popularity of arena-style entertainment, Docklands Studios is fast gaining a reputation as a versatile rehearsal venue. In preparation for Hugh Jackman’s Broadway to Oz national tour, the Dainty Group booked Stage 1 to rehearse the show prior to its premiere at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on 24 November.
Garry Maddox for the Entertainment section of The Sydney Morning Herald alerts film and production students and professionals to an event to be held at Docklands Studios Melbourne during which designer Roger Ford, art director Lucinda Thomson and set decorator Lisa Thompson will discuss the design of director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s comic drama, The Dressmaker on November 11. To book visit: The Dressmaker ADPG Event
Read more: Designs on The Dressmaker
Shane Jacobson’s favourite place to work is Docklands Studios.
“Nothing beats working in a word-class facility in my hometown. It’s a pleasure to support the Studios and share what it has to offer from firsthand experience,” Shane said.
Shane is an actor who’s everywhere at the moment. Two feature films, Oddball and The Dressmaker (both shot in-part at Docklands) have pending cinema releases. Then there’s the mini-series Jack Irish which starts filming here in October; Foxtel’s Open Slather and let’s not forget that IGA ad!
Shane became our ambassador after appearing on a Channel 9 news story last year which covered the Studio’s 10th Anniversary. He highlighted the Studios’ importance in the Victorian screen ecosystem, its contribution to the State economy and the joy he has experienced working on Docklands-based projects. “We’re thrilled that Shane can help us promote the Studios and give meaningful insight into what it’s like to work in our sound stages,” said Rod Allan, CEO, Docklands Studios Melbourne.
Childhood’s End: NBC Universal’s adaptation of the Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel; a gripping SciFi miniseries that wrapped at the Studios earlier this year, will air on US networks soon.
Oddball: The Studio was recently home to six fairy penguins and two Maremma sheepdogs during the making of this true family story. To save his daughter’s job, an eccentric chicken farmer (Shane Jacobson) collaborates with his granddaughter (Coco Gillies) to implement a controversial idea – to use a troublemaking dog to protect an endangered penguin colony. We can’t wait to see Oddball in cinemas this September.
The Dressmaker: The costume bays in the Studio’s workshop were a vintage fashion bounty when Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth were on the Lot. Based on Rosalie Ham’s bestselling novel, The Dressmaker is the story of femme fatale Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) who returns to her rural hometown to right the wrongs of the past. This stylish drama, with its comic undertones about love, revenge and haute couture will be in cinemas 1 October.
A much anticipated legend shoots at Docklands
A trend is emerging for retelling Australian history on screen. Through our Emerging Filmmakers Program, we were delighted to encourage this trend by giving award-winning filmmaker, Matthew Holmes, the opportunity to shoot scenes for The Legend of Ben Hall here.
Making his writing and directorial debut, Holmes and his team shot this ambitious bushranger movie in Stage 4. According to Holmes, who researched the story of Ben Hall over many years, “No other Australian outlaw story is more engaging, enthralling and unbelievable than Ben Hall. Not even the Kelly saga compares with the epic legacy of crime committed by Ben Hall and his gang.”
Spoof reality, Footballer Wants a Wife films at Docklands
Reality television parody, Footballer Wants a Wife concerns three young football stars on their modern-day quest for love. There’s no shortage of possible fiancées for these sportsmen, with fourteen beauties who will do anything to become a WAG (Wife and Girlfriend). Footballer Wants a Wife, written by and starring Ben Nicholas, filmed here in June and will air as a web-series in September this year.
The Jack Irish mini-series is the next instalment of television dramas based on Peter Temple’s novels to be produced by Ian Collie and Andrew Knight. Filming starts in August and we welcome an impressive cast that includes Guy Pearce and Shane Jacobson.
Teen/young adult SciFi drama to ‘invade’ Stage 4
The miniseries Tomorrow When the War Began, based on John Marsden’s novel, will film at the Studios throughout September and October. The story follows a small group of teenagers as they wage guerrilla warfare after the invasion and occupation of Australia by a foreign power.
Neo-psych music video shot at the Studio
Budding filmmaker Danny Cohen shot a clip for Melbourne neo-psych band,Lurch and Chief at the Studios in April. The track ‘Echo’ is currently on high rotation on Triple J. We love the behind-the-scenes video shot by Gianna Mazzeo during the fourteen hour shoot. See the ‘clip of the clip’ here:
Car story: TV sets everywhere and 250 Mini…
We’ve had some impressive corporate events and TVCs shoot at the Studios this year. Holden Astra vs Drones TVC and integrated campaign shot here only weeks ago and is already ‘hovering around’ on the web and TV sets. Earlier Volvo hosted a rather luxe launch of the VolvoXC90 https://instagram.com/p/3OgLfwODyO/ in stage 4 and for another car company stage 1 was transformed into Melbourne’s Mini Garage and pop-up cinema. The latter incorporated 25 new Mini 5-door hatches, food vans, 250 Mini fanatics and VIPs who converged for the launch night. Check out the video and great time lapse of the stage set-up for Mini Garage.Luncheon Studio tours for industry professionalsCEO Rod Allan and Marketing Manager Angela Kent have initiated an ongoing series of casual lunches and Studio tours for local producers, production managers and line producers. “We’re targeting people who might not have been to the Studios for a while. It’s a great way to showcase the facility and reflect on the diversity of projects that come through our doors. The events have been very well received and we have also enjoyed hearing about upcoming projects. Producers are encouraged to contact Rod Allan and start the conversation early about options for working at the Studios,” Angela said.Please get in touch with Angela if you’d like to come along to our next lunch and tour: email@example.com
Music video in the Studio – interview with photographer and filmmaker, Danny Cohen for Lurch and Chief’s clip
In a few words what type of filmmaker are you?
I’m actually fairly new to filmmaking. I’m trained as photographer but was always equally inspired by moving image as much as still photography. Over the past year, I’ve been offered opportunities to create music videos so I’ve attempted to bring across my style and direction to film. I like to create weird stories and scenes but execute them in a polished way. For example, my first music video was a gentleman exploring and enjoying the smells of used cars.
How did you hear about the Studios?
I was looking for a large contained space that would allow us to shoot long dolly shots and build large sets. My friend recommended I get in touch and I was impressed by the size of the space, the facilities and the onsite staff.
Can you describe Lurch and Chief’s musical and visual style?
The band’s musical style drifts from psychedelic to rock to pop. The band is full of creatives (the guitarist Alex online slots Trevisan handles all the graphic design) so we tend to collaborate and bounce ideas around quite often. The band is open to creating photos/films that are strange, psychedelic and have an underlying dark humour to them.
Can you reveal the track or the story behind it?
The track is called ‘Echo’, it’s currently on high rotation on Triple J. It’s their second single on their new EP ‘Breathe’. A behind the scenes of the clip can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/127455991
What were the benefits of working in the Studio’s sound stage?
The size, versatility, facilities and staff. I loved shooting there and will shoot there again. It was definitely a long day but I had the dream team on board so spirits were high and we got the result we were after.
There’s been a lot of laughs and broken hearts on the set on mock-reality web series, Footballer Wants a Wife, filming here at Docklands Studios over the past week.
Footballer Wants a Wife was written by and stars ex-Neighbours talent, Ben Nicholas. Ben plays Steven Papakonstantinou who hilariously explains how his solution to satisfying his mother’s desperation to marry him off is applying for the real-life matchmaking game show. Papakonstantinou says in the pilot, “Footballer…me. Wife… question mark?” while pointing to the mock logo of for the show as the “answer”.
Ben received funding for the series from Screen Australia and secured a bevy of local talented beauties including Brooke Satchwell, Jonathon Buckley, Martin Copping, Maria Angelico, Cassandra Magrath, Ra Chapman, Maya Aleksandra, Elise Jansen and Ella Cannon – not to mention former Swans, pin-up boy, Warwick Capper.
Click on the link below to watch a video clip of Footballer Wants a Wife.
During its 10th Anniversary year, Docklands Studios has enjoyed its busiest twelve months since the State Government took ownership of the precinct in 2008. A full booking sheet and a diverse mix of clients have reinforced the Studio’s position as a flexible, world-class facility, located in the heart of a very film-friendly city.
Underpinning 2014’s success is the wide variety of projects that have come through the Studio’s five sound stages: international and local feature films, TV miniseries, live-audience programming, TV commercials, band rehearsals and fashion shows.
Australian feature films shot at Docklands Studios this year include Sucker, Oddball and The Dressmaker. It was also the first time the Studios has hosted two large international projects in one year: the fantasy feature film, The Moon and The Sun and Childhood”s End – a new science fiction miniseries based on a novel by Arthur C. Clarke.
These bookings were complemented by a busy television slate, with Channel 7 producing Season Four of its drama, Winners & Losers, and GTV9 utilising Stage 5 for live audience shows; The Footy Show and Millionaire Hot Seat. Shine Australia also used Stages 2 and 5 in tandem for MasterChef.
The Studio continues to attract clients beyond traditional film and television programming. Mimco’s show for the Virgin Melbourne Fashion Festival, Opera Australia rehearsals, Tina Arena’s concert rehearsals and Kylie Minogue’s music video among others.
“We’re thrilled to have accommodated so many wonderful projects this year and the booking sheet is looking as diverse and interesting for 2015,” said Rod Allan, CEO Docklands Studios.
Science fiction, considered by some to be the “literature of ideas”, is a genre well suited to a studio environment. Studios give sci-fi creators licence to customise their worlds and build futuristic settings that are ideal for time-travel and other sci-fi themes.
This year Docklands Studios has benefited from a local sci-fi renaissance. The local production team of an innovative sci-fi project called Restoration (shot in August) appreciated the controlled environment provided by a sound stage. “We created multiple locations in a single sound stage and were able to do a ‘Hollywood wrap’ at the end of each day’s shooting, thereby avoiding a daily pack-down and lost time,” said Toby Gibson, Restoration’s producer.
A month later, NBCUniversal’s Childhood’s End, an epic six hour sci-fi miniseries, began thirteen weeks of pre-production prior to its scheduled shoot in December. According to the State Government of Victoria, “Around 380 talented local practitioners, including up to fifteen heads of department, will work on Childhood’s End, generating an estimated $20 million in production expenditure in Victoria.”
“Sci-fi is high-concept and requires set design and a level of control that cannot be achieved on location. These projects give art and costume departments the opportunity to work at elevated levels that don’t come with contemporary drama. We’re very pleased to have a project like Childhood’s End onboard,” said Rod Allan, CEO Docklands Studios.
Australian sci-fi thriller, Predestination (which also filmed at Docklands Studios and around Melbourne) premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in July this year.
Docklands Studios is developing into an important screen hub for industry organisations. This year we’ve assisted by providing Guilds with a meeting venue, a conference venue for Open Channel and a sound stage for an ACS mini tradeshow.
The Studio is the principal sponsor of the Australian Production Designer’s Guild (APDG) which is committed to raising the profile of screen design and recognising outstanding art department achievements. There is natural synergy between the APDG and the Studio because we offer designers a world-class platform where they can showcase their ability and do their best work. In October the Victoria Chapter hosted it State award nominations with designers, Cappi Ireland, Roland Pike and Jo Ford being nominated for projects including I, Frankenstein, Nowhere Boys and The Rover among others.
The Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) staged a mini tradeshow, “I Like to Move It”, at the Studio in November. This expo showcased a variety of camera platforms from dollies to drone-operated cameras. The increased interest from DOPs, producers and directors regarding new camera kit availability in Victoria, make the Studio an ideal place to showcase this.
Australian online video creators attract large audiences sometimes on par with their film and television counterparts. In October, Open Channel’s “Generation Next: Online Video Conference” at Docklands Studios explored the changing nature of visual storytelling to audiences in a digital, immersive and multi-screen environment. On the back of this event, Open Channel held its inaugural Australian Online Video Awards, to recognise talent across many categories including comedy, animation and factual series.
It’s great to see more local filmmakers considering the Studio as an alternative to filming on location. Our message is that the Studio is accessible for all filmmakers and we encourage producers to initiate early discussions with us about their projects. The Studio offers advantages that have flow-on cost benefits and an environment that allows creative people to think outside the box when solving production challenges.
This year we launched a new advertising campaign that asks the local market to picture themselves at Docklands Studios.
The Studios hosted the unveiling of an impressive new piece of kit from Flycam today in Stage 4. The Flighthead-5 Advance is a gyro-stabilized remote head that accommodates most film and broadcast cameras. A large contingent of film and television industry people from DOPs, producers, directors, grips to production companies came through the exhibition. This new platform can achieve the most stabilised tracking available in Australia today. It is particularly appealing to sport and live broadcast and for filmmaking it’s applicable for aerial tracking, vehicles, vessels, aircraft, animals and people in motion.
A cross-section of productions have shot at the Docklands Studios lately. Highlights include:
- International feature film, The Moon and The Sun, starring Pierce Brosnan, Fan Bing Bing and William Hurt recreated Versailles at the Studio with elaborate palace interiors and a fantastical mermaid grotto. The grotto featured Stage 1’s water pit and was the first time the pit has been fully used for wet filming.
- Australian feature film, Oddball recreated a piece of Victoria’s coastline in Stage 4, overcoming the challenge of having to film at night with children and animals on a real beach. For two weeks the Studio played host to 6 fairy penguins, two Maremma sheepdogs and their assorted handlers.
- Director and writer, Ben Chessell (Offspring) and Lawrence Leung’s (House Husbands) Australian feature, Sucker filmed here in May. Sucker is card swindling comedy starring Lily Sullivan, John Luc, Kat Stewart and Timothy Spall.
- Television drama, Channel 7′s, Winners & Losers moved into filming its 4th series.
- Live-audience television, Channel 9′s, Millionaire Hot Seat and The Footy Show continue in Stage 5.
- We’ve also seen more diverse projects at the Studios in the first half of 2014 including Kylie Minogue’s music video, a Coles television commercial for Heston Blumenthal’s product range and Mimco’s stunning runway for the Virgin Melbourne Fashion Festival.
The Docklands team is excited to see the Spierig Brothers’ sci-fi thriller, Predestination (filmed in-part at Docklands Studios) opening the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) on 31 July.
Currently, the Studios is supporting an ambitious local project called Restoration starring Nadia Townsend and Grant Cartwright . It’s 40 minute 3-part sci-fi mini-series set in the near future that tells the story of a man, Oliver Klein, who awakes with his memories restored into a body that is not his own. Restoration is the first online film content made at the Studios.
A film noir-themed event in Stage 5 set the scene for the Studio’s 10th Anniversary celebrations. A mix of past and present clients, cast, crew, staff, and screen industry officials and professionals gathered for the screening of a short reel showcasing the television and film productions made in Melbourne at the Studios over the decade. The party coincided with the filming of The Moon and The Sun in full swing so that the Studio was buzzing. Cast and crew mingled and shared their experiences working in Melbourne. We are excited about the momentum in the Victorian screen scene and we believe that 2014 heralds another ten years of varied and exciting productions here.
Minister for Innovation, Louise Asher MP reiterated State Government support at the Studio’s 10-year celebration. She said productions shot at the Studio over the last ten years made a direct project investment of well over half a billion dollars into the Victorian economy and that international productions have spent $351 million within the State, while domestic productions have spent $278 million. We’re also enthusiastic to see the outcome of a Bill (currently in parliament) aimed at streamlining the process of applying for film permits here. This Bill would further enhance Melbourne’s reputation as a city offering ideal conditions for filmmaking including logistical ease, diverse locations, an enviable talent pool, world-class screen services and very attractive incentives. The Victorian Government, through Film Victoria, offers incentives to encourage producers to bring their film and television projects to Victoria.
Over the past two months we’ve had a lot of high profile people at Docklands Studios. Pierce Brosnan, Kylie Minogue, Heston Blumenthal, Ridley Scott, William Hurt and Fan Bingbing have all passed through the gates. However, nothing has created quite as much intrigue as the furry tenants who arrived this week with featured roles in a new Australian movie, Oddball. The six 6 fairy penguins and two Maremma dogs will be working on a set that recreates Victoria’s coastline.
Today is significant, as the busiest filming day the Studios has experienced since the Government took over its management in 2008. Shooting today at Docklands Studios Melbourne are:
- International feature film, The Moon and The Sun
- Australian feature film, Sucker
- television drama, Channel 7’s, Winners & Losers and
- live audience television, Channel 9’s, Millionaire Hot Seat
We are thrilled to see the Studios in full swing servicing a cross-section of screen productions.