Byron Studios has appointed former Network 10 chief Paul Anderson as its CEO, with the executive to work with co-founders Will Gammon and Mark Holden to steer its development.
Currently Byron Studios currently offers four facilities across the Northern Rivers, while also developing with Ballina Shire Council plans for a new and ambitious ‘state-of-the- complex and media precinct.
Anderson relocated to the Northern Rivers earlier this year, having stood down from his dual roles as 10 CEO and EVP ViacomCBS Network International Australia and New Zealand last March after 17 years.
While Byron Bay and surrounds have always been home to creatives from across the arts, Anderson sees the planned studio complex as filling an infrastructure gap that will give sustainability to the region’s screen and media industry, as well as providing a multiplier effect on the economy.
“It’s exciting for the whole region,” he tells IF.
“Creating something sustainable, that allows an industry, skills and education to grow up around it, is a unique prospect.”
His appointment coincides with that of ex-Endeavor (IMG) VP Charlotte Brigel as Byron Studios’ general manager and national and international sale executive; Steve Mitchell as director of operations and engineering and Steve Bocking as operations manager of the Alstonville studio complex.
The plans for the new Ballina studio come amid a push for more sound stages and infrastructure capacity across both NSW and Australia, with Russell Crowe readying his own complex only two and a half hours drive south in Coffs Harbour, a small studio planned for Cairns and a $100 million studio planned for Perth.
It also coincides with the Northern Rivers region growing its profile both domestically and internationally as a production hub, having recently housed Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, Stan’s Eden, Netflix’s God Favorite Idiot (which shot in Byron Studios Alstonville) and the upcoming setting for controversial Netflix docu-soup Byron Baes.
The proposed site for the new complex is Tuckombil Quarry in Alstonville, with Byron Studios successfully signing a memorandum of understanding with the council last week to begin to look at rezoning the land.
This now allows it to finalise its business case as it seeks funding from state and federal governments and private investors.
Of the quarry, Anderson says: “It’s just perfect for a film studio; it’s a massive area. It’s got an amazing lake in the middle that’s a really valuable asset for filming.”
The hope is to build the studio in a staged rollout, the first of stage of which would see two sound stages (1,500 sqm and 700 sqm), construction sheds and truck and car parking built by June 2022. This would replicate to some degree what exists at its current site in Alstonville, which is a temporary accomodation.
By early 2023, the aim is to then be able to use the quarry, including its lake, as a backlot, and to have industry commercial space, production offices and support services in place later that year.
Down the track, the hope is to also build three further stages (1 x 2,500sqm, 2 x 1,500 sqm), support infrastructure, a modern art gallery, restaurant, theatre and conference hall. Also flagged is the potential for an industry hub, education and training and additional accommodation.
PwC Australia has completed a feasibility report on the proposal and is currently engaged to deliver a strategic business plan.
Further to its growth plans, Byron Studios last week became a member of Ausfilm.
Gammon and Holden founded the organisation in 2016 to address the need for studio facilities, technical expertise, connectivity infrastructure and specialised crew in the region.
The current Alstonville studio complex contains two soundstages (975 sqm (10.0m high) and 400sqm (4.5m high)) with pillarless spans. Green screen facilities and a
96 sqm ‘blank house’ are also available.
Gammon, who is also the founder of the Byron-based Cumulus VFX, said: “The Byron Studios board and team are exceptionally proud to welcome Paul as our chief executive officer as we approach a new era in the company’s growth.
“Paul brings a tremendous wealth of screen industry experience to our executive team and a personal passion for the content sector that will be an exceptional asset to the development of our studio plans and the Northern Rivers creative industries business community at large.”