Production is back in Victoria in a big way with $43 million action thriller Blacklight starring Liam Neeson set to start filming in Melbourne next week.
The announcement from Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher and Victorian Minister for Creative Industries Danny Pearson comes less than two weeks after 15 screen projects commenced production across Melbourne, with hundreds of cast, crew and people in related screen businesses returning to work.
"Blacklight will bring momentum back to the Victorian screen industry," said Minister Fletcher.
Written, directed and produced by Ozark co-creator Mark Williams, Blacklight is expected to create more than 500 local jobs for cast and crew, as well as 550 roles for extras.
“This coup demonstrates Victoria’s standing as a global screen leader and the hundreds of jobs it will support is a major win,” said Minister Pearson.
In an interview with The Age, Williams said he considered shooting in the US, Canada and Australia but ultimately was swayed by Australia's success in managing the coronavirus.
Having opted for Melbourne as a location to double for an as-yet-undisclosed North American city, he "watched with a certain amount of apprehension" as the city endured a second wave of infections, but never lost confidence.
"I arrived in Australia a couple of months ago, and when I got out of quarantine and went walking around Sydney I was shocked at how many people were out and about without masks. I've been in Melbourne for the past month, and all the masks here make me feel much more comfortable, not just for our production but for everyone else in the city too," said Williams.
Blacklight will become the first film to use the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre as a studio, with the five sound stages at Docklands Studios Melbourne currently fully booked. Construction on a sixth sound stage, which will be one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, is currently underway, and is expected to be completed in late 2021.
Film Victoria CEO Caroline Pitcher says it shows Victoria’s screen industry is back in business, with our world-class talent and facilities in high demand.
“Victoria’s screen community has warmly welcomed this major production to our state and we have been able to maximise our city’s infrastructure, with Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre providing overflow studio facilities,” said Pitcher.
Blacklight is a thriller "about a troubled off-the-books fixer for the FBI tasked with pulling undercover agents out of dangerous situations" who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that goes right to the top. The production will utilise LED screen technology similar to that used in Disney's The Mandalorian.
In 2019-20, 67 productions commenced production in Victoria with Film Victoria’s support, generating an estimated $157 million in direct production expenditure and 4,140 employment opportunities.