Australia’s Screen Queensland is stepping up its Asia focus in an effort that will offer regional producers significant new funding and open access to one of Asia-Pacific’s most sophisticated production markets and talent pools.
The first project to tap into Screen Queensland’s broader footprint is sci-fi live-action feature, Heavens: The Boy and his Robot, from Singapore-based filmmaker Rich Ho.
The adventure film is about a struggling young pilot and his fighter robot striving to bring about peace in a time of epic galactic warfare that tore his family apart.
Heavens: The Boy and his Robot, which marks Ho’s return to movie making after a six-year break working for his church, will be delivered in August this year.
Heavens was supported by the Australian government’s Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Offset, and State of Queensland PDV.
Ho was driven by more than money in choosing Brisbane’s The Post Lounge to work with on his film, which was eight years in the making and involves pushing tech to the very edge of filmmaking limits, using real-time video game engines and tools to create environments.
“I could have done it in Singapore,” he says.
But if he had, he would have failed in one of his objectives – true diversity in language, culture and thought in a feature with a universal storyline line and setting.
His script, for instance, includes a broad range of characters all speaking their native tongues.
”I wanted it to be a vehicle for true diversity... to work with people who live that. It’s very important for me to preserve the original cultures, to work with people who understand true diversity in my content”.
He also needed an outfit willing to experiment with technology.
He found what he needed at The Post Lounge, a post/VFX facility that worked with him on testing the games tech that, for example, condensed a two-hour rendering task into five minutes with no loss of quality.
“It’s always good to be experimenting and have the experiments pay off,” says The Post Lounge’s MD, Kurt Royan. The project with Ho was The Post Lounge’s first with a Singapore filmmaker.
Screen Queensland’s fresh outreach is driven by Kylie Munnich, who joined the Aus-government-backed agency as chief executive officer in October 2019 after decades in global IP distribution based in London.
“Heavens showed that this can work and we would love to continue,” she says.
Although Covid-19 containment measures have delayed some of her regional plans, Munnich says closer ties with Asia’s production community remains a firm part of her strategy for promoting production in Queensland, the home of Aquaman, Thor Ragnarok and Hoodlum Entertainment’s Tidelands for Netflix, to name a few.
The attraction is a basket of incentives available for everything from development to post-production on small-budget series to blockbuster films; locations that span bush, mountains, deserts and cities; and expertise built up over decades.
“Traditionally we work with the U.S.,” says says, adding: “But we are super-keen to host creatives from Asia”.