Several Hollywood productions have withdrawn their shooting from Australia or put it on hold. With that, the shine of “Aussiewood”, as Australia was already called, fades a little. At the beginning of the year, the fifth continent was still very popular after filming in Los Angeles became impossible or very difficult due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The then corona-free paradise of Australia, which had good filming locations and experienced crews, seemed like a “gift from heaven”.
In the five months to December 2020, the Ausfilm government agency had received requests for 37 projects, 300 percent more than in the same period of the previous year. At the beginning of the year Ausfilm wrote on his Facebook page that Melbourne is currently experiencing a production boom and that Docklands Studios there are busy with more projects than ever.
Large parts of Australia have been in lockdown for weeks
But a few months later the tide has turned: Large parts of Australia have been in lockdown for weeks, Sydney and Melbourne are virtually cut off from the outside world after the delta variant was introduced into the country and the number of cases in the megacities is increasing. Sydney currently has more than 1,000 cases a day every day. Other Australian states such as Queensland or Western Australia have closed their borders because of this, making it difficult for film productions to travel between locations in the country.
As a result, two large productions stalled. The Netflix adaptation of “Extraction 2” with Australian actor Chris Hemsworth was completely withdrawn from Sydney and relocated to the Czech capital, Prague. According to a report in the magazine “Variety”, Australia’s attractiveness as a film location has declined “in recent months due to a low vaccination rate, the outbreak of the more contagious Covid-19 Delta variant and a multitude of local logistical complications”. The lockdowns in the centers of Sydney and Melbourne in particular complicated filming. At the same time, “juggling” border restrictions, keeping lists of authorized employees and responding to frequently changing local rules would be “too laborious” for large film teams, it said.
Outbreak of the Delta variant in Australia
The outbreak of the Delta variant also forced the film “Poker Face”, directed by Russell Crowe, to take an unwanted break. Shooting had to pause six days before the end of shooting after two crew members tested positive for Covid-19. According to a report in the Guardian, the film was shot with Crowe and Liam Hemsworth in and around Sydney’s city center. “We followed strict protocols,” Crowe wrote on Twitter in late August. The entire team had been tested three times a week for the past eleven weeks, and the crew wore masks during filming – with the exception of three employees, who had a medical justification. But after the positive diagnoses, the entire production now has to isolate itself.
Other productions were also discontinued or canceled prematurely. The shooting of the HBO film “Days of Abandonment” no longer takes place after the leading actress Natalie Portman canceled her role for personal reasons. The Netflix television series “God’s Favorite Idiot” ultimately only filmed half of the planned episodes, according to local media.
Baz Luhrmann’s new film project “Elvis” is temporarily paused
Even Baz Luhrmann’s new film project “Elvis” was temporarily paused according to a report in the newspaper “The New Daily” and is now set to come out six months later than planned – in June 2022. The state of Queensland, in which “Elvis” is filmed, has so far hardly been affected by the rising Covid cases.
A new series for Disney +, which is based on the Jules Verne novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, will therefore still be filmed on the Gold Coast, as it became known at the end of August. The shooting of a ten-part Netflix series (“Irreverent”) about an American crook who is hiding from the authorities in a small town in Queensland should begin before the end of the year.
Big blow for New Zealand too
Local producers do not want to give up the film location Down Under completely, especially since the Australian government has offered generous financial incentives for film productions. Russell Crowe is still planning a new film studio in Coffs Harbor north of Sydney, and new studios are also to be built in Fremantle in Western Australia and west of Sydney. But the initial glamor that major Hollywood productions brought to Australia earlier this year has now faded a little. Also of the “Aussiewood”, as many already jokingly called the country with reference to “Hollywood”, is no longer mentioned.
In addition to Australia, neighboring New Zealand also suffered a severe blow to its film industry. In mid-August, Amazon announced that filming for the second season of a “Lord of the Rings” series would no longer take place in New Zealand, but in Great Britain.