When one of the world’s top film directors (George Miller) approached DNEG to set up a visual effects (VFX) studio to work on his next film (Furiosa), it was hard to say no. And it’s even harder when it’s in Australia, one of the world’s premier destinations for filming and post-production.
In 2021, DNEG opened the doors to its first full-service VFX studio in Sydney, Australia. The studio will house over 500 VFX artists when fully operational and give Australian content creators and artists the chance to work with a world-leading VFX and animation company. DNEG has received Oscars® for its VFX work on Dune, Tenet, First Man, Blade Runner 2049, Ex Machina, Interstellar and Inception.
‘Australia has a long and distinguished filmmaking legacy,’ says Namit Malhotra, DNEG Chairman and CEO. ‘It is home to world-renowned filmmakers whose work I love and respect, including George Miller. The film and TV services industry in Australia is celebrating record levels of foreign production spend and experiencing steady growth. This is testament to Australia’s incredible facilities, crew, locations and incentive programs.’
A top production and post-production destination
DNEG’s journey to Australia started in late 2020 when George Miller reached out to one of DNEG’s Senior VFX Supervisors, Andrew Jackson. Jackson had worked with Miller on Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller and his producing partner Doug Mitchell wanted to know if DNEG would consider opening a studio in Australia to handle the VFX for the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa.
‘This gave us the opportunity to open a new studio in a part of the world in which we were not operating,’ says Malhotra. ‘We could work closely with one of the best filmmakers in the world.
‘The Australian screen industry is attracting tentpole international projects, thanks to superb production facilities, world-class crews, unique locations and outstanding screen incentives. There are great opportunities for us to provide VFX services to these projects,’ says Malhotra.
‘DNEG Sydney not only allows us to capitalise on new opportunities with the Australian creative community, it gives us another way to strategically grow our worldwide operations,’ adds Alaric McAusland, DNEG Australia’s Managing Director. ‘Australia’s location means we can deliver our services across multiple time zones, spanning Australia, North America, Europe and Asia.’
In addition to Furiosa, DNEG’s global roster of projects includes Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer for Universal Pictures, animated feature film Nimona for Netflix, Bong Joon Ho’s Mickey 17, and upcoming DC superhero movies The Flash and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.
A deep pool of creative talent
DNEG is building a full-service VFX studio in Sydney that will create over 500 jobs when it is fully operational. It is recruiting for a broad range of VFX disciplines across creative, technology, production, and support roles. Over the medium term, DNEG also plans to build local animation teams. Australia has the technical infrastructure, including the data connectivity and bandwidths, required to shift large amounts of data.
‘Australia has a proven talent pool of top-tier, award-winning visual effects and animation artists,’ says McAusland. ‘The Sydney facility will be fully integrated with our global operations. ‘The Australian team will have a unique opportunity to contribute their artistry to some of the world’s biggest films and episodic series across our 10 global studios. This is generating so much significant interest locally that we’ve had to expand our talent acquisition team.’
‘Developing Australia’s world-class talent pool has only been possible through sustained and significant public policy support for the creative sector,’ adds McAusland. ‘Incentives including the Locations Offset and Producer Offset have been critical in attracting high-quality projects and investment from the private sector in screen industry skills and jobs.’
Talent is also coming to or returning to Australia. Case in point is Andrew Jackson, who relocated home from London to be DNEG Sydney’s Creative Director and Miller’s show-side VFX Supervisor. With a career spanning more than 30 years, Jackson won an Academy Award® and BAFTA for his work on Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. He received an Academy Award® nomination for his work on Mad Max: Fury Road and most recently completed work as Production VFX Supervisor for Nolan’s Oppenheimer.
Australian colleges and universities are producing future Jacksons, with a strong pipeline of industry-ready graduates with digital and technical skills. Australia has also committed funds to boost screen industry skills around the country.
To support the next generation of VFX artists, DNEG has set up its Greenlight Training program in Australia. The industry-leading program supports high-calibre graduates and junior professionals looking for their first break into the VFX industry.
Government support and incentives
McAusland says Australia’s well-established production and VFX incentives played a significant role in DNEG’s decision to invest in Australia.
‘The Producer Offset and Locations Offset provide a substantial tax offset for large-scale Australian film and television projects,’ he says. ‘The Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) offset will be fundamental to our ability to build a pipeline of high-profile international VFX projects in Sydney irrespective of production location. NSW Government programs such as Made in NSW and the PDV Rebate are also important. This combination makes for a highly competitive offering.’
‘The NSW Government’s Jobs Plus Program helped reduce our establishment costs and increased our speed to market,’ adds McAusland. ‘The program’s financial support made Sydney the most attractive option compared with other potential locations.’
When DNEG extends local services to digital games, it can utilise the Australian Government’s Digital Games Tax Offset and the NSW Government’s Digital Games Rebate.
Austrade collaborated with the NSW Government to support DNEG’s establishment in Australia.
‘Austrade provided whole-of-government support for our expansion to Sydney,’ says Malhotra. ‘They shared industry advice and brokered valuable contacts with government and the Australian screen industry.’
‘We are making a huge investment in our Sydney studio,’ says McAusland. ‘We’re looking forward to building and growing DNEG Sydney, integrating it into our global VFX and animation network, and strengthening Australia’s reputation as a global VFX powerhouse.’
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Published: 17 May 2023