Coffs Harbour film studio: Australia emerged as the preferred place to film during the global lockdown

Tiffanie Turnbull
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Russell Crowe is cashing in on the country’s film boom, announcing plans to build a major movie studio in Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid north coast where the Oscar winner lives.

The $400 million studio, including post-production facilities, will be created at the Pacific Bay Resort, providing a major economic boost to the coastal town.

The seaside precinct, which was once a banana plantation, will include a boutique hotel, a state-of-the-art film school and an indigenous art gallery and it is hoped it will open within two years.

The site is just 25 minutes away from Crowe’s farm at Nana Glen where he has played host to many of his Hollywood colleagues.

Crowe on Wednesday told reporters he had been dreaming of a way to work closer to home for years and the pandemic provided the opportunity.

Australia emerged as the preferred place to film during the global lockdown, with an array of blockbuster projects and high-profile Hollywood actors flocking to the nation’s shores.

But with existing Australian facilities booked up, Crowe says the proposed Pacific Bay Resort Studios and Village will keep the boom in Australia while supporting the economy of the region that has been his family’s home for more than 25 years.

“I’m proud to be just another long-haired hippie from the north coast,” said Crowe, who won the 2000 best actor Oscar for Gladiator.

“A project like this does … create the next level of opportunity that keeps our best and brightest kids here.

“It literally takes a village of professions to make a movie.

“Outside of actors producers, writers, directors and camera people there’s makeup, hair, costume, carpenters, painters, riggers, electricians, grips, prop masters, caterers, accountants, locations, transport, and on and on.”

By providing everything cast and crews need, Hollywood producer Keith Rodger says the site will streamline the production process and save filmmakers money.

The resort, owned by Olympian Peter Montgomery, already boasts a nine-hole golf course, three swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurant and bars, a conference centre, resort spa and gym.

Coffs’ internationally capable airport is only eight minutes’ drive from the proposed studio and village, and the nearby M1 provides access to major cities.

“Combine that with LED virtual studios, sound-proofed stages, water tanks, a full resort, an adjoining city offering the freshest and best cuisine, our coastal lifestyle – all designed to make production more efficient, cost-effective and enjoyable for actors, crews and their families,” Mr Rodger said.

Planning applications for the project have been finalised and will be lodged with the NSW government as a state significant development.

The precinct is designed to host projects of up to $100 million and will not compete with the nation’s biggest studios, Mr Crowe said.

“(It’s designed) to ensure the smaller to medium film and TV projects … the type of Australian films that I cut my teeth on, have a space in the film infrastructure framework of Australia going forward,” he said.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro celebrated the announcement, saying it would diversify the region’s economy, with the government set to declare the region a dedicated jobs precinct, enabling fast-tracked infrastructure approvals and planning support.

“You don’t need to go to Hollywood or Los Angeles or the Fox Studios in Sydney, you can do that in a regional city like Coffs Harbour, and why wouldn’t you?” he said.

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