What do Kate Winslet, Zac Efron, Cate Blanchett, Jamie Dornan and Hilary Swank have in common? They’ve all starred in movies with creative input from South Australia – and they’ve all helped strengthen our economy in turn.
When it comes to the big and small screens, our state really punches above its weight – and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
In just the past few years, a bunch of blockbuster movies and TV series have utilised South Australian screen industry skills, talent and locations behind-the-scenes (and in-front-of-the-scenes!), including Mortal Kombat, Talk to Me, Elvis, Black Widow, The Tourist and The Boys: Season 2.
SA has also been the temporary home to some of the world’s hottest movie and TV stars – Sarah Snook, Julia Garner, Martin Freeman, Dev Patel and Daniel Radcliffe to name a few.
Star sightings are one thing, but the best part of all this is how it benefits the state – and, in turn, each and every one of us! But we’ll get to that…
The biggest Netflix series ever to be filmed in SA is now underway, with both production and post-production taking place in our state. With the working title of Desert King, the six-episode neo-western series – produced by South Australian Paul Ranford (Stateless, True History of the Kelly Gang) – follows the succession battle among the Lawson family for control of the world’s largest cattle station.
The new Stan Original series Thou Shalt Not Steal featuring an all-star Australian cast is also currently underway in South Australia. Set in the 1980s, the series follows a young Aboriginal woman, Robyn, who escapes from detention and reluctantly teams up with awkward teenager Gidge for a risky road trip from Alice Springs to Adelaide.
Both the Netflix and Stan projects are supported by the State Government through the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC).
Meanwhile, at the ABC…
The recent launch of a production partnership between the ABC and the SAFC will ensure SA has an ongoing pipeline of quality television production, thanks to state government investment of $5.2 million over three years.
The first production to come out of the partnership – SA-made children’s series Beep and Mort Season 2, from Adelaide’s Windmill Pictures – wrapped filming at the SAFC’s Adelaide Studios earlier this year and is set to premiere on ABC TV and iview soon. Stay tuned for details!
It’s great news for our economy
Netflix series Desert King is expected to employ 240 South Australians across crew and cast, while Stan Original series Thou Shalt Not Steal is anticipated to give the local economy a $3.6 million boost and create 89 jobs for South Australian crew and cast.
The ABC partnership is expected to create up to 460 South Australian production jobs across numerous screen productions, as well as provide work for local service companies and suppliers, and create pathways for training and skills development.
According to Screen Australia’s National Drama Report, a total of $144 million was injected into the state’s economy by drama production and post-production in 2021-22 – the state’s second highest year on record.
And the South Australian screen workforce is growing by leaps and bounds – it more than tripled in the six years to 2020, supporting 536 local businesses and 2,297 full-time equivalent jobs.
There’s also a flow-on effect: The cast and crew who come here to film are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores and drinking in our pubs.
Plus more than 67 per cent of spending on screen production goes to businesses and suppliers in other sectors such as construction, travel, transport, retail and more. That means for every four jobs created in the SA screen industry, another three jobs are supported elsewhere in the economy.
What’s driving the industry?
It certainly doesn’t hurt SA’s reputation as a screen production hub that we have such diverse landscapes so easy to reach from Adelaide. Our Outback in particular – from the Flinders Ranges to Coober Pedy and beyond – has starred in a whole lot of movies and TV series over the years, from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and Priscilla Queen of the Desert to action blockbuster Mortal Kombat, Simon Baker noir drama Limbo, Zac Efron drama Gold and current Julia Garner thriller The Royal Hotel.
But other parts of SA have had starring roles as well. For instance, Cate Blanchett’s latest film, The New Boy, was filmed around Burra, while Sarah Snook’s new thriller Run Rabbit Run was filmed in the Riverland.
And Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Harry Potter film, December Boys, was shot on Kangaroo Island in 2007 – you can see the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch in the background of key scenes. Radcliffe returned to SA to film Escape from Pretoria, released in 2020, which was filmed around Adelaide and at Adelaide Studios.
And when it comes to post production, we have some seriously talented people working in our state’s screen sector. For example, Adelaide’s Rising Sun Pictures has grown over the past two decades to become a multi-award-winning leader in visual effects, with clients including Disney, Marvel, Warner Bros., Netflix, Amazon and MGM. They’re one of many internationally respected visual effects companies to call Adelaide home, alongside Technicolor’s MPC, KOJO Studios, Resin and Artisan Post Group.
50 years and counting for an SA screen sector icon
The industry has also had some government help. The SAFC was established in 1972 and is the first and longest-running state screen agency in the nation.
The SAFC has led the way in supporting the local screen industry with funding for production and development of films and television series, as well as the SA post-production rebate, all of which support the creation of South Australian screen productions and attracts big-budget projects to the state.
The SAFC also offers a raft of innovative programs that boost new local screen talent, support screen industry training and upskilling, and help SA practitioners to grow their businesses and bring their projects to market.
Also, the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund – which contributes funding to support film projects with creative, cultural and economic benefits to South Australia – got a $2 million boost in this year’s state budget.
Did we mention The Adelaide Film Festival is this month?!
The Adelaide Film Festival (AFC) is a key supporter of South Australia’s screen sector growth, as well as a real treat for film buffs. Held every two years since 2003, the Adelaide Film Festival went annual this year and in 2023 is screening more than 130 films from 43 countries.
The event, being held 18-29 October, includes 27 world premieres and 38 Australian premieres across five Adelaide cinema venues.
The festival opener is Kitty Green’s thriller The Royal Hotel, filmed in SA’s mid-north with the support of the SAFC and starring Julia Garner with The Matrix star Hugo Weaving. The closing night presentation will be another brilliant SA film, MY NAME’S BEN FOLDS i play piano, from Oscar-nominated director Scott Hicks.
In between those two screenings there’s a huge program featuring big names from Hollywood alongside local gems that are really worth checking out. You can find the full rundown of SA-made films screening at the AFC here.