Perth to get first film studio

25 October, 2013 by Don Groves

A plan depicting the Perth Film Studios. 


A film studio with three sound stages will be built on the campus of Murdoch University, intended to become a hub for production in Western Australia, according to plans revealed today.

The Perth Film Studios would be part of a major commercial development which would include a 180-room hotel, conference centre, bars, gymnasium and a cinema.

The development is a joint venture between Stephen Van Mil’s Impian Films and the UK’s Extraordinary Group. Van Mil, who is interim CEO of the project, told IF he estimates the studio would cost about $50 million. He hopes construction will start in early 2014 after planning approval is granted and that the studio will open within two years.

He says the Murdoch University, which supports the concept, plans to open a film and TV training facility on the site.

Acknowledging that studios per se are an unprofitable business, he says the revenues from the commercial operations will make the entire development viable. “With the cash flow from the revenue streams it would not matter (financially) if we did not shoot one film in the studio,” he says.

He describes the lack of a professional studio in WA as an “embarrassment,” noting films such as Kriv Stenders’ Kill Me Three Times shoot interiors in the old Sunset nursing home which the State Government intends to close. He says ScreenWest conducted a feasibility study which showed the need for a purpose-built studio.

The development will be a 50/50 co-venture between Impian and Extraordinary, funded by a combination of debt and equity. He was speaking from London where he was meeting financial institutions.

Van Mil met Extraordinary Group CEO Chris Samwells in Cannes and discovered he was planning to build a studio in Perth for which it had developed a set of plans. That meshed with Van Mil’s desire to see Perth get its first studio, hence the decision to form a co-venture.

According to the Extraordinary Group’s website, it coordinates film fund investment and structures the finance of the special production vehicles to benefit from subsidies and tax incentives.

One subsidiary is developing a complex near Girona in Spain that will have three studios including a large digital film studio. Another unit produces animated feature films and sponsored animated video games.

Impian is developing a batch of films including Fred Schepisi’s The Drowner; Shallows, a drama based on a Tim Winton novel which US writer Ellen Fontana is scripting, to star Emma Booth; and Tango Underpants, a feature inspired by a short film of the same name, co-directed by Miranda Edmonds (Impian’s director of development) and her brother Khrob Edmonds, starring Booth as an Australian backpacker who loses her mojo after a bad breakup and heads for Buenos Aires.

Also on his slate are The Damned, a film based on the true story of two Western Australian teenagers who murdered a girl they had befriended, adapted from a Reg Cribb play, to be directed by Andrew Lewis; and Big Numbers, a comedy based on Mick Colliss’ book about four rugby-playing guys who formed Australia’s first national Sudoku team and competed in the world Sudoku championships in Goa, India.

The Drowner has been in development for several years.  Van Mil says the script is being finalised by John Collee and Schepisi and he is determined it will shoot in 2014.