Homegrown VFX companies striking gold in film boost

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By Belinda Willis

Adelaide’s largest visual effects companies are seeing a surge in work on major Hollywood and Australian films as the state’s new 10% rebate kicks in.

Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) and Kojo have both recorded their highest growth year as the rebate for post production, digital and visual effects comes on top of the Federal Government’s existing 30% rebate.

It has led to Rising Sun Pictures establishing an entire new floor space at its Pulteney Street studio, with managing director and joint founder Tony Clark saying the studio is building on its busiest time in a 20-year history.

The space would house a projected 60 to 80 new staff as South Australia strengthens its global reputation and draws more work away from countries like rebate-rich Canada.

Hollywood blockbuster Thor launches in the theatre.

“In the past year we’ve achieved $22.7m in revenue, when you think about it over its 20 years, the company has probably contributed more than $250m to the state’s economy,” he says.

“The money flows directly from RSP staff into the economy, creating jobs for baristas, hairdressers, in schools or in housing.”

The highly regarded studio has led the way for SA, working on Hollywood blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok and Gravity, and its current work was expected to see staff numbers peak as high as 280 by the end of 2018.

This includes work on the next Predator and the next X-Men films, along with Dumbo for Disney, directed by Tim Burton.

Rising Sun has also just finished its first major project for a Chinese film production, a fantasy adventure called Animal World that has secured a distribution deal with Netflix.

The Rising Sun crew.

Tony says he believes growth is also being spurred by the steady rise in film production in the US, Europe, Australia and China, triggering parallel demand for ever-more spectacular visual effects.

Earlier this year, another major development for the local industry was announced with global entertainment giant Technicolor saying it would open a $24m visual effects studio in Adelaide.

Its chief executive Fred Rose predicted the studio Mill Film could generate 500 new jobs in SA during the next five years.

Tony welcomes the news, saying building SA as a hub for the industry means it will attract a greater pool of talent – but means existing businesses must prepare for a more competitive labour market.

In a move to ensure more creative talent keeps appearing in the local jobs pipeline, Rising Sun Pictures has expanded its education program operating in partnership with the University of South Australia.

A new undergraduate course in visual effects skills was added to the offering and the Graduate Certificate program expanded.

The company also continues to search globally for talent, recently hiring veteran visual effects supervisor Tom Wood, who earned a 2016 Oscar nomination for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road.

At Kojo in Norwood, chief executive Dale Roberts is also feeling optimistic saying the creative services company’s film and TV section of the business “had its biggest year in history”.

Creative agency Kojo has experienced a surge in the number of project it’s taken on in the past year.

“In the past 12 months we’ve done a record number of projects, I think six, in a good year we would usually do three,” he says.

Dale says the new government rebate has certainly helped trigger more international work.

The team has worked on American-Australian thriller film Hotel Mumbai, on Storm Boy featuring Australian and Hollywood star Geoffrey Rush and earlier this year finished a second series of Wolf Creek for Stan.

“We’re also working on a new movie starring Hilary Swank called I am Mother and a new Netflix series called Pine Gap that was shot here earlier this year,” Dale says.

“Post production and visual effects is definitely the growth area for us.

“We are really good at it here in SA, we offer a world-class product out of Adelaide and because we have a different cost structure to somewhere like Sydney or London or New York, we can offer competitive pricing.”

Australian actor John Jarratt plays notorious serial killer Ivan Milat in TV series Wolf Creek.

Kojo’s numbers have increased to 90 across four offices in Australia along with about 30 contractors, with Dale saying its two other core businesses are also staying strong.

Its advertising, marketing and communications team recently won the contract for BMW events nationally, including for famed car brand Mini.

Meanwhile, Kojo sport won the contract to operate lighting, sound and video at the new Perth’s Optus Stadium – it already has the job at Adelaide Oval – and Dale says Kojo will pursue other stadium work during the year.

Kojo also has work with AFL teams Adelaide and Port Adelaide, along with Richmond, Essendon, West Coast and Fremantle.

“We’ve had an incredible year of growth, in the past year, our overall revenue has grown 20% year on year, and staff numbers have grown 12 to 15%,” Dale adds.

Adelaide-based VFX studio Resin is also experiencing growth from the state’s burgeoning creative industries sector.

The company says it has experienced 200% growth in the past financial year.

Resin’s portfolio includes the highly anticipated remake of SA classic, Storm Boy, as well as film Hotel Mumbai, which is set to open the Adelaide Film Festival in October.

The company is also currently working on the first ever Netflix original Australian produced series, Tidelands.

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