Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The film has grossed more than US$1 billion worldwide.Movie session timesFull movies coverage
The Australian government has signalled it is willing to fight hard in the cut-throat world of movies, offering an unprecedented treasure chest to lure Pirates of the Caribbean 5 to our shores.
The hugely popular franchise will film its fifth instalment in Queensland from February 2015, after Walt Disney Studios accepted a $21.6 million bounty – originally earmarked for the same studio’s planned production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – from Canberra, plus payroll tax exemptions from the state government, to choose the Sunshine State over close rival Mexico.
After the collapse of 20,000 Leagues, which David Fincher had been slated to direct, with Brad Pitt rumoured to star, Disney lobbied the federal government to have the $21.6 million transferred to Pirates 5. Last month, the government agreed to that request.
Federal arts minister George Brandis said the $21.6 million was the biggest contribution the government had ever made to the financing of a blockbuster, which is set to create at least 1000 jobs and pump $100 million into the economy.
“[This] will be the largest international feature film ever to shoot in Australia and will focus the world’s attention on Australia as a leading film destination,” he said. “Our investment in attracting the film to Australia will result in substantial benefits for the screen industry and economy.”
The wheeling and dealing to bring the film to Australia began in earnest in February, when Queensland Premier Campbell Newman met with Disney executives during a USA trade mission. Other states had also vied for a slice of the action.
The ink was still drying on the contract when Queensland’s Arts Minister Ian Walker called a media conference in Brisbane on Thursday morning to announce “We got it”.
“There was talk about this film going to other parts of the world, there was talk about this film coming to Australia but only partly done in Queensland,” he said. “That wasn’t good enough for me or for Screen Queensland, and so we’ve been negotiating and negotiating hard while the rumours were flying around to ensure that Queensland got this film and got it exclusively.”
Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira began working on the deal in early March, not long after she started in the role, in order to convince producers the Gold Coast and far north Queensland locations could work both financially and creatively.
“Right down until a week ago it wasn’t just ours,” she said. “We faced strong competition from our state rivals, and also from Mexico.”
Ms Vieira said staff sent almost daily packages of potential shooting locations, and hosted key production staff on two separate scouting trips.
“The first one was four people who came out here… the production designer, art director, location manager and producer, and that was really about finding out whether creatively if it would work,” she said.
“Then there was a second scout that involved the directors, the visual effects designer, and the producer.”
Ms Viera and Mr Walker said commercial-in-confidence arrangements meant they could not specify the value of the payroll tax exemptions granted to Disney.
AusFilm, the industry-government partnership that lobbies moviemakers to shoot their films in Australia, said incentives were crucial to securing blockbusters, especially in light of the fact that California has finally agreed to offer tax incentives in order to keep more production in the state.
CEO Debra Richards said 2013/14 international productions The Moon and the Sun, Unbroken and San Andreas shot employed 6300 people across all states and brought in new inward investment of $150 million.
“The international film industry is highly competitive and without compelling incentives such as the Location Offset this production would not have considered Australia as a production destination,” she said.
“The filming of Pirates of the Caribbean will further enhance the international positioning of Australia as a world class filming destination.”
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