Local talent behind SA-made film Hotel Mumbai

South Australian-made film Hotel Mumbai has hit cinemas across Australia and overseas, based on incredible events that unfolded at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai during deadly terror attacks in 2008.

Hotel Mumbai is SA director Anthony Maras’ debut feature, filmed partially at Adelaide Studios within the SA Film Corporation, as well as on location in India, in 2016.

The film is based on the real-life events that unfolded at the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in November 2008, when gunmen stormed the building in a string of attacks carried out across the city over three days, killing 164 people.

Filming started in 2016, with Adelaide Studios transformed to replicate the opulent interior of the luxurious palace hotel, where heroic staff made sacrifices to save their guests.

On set at Adelaide Studios during the filming of Hotel Mumbai.

Anthony Maras, who is well-known for his 2011 short film The Palace, spent a year researching and interviewing survivors and co-wrote the film alongside John Collee. The film stars Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs, and Adelaide actor Tilda Cobham-Hervey and received a standing ovation at its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year before its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival.

Julie Ryan who heads Adelaide production company Cyan Films was one of six producers on Hotel Mumbai and says about 230 people were employed during filming and post production, with 66% of them from SA.

Although the Glenside film precinct is a world away from the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Julie says the set was adaptable in replicating the hotel’s interior.

Director Anthony Maras, centre, on set.

“Given the Adelaide Studios were built in the late 1800s – and the Taj was early 1900s – it meant that some of the architecture could match and we could build the sets and utilise things like the window frames and high ceilings,” she says.

“The studios and tenants were extremely adaptable and helpful, particularly the tenants on the second floor who allowed us to film in their corridors outside their offices.

“There are moments in the film where you come out of a corridor in Adelaide and literally walk into a set in Mumbai – and that’s the genius of (production designer) Steven Jones-Evans.”

Completing post-production and assisting in the execution of the seamless transitions between interior scenes in Adelaide and exterior scenes in India, was local company KOJO.

Dev Patel plays Arjun, a brave waiter at the hotel.

KOJO’s post production and VFX team was engaged in post-supervision, picture and sound services and VFX on the film, taking on additional staff to work on the project.

Executive director of KOJO’s post production/visual effects department, Marty Pepper, was Hotel Mumbai’s VFX supervisor and DI colourist.

Marty, whose portfolio of work includes Storm Boy, I Am Mother, and soon-to-be-released Top End Wedding met director Anthony Maras back in 2005 when working on Wolf Creek.

Actor Angus McLaren plays Eddie.

He describes Hotel Mumbai as an “all-consuming project” after being involved from pre-production stages and travelling to India three times during filming.

“It was a very holistic thing, I feel as if I almost lived it (the film) for those years,” he says. “There is an incredible sense of respect in the film (for victims and survivors) and that was led by Anthony.”

KOJO worked on 750 shots in the film, with the company’s entire post-production and VFX team involved “in some shape or form”.

“When we shot at Adelaide Studios the art department was quite incredible in turning the space into a luxurious hotel, and we played a part in how that was all integrated into the scenes in India. Part of the VFX was making sure the light and colour transitioned seamlessly,” Marty says.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey on set.

Hotel Mumbai is one of a string of films recently made in SA, a state which producer Julie Ryan and KOJO’s Marty Pepper both say punches above its weight in the film industry.

Julie notes the representation of SA films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, with four of the six Australian films screened at the event having a connection to SA – I Am Mother, Animals, The Nightingale and Top End Wedding.

“When you look at the recent Sundance Film Festival and add up how many of the Australian films had connections to SA it really does show that we are punching above our weight,” she adds.

Industry in focus: Creative Industries

Throughout the month of March, the state’s creative industries will be explored as part of I Choose SA.

South Australia is home to a thriving ecosystem of creative businesses and specialists who are delivering world-class works VFX, TV and film production, app development and the VR space. Read more creative industries stories here.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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SA film Storm Boy to reach global audiences

It’s the Colin Thiele classic that captured the hearts of a generation and now the story of the loveable boy and his pelican has returned to the big screen.

The much-anticipated re-imagination of the 1964 novel Storm Boy will hit Australian cinemas on January 17, bringing to life the adored tale of the adventurous South Australian boy and his pelican, Mr Percival.

The 2019 Storm Boy will also enjoy international releases across New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Middle East, Poland, Yugoslavia, Canada and the US.

The last time the Storm Boy story was brought to the screen was in the 1976 film starring Greg Rowe, Peter Cummins and David Gulpilil.

The Coorong region is again the backdrop for the 2019 remake, filmed entirely in SA using a mostly local crew as well as a number of local creative and film industry practitioners.

Jai Courtney, left, plays Hideaway Tom, while Finn Little plays the young Michael Kingley, holding Mr Percival.

The contemporary retelling features a grown-up Storm Boy, Michael Kingley (Geoffrey Rush), who has vivid flashbacks of his childhood, centred around his unbreakable friendship with orphaned pelican, Mr Percival.

Michael recounts to his troubled teenage granddaughter Maddie (Morgana Davies) the memories of his loner father Hideaway Tom (Jai Courtney), the friendly Aboriginal man Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) and the how they raised three rescued pelicans.

The desolate and rugged coastal landscapes of the Coorong region are stretched across the screen, while the township of Port Elliot also features in the film.

Dramatic yet poignant scenes are complemented by natural recordings of the Coorong environment, and enhanced by pieces performed and recorded by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

The cast and crew were based out of the SA Film Corporation’s (SAFC) Glenside studios, with filming also taking place in the Goolwa area and the Coorong National Park.

Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson) and the young Michael Kingley.

Storm Boy is an Ambience Entertainment production, with major production investment from Screen Australia in association with the SAFC.  The film’s post production involved the work of Adelaide creative agency KOJO and local VFX company Resin.

Storm Boy was producer Matthew Street’s first feature film shot in SA and he says he would have no hesitation about filming in the state again.

“SA has a highly respected industry with companies like Rising Sun and now Resin, these are world class visual effects companies,” he says.

“The good thing was working with the crew, they were a-list and would match anyone in the world.”

Matthew describes the 2019 Storm Boy as a “proudly South Australian film” and says he and fellow producer Michael Boughen set out to create a contemporary retelling of the classic story that would resonate with new generations and international audiences.

“Our main aim out of the story and the performance is that it would resonate globally. The human story just happens to be set on the Coorong, but it doesn’t matter in what language, it’s a story that should travel.”

Matthew says Storm Boy has brought many economic benefits including short-term business activity for the Fleurieu Peninsula communities during filming.

“We had all those people accommodated down and around the Coorong and Goolwa, so it (the benefits) spilled off into communities and secondary things let alone the tourism benefits nationally and globally for SA.”

As with all remakes and adaptations, the 2019 Storm Boy isn’t immune to the pressure of living up to the emotion, simplicity and beauty of the novel and first movie.

“We had a lot of pressure to make sure this re-imagination was worthy because there’d be a lot of critique beyond just the traditional film critique,” Matthew says.

“We weren’t going to make it unless we could deliver the heart and soul and emotional feeling you get from reading Colin Thiele’s incredible book.”

Storm Boy held its world premiere in Adelaide on January 6. It will be released nationally on January 17. Brand South Australia has teamed up with SONY to give 10 SA families the chance to see the film. Entries close January 14. Click here to enter.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Homegrown VFX companies striking gold in film boost

Adelaide’s largest visual effects companies are seeing a surge in work on major Hollywood and Australian films as the state’s new 10% rebate kicks in.

Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) and Kojo have both recorded their highest growth year as the rebate for post production, digital and visual effects comes on top of the Federal Government’s existing 30% rebate.

It has led to Rising Sun Pictures establishing an entire new floor space at its Pulteney Street studio, with managing director and joint founder Tony Clark saying the studio is building on its busiest time in a 20-year history.

The space would house a projected 60 to 80 new staff as South Australia strengthens its global reputation and draws more work away from countries like rebate-rich Canada.

Hollywood blockbuster Thor launches in the theatre.

“In the past year we’ve achieved $22.7m in revenue, when you think about it over its 20 years, the company has probably contributed more than $250m to the state’s economy,” he says.

“The money flows directly from RSP staff into the economy, creating jobs for baristas, hairdressers, in schools or in housing.”

The highly regarded studio has led the way for SA, working on Hollywood blockbusters like Thor: Ragnarok and Gravity, and its current work was expected to see staff numbers peak as high as 280 by the end of 2018.

This includes work on the next Predator and the next X-Men films, along with Dumbo for Disney, directed by Tim Burton.

Rising Sun has also just finished its first major project for a Chinese film production, a fantasy adventure called Animal World that has secured a distribution deal with Netflix.

The Rising Sun crew.

Tony says he believes growth is also being spurred by the steady rise in film production in the US, Europe, Australia and China, triggering parallel demand for ever-more spectacular visual effects.

Earlier this year, another major development for the local industry was announced with global entertainment giant Technicolor saying it would open a $24m visual effects studio in Adelaide.

Its chief executive Fred Rose predicted the studio Mill Film could generate 500 new jobs in SA during the next five years.

Tony welcomes the news, saying building SA as a hub for the industry means it will attract a greater pool of talent – but means existing businesses must prepare for a more competitive labour market.

In a move to ensure more creative talent keeps appearing in the local jobs pipeline, Rising Sun Pictures has expanded its education program operating in partnership with the University of South Australia.

A new undergraduate course in visual effects skills was added to the offering and the Graduate Certificate program expanded.

The company also continues to search globally for talent, recently hiring veteran visual effects supervisor Tom Wood, who earned a 2016 Oscar nomination for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road.

At Kojo in Norwood, chief executive Dale Roberts is also feeling optimistic saying the creative services company’s film and TV section of the business “had its biggest year in history”.

Creative agency Kojo has experienced a surge in the number of project it’s taken on in the past year.

“In the past 12 months we’ve done a record number of projects, I think six, in a good year we would usually do three,” he says.

Dale says the new government rebate has certainly helped trigger more international work.

The team has worked on American-Australian thriller film Hotel Mumbai, on Storm Boy featuring Australian and Hollywood star Geoffrey Rush and earlier this year finished a second series of Wolf Creek for Stan.

“We’re also working on a new movie starring Hilary Swank called I am Mother and a new Netflix series called Pine Gap that was shot here earlier this year,” Dale says.

“Post production and visual effects is definitely the growth area for us.

“We are really good at it here in SA, we offer a world-class product out of Adelaide and because we have a different cost structure to somewhere like Sydney or London or New York, we can offer competitive pricing.”

Australian actor John Jarratt plays notorious serial killer Ivan Milat in TV series Wolf Creek.

Kojo’s numbers have increased to 90 across four offices in Australia along with about 30 contractors, with Dale saying its two other core businesses are also staying strong.

Its advertising, marketing and communications team recently won the contract for BMW events nationally, including for famed car brand Mini.

Meanwhile, Kojo sport won the contract to operate lighting, sound and video at the new Perth’s Optus Stadium – it already has the job at Adelaide Oval – and Dale says Kojo will pursue other stadium work during the year.

Kojo also has work with AFL teams Adelaide and Port Adelaide, along with Richmond, Essendon, West Coast and Fremantle.

“We’ve had an incredible year of growth, in the past year, our overall revenue has grown 20% year on year, and staff numbers have grown 12 to 15%,” Dale adds.

Adelaide-based VFX studio Resin is also experiencing growth from the state’s burgeoning creative industries sector.

The company says it has experienced 200% growth in the past financial year.

Resin’s portfolio includes the highly anticipated remake of SA classic, Storm Boy, as well as film Hotel Mumbai, which is set to open the Adelaide Film Festival in October.

The company is also currently working on the first ever Netflix original Australian produced series, Tidelands.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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