Ballarat loses out on Australian feature film

PRODUCERS of a feature film set to be shot in Ballarat say the production will move to South Australia because of insufficient funding from Film Victoria. 

The $1 million production of The Boy Castaways was slated to take place on location at Ballarat’s Her Majesty’s Theatre in January but Film Victoria’s Regional Location Assistance Fund was effectively outbid by the South Australian Film Corporation. 

Directed by former Malthouse Theatre creative chief Michael Kantor, the film is described as a rock musical drama set in an abandoned theatre. 

The month-long shoot was expected to bring significant economic benefit to the city and would have seen Her Majesty’s annual maintenance period moved to February. 

Local crews were preparing to work alongside the visiting production team, showcasing the historic theatre audiences in Australia and overseas. 

Producer Jo Dyer said the cast included high profile Australian actors and musicians with a production budget of more than $1 million. 

“We had hoped to come to Ballarat and while Film Victoria were supportive of the project, they couldn’t provide sufficient funding to cover the additional costs of moving a whole film cast and crew to regional Victoria,” she said. 

“Every dollar counts when it comes to moving the cast and crew and providing accommodation, travel costs and things like per diem payments.” 

Ms Dyer said Ballarat had been an attractive option for the shoot with lower costs than major cities and significant support from Her Majesty’s Theatre manager Graeme Russell. 

“It would have been great for the theatre and its crew and good for our production team to work alongside them in a supportive and focused environment,” she said. 

Ballarat Regional Tourism director George Sossi said he was disappointed the economic benefits of the production would not come to Ballarat. 

“When these kinds of productions are shot on location they bring kudos to Ballarat and help promote the city to audiences in Australia and overseas,” he said. 

“A feature film can be invaluable in showcasing the city and also bringing economic benefits during the filming which can last for weeks and months in some cases.”

“The crew spend when they are here, stay in accommodation and use local labor and supplies.” 

Mr Sossi said Ballarat actively sought locally made projects through a film and television liaison officer, while offering no-cost permits for productions in the region.  Victorian tourism minister Louise Asher said the government was supporting projects in regional areas and offered a range of support mechanisms to promote production activity.

“A specific Regional Location Assistance Fund supports Victorian filmmakers who choose to utilise locations outside metropolitan Melbourne, and to attract ‘footloose’ productions to use locations in regional Victoria,” she said. “In addition, Film Victoria works closely with Victoria’s provincial councils to make the state the most film friendly in Australia and ensure film and television productions continue to utilise regional locations.” 

Ms Asher said Film Victoria supported productions of all sizes and reviews its programs each year to ensure they are responsive to industry needs.

thomas.mcilroy@thecourier.com.au

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