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Film & screen,
Chinese filmmakers find opportunity at last on the Gold Coast
Maxine Steinmetz | September 10, 2019
The Gold Coast can add another film credit to its ever-growing list of blockbusters – At Last – an Australian and Chinese co-production.
Written and Directed by Liu Yiwei, At Last is an official Chinese-Australian co-production which follows the story of a busy Beijing couple who holiday in Australia to focus on conceiving a baby. Unfortunately, they suddenly find themselves caught in the middle of a complex art heist, leading them on a dangerous, yet hilarious journey filmed all along the Gold Coast.
During script development, Producer Jaio Aimin and Director Liu had discussed shooting the film in Europe before a friend recommended Australia and its evolving film industry.
“We scouted Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast,” said Liu.
“We had good support from the Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast, plus we have a very good producer here – Todd Fellman – who we felt safe with, so we decided to lock down the location here.”
Another major factor in bringing the film to the city is the diverse range of landscapes on offer. The film’s Director of Photography, Ben Nott says filmmakers are spoilt for choice when they visit the region. Although Nott is a Gold Coast local who has worked on several local productions including the recently released Australian war film, Danger Close: the Battle of Long Tan, he has worked on countless productions around the globe. He insists the city is an ideal destination for filmmaking.
“We generally have to work within a radius of 30 kilometres from where you deem your production office to be, and within that 30 kilometre radius you need diversity, and this is what the Gold Coast does in spades. We’ve got rainforests, the beach, the city, hinterland. We’ve pretty much got everything and that’s what makes this place unique,” said Nott.
At Last was primarily shot on the Gold Coast between October and December 2017. External scenes were shot on location in Coomera, Southport (Chinatown), Main Beach, Hope Island, with a handful of days in Brisbane. Interior scenes were shot inside a shed at Story Bridge Film’s office based at Stapylton.
“We used The Spit at Main Beach a lot as it’s beautiful from an aerial perspective and really sells the ‘Gold Coast strip look’,” added Nott.
For the international crew, filming on the Gold Coast turned out to be a unique and memorable experience.
“We shot at the pier down at The Spit and it was a night shoot. We were shooting the sunrise and nobody was there and everything was quiet. In that moment… the scenery… we’ve never seen this in China. It’s so beautiful,” expressed Liu.
The Chinese crew and cast also enjoyed their unexpected time off in the city, spending time at the beach learning to surf, whale watching and enjoying the coast’s culinary delights.
“When the Chinese crew shoot in China they never stop. They work seven days a week and 24 hours a day, but here on the Gold Coast we shoot for five and have two days off,” explained Liu.
Californian-born-turned-Brisbane-based actor Joey Vieira plays a supporting role in At Last and is a familiar face on local television and film sets. His most recent credits include Dora and the Lost City of Gold and ABC’s Reef Break.
Since moving to Queensland more than a decade ago, Vieira initially thought work would be scarce for an actor. However, work is plentiful with more and more television series and blockbusters choosing to film on the Gold Coast.
“There’s been more work here with my American accent that I’ve been up for, than Sydney or Melbourne,” he said.
Australian Producer and Managing Director of Story Bridge Films, Todd Fellman agrees work is on the rise and hopes to see more Chinese-Australian co-productions soon.
“I think each film leads to more opportunities because when everybody shares the experiences they had on At Last, with other producers and filmmakers, it opens up the possibilities of what can be done.”
Fellman has produced three official Chinese-Australian productions, including Bait 3D, Guardians of the Tomb and now At Last. All of them have been filmed in the region with At Last a game-changer.
“There’s been a number of Chinese-Australian official or unofficial co-productions, but I think At Last is quite unique in that it’s really the first project that was initiated in China in terms of the lead cast, the perspective of the film, the language of the film predominantly being Mandarin and experiencing Australia from a Chinese perspective, but based in Australia.
“The other projects that we have done were more western-style films with Chinese elements and this is sort of the first project that has successfully been completed that is essentially a Chinese-originated film that worked within Australian official co-production treaty.”
At Last created 731 jobs for Queensland cast and crew and injected $15 million into the Queensland economy. City of Gold Coast provided a film attraction incentive to help get the movie filmed in the city and was also supported by Queensland Government through Screen Queensland.”
The action-comedy, starring Zhang Jiayi, Yan Ni, Jiang Yan, Liu Yiwei, Alex Dimitriades, John Waters and Joey Vieira, will have a 10,000 screen wide release in China early next year. The Australian release date is not yet announced.