A car chases a terrified man over Commonwealth Bridge before he plunges into the icy waters of Lake Burley Griffin. Apocalyptic zombies roam the streets of Watson. A teen drama unravels against the backdrop of the Canberra bushfires. This is Canberra like you’ve never seen it before.
With the makers of major TV series such as Secret City, The Code and Rake, along with independent films; choosing our diverse landscapes as the backdrop to their stories, Canberra is becoming an increasingly popular film destination.
So why are we seeing more of Canberra on the screen?
“Cinematographers love the light in Canberra because we’re high up and we have no pollution. Plus we have the most sunny days of any capital city in Australia,” enthuses Monica Penders, CEO of Screen Canberra. “And producers love it because you can be filming at Parliament House and in ten minutes you can be in the middle of a sheep paddock.”
Monica and her team at Screen Canberra are passionate about growing the ACT Screen Industry. Aside from actively promoting the many benefits of filming in Canberra, they are also instrumental in helping Canberrans realise their own film ambitions.
“Whether it’s working as a runner or an extra on set for The Code, or creating a script under the guidance of a renowned scriptwriter in one of our master classes, we are creating opportunities for Canberrans that previously didn’t exist,” says Monica.
Through these initiatives, Screen Canberra has been largely responsible for a number of success stories.
Giving ideas the green light
Over the past eight years, Screen Canberra has delivered Pods—incubators that allow local screen content makers to develop their ideas for a range of productions including television, documentaries and low budget feature films. Under the tuition of national and international experts, they have the opportunity to develop their initiatives and then, if they’re shortlisted, have their ideas taken through to the professional level. Most recently the Accelerator Pod resulted in four applicants getting the green light on their ideas, with the first project, Killer Instinct, going into production next week.
“This is a business of relationships—global relationships. And to that end we are hoping to include international participants in the future such as colleagues from our sister city Wellington and from our strategic partner city Singapore,” said Monica
Launching careers in the film industry
Screen Canberra offers ‘attachments’, paid positions on screen projects that the ACT Government has co-funded. “Every person who has been lucky enough to receive an attachment position has since gone on to working on other productions as a crew member,” says Monica.
Funding great ideas
Screen Canberra has supported local screen content providers with the development of projects, short films, games production, attendance at industry events as well as investment into larger scale projects such as feature films, TV series and high end games development.
Information and advice
“Much of our time is spent chatting to people about possibilities, projects and next steps,” says Monica. “This is an industry of relationships so we also bring in industry experts for meet and greets and help people by putting them in touch with the right connections.”
Producing Canberra films
The Film Distillery is a Canberra-based film production studio with an innovative development, production and sales strategy.
Participants within The Film Distillery process are given the very real opportunity to bring their stories to life. They’re guided through a vigorous development period where they work with established script editors and receive crucial marketplace assessment from international sales agents.
The Film Distillery then partners with the filmmaking team to produce their film, offering a total script-to-screen solution which includes the development of a finance plan and production schedules, input from script professionals and other industry experts, casting advice, key crew attachments and more.
The Film Distillery plans to produce four to six low budget genre and family feature films per year, with systems and oversight applied to each production, ensuring quality content and maximum commercial potential. “By getting industry support at the concept stage, we end up with a marketable project that gives investors a low risk opportunity,” explains Monica.
Making a profit
“At the end of the day, our aim is to create a sustainable and profitable industry that profiles not only our great city, but the talent that we have in Canberra,” says Monica.