Chris Hemsworth will star in 'Escape from Spiderhead' (photo: Gage Skidmore), while Toni Collette toplines 'Pieces of Her' (Photo: Eva Rinaldi).

The Federal Government has splashed $21.58 million to lure two Netflix titles to Australia: feature film Escape From Spiderhead, due to shoot on the Gold Coast, and eight-part series Pieces of Her, bound for Sydney.

Both projects have been coaxed here via the government’s $400 million Location Incentive Program, with the expectation that combined they will inject around $160 million into the economy and create 770 local jobs.

Notably, both projects star homegrown talent. Chris Hemsworth leads the cast of Escape from Spiderhead, while Toni Collette, Bella Heathcoate and David Wenham are attached to star in Pieces of Her, executive produced by Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories.

“Australia’s world-class production sector is renowned for being hardworking and these productions will support hundreds of jobs – from carpenters, lighting technicians and set designers to actors, crews and special effects teams,” said Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher in announcing the projects.

“This is also an exciting opportunity for locals to work alongside homegrown stars including our very own Chris Hemsworth and Toni Collette, who have taken Australia to the world stage.”

Hemsworth stars alongside Miles Teller and Jurnee Smolett in the Joseph Kosinski-directed Escape From Spiderhead, set in the near future where convicts opt to reduce prison time by participating in experimental drug trials.

Filming will start on the Gold Coast later this month, with the Queensland Government also supporting the production.

There will be workforce development opportunities for local industry in production, health and safety, production design, and hair and make-up.

“Escape from Spiderhead will give a great boost to the local economy. We’re working hard to secure productions like this for the Gold Coast because we know they create local jobs and pump cash into local businesses,” said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

“As Europe and America continues to struggle with the pandemic, Queensland’s reputation as a world-class film destination, alongside global recognition as a safe environment for filmmaking, has led to unprecedented demand to produce projects here.”

The thriller centres on an inmate (Hemsworth) who tries to out-smart his overseers to save himself and the female inmate (Smollett) he’s come to love. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the script, which is based on a short story by George Sanders, first published in The New Yorker in 2010. 

It is produced by Eric Newman for Screen Arcade along with Hemsworth; Oren Katzeff and Geneva Wasserman for The New Yorker Studios; Reese and Wernick, Tommy Harper and Jeremy Steckler.

Pieces of Her will shoot from January in Sydney’s Homebush. The production has also received support from the state government’s Made in NSW fund, into which it last week announced it was pouring an extra $175 million over the next five years.

Based on the 2018 Karin Slaughter novel, the series is set in a sleepy Georgia town where a random act of violence sets off an unexpected chain of events.

Writer/producer Charlotte Stoudt is the showrunner, with Minkie Spiro reported to direct. Made Up Stories’ Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Casey Haver EP with Lesli Linka Glatter, Stoudt, Spiro, Slaughter and Janice Williams.

“Through the NSW Government’s Made in NSW fund, and with our successful management of the COVID-19 pandemic making NSW a highly attractive place to film. We are sending a clear message that we are open for business, a safe location to film, and keen to welcome great opportunities to the state,” said NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin.

“Netflix’s Pieces of Her will deliver a substantial investment to the state’s economy and provide a significant amount of work for local cast and crew along with catering, security and other on-set operation.”

The production team will work with Screen NSW, Ausfilm and AFTRS on industry training needs and opportunities for emerging filmmakers.

Collette said: “Given the challenges the film and television industry has faced this year on a global level, I am thrilled that the producers and Netflix have been able to relocate Pieces of Her to film in Australia so that production can remain on track and this story can be told. On a personal level, for me, it also brings with it the great joy of shooting at home in Australia.”

Netflix APAC director of production policy Debra Richards said: “We greatly appreciate the support of the Australian Government through its Location Incentive program, together with the Queensland and New South Wales governments, and the City of Gold Coast, to secure these productions which will deliver significant contributions to Australia’s screen industry and economy. We’re looking forward to working with more of Australia’s great talent and crew, as well as the award-winning production service businesses.”

These announcements follow that of four other major international projects due for Australia, also lured by the location incentive.

They include three series for Universal Studio Group, Young Rock, Joe Exotic and Irreverent, shooting back-to-back at Brisbane’s Screen Queensland Studios over the next 18 months, and Mark Williams live-action feature film, Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson, currently shooting in Melbourne.

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