Mayor pushes studio lite as Quay plans sink

WA premier Mark McGowan’s retreat from last year’s election commitment of a $100 million film studio on Victoria Quay is a chance to revisit Fremantle council’s more modest proposal, says mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge.

Earlier this week Mr McGowan revealed on radio station 6PR the WA government was now looking at alternative sites because of “a range of problems” that weren’t originally identified at the quay.

“It’s a very old site; it’s not a greenfield site – it’s a brownfield site,” Mr McGowan later told a press conference.

“Obviously the cost of construction has also gone up significantly since the last year or so.

“The government remains committed to it – it’s a great project – but we have got to look at alternative sites.

Some activity

“It could be there is still some activity that occurs in Fremantle.”

Ms Fitzhardinge says that last reassurance makes sense.

“Freo is the creative capital of WA and the local film industry lives and breathes here, it just means we need another site,” she said.

Given the cost blow-out she says the government should have another look at Fremantle council’s proposed film hub at its empty depot site on Jones Street, which was aimed at supporting local companies rather than trying to attract big players like Netflix.

The mayor was quoted by Perth Now suggesting the soon-to-be demolished Tafe campus on Beaconsfield as a potential location, but when the Chook asked how neighbours in the proposed medium-density residential development surrounding the site would cope with a noisy film studio, she said Jones Street remained the council’s preferred option.

Tafe campus

“That was the original site we went to the state government with ages ago, and the film industry said ‘we could go into there’, but the government wasn’t able to make that happen quickly enough,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.

She said many of the productions being filmed around Fremantle were using locations such as Leighton Beach or High Street rather than studios, so the Tafe site initially looked feasible, particularly with already-built infrastructure like a kitchen/restaurant.

Fremantle MLA Simone McGurk said she was “very focused on ensuring all options are explored towards delivering at least some part of the proposal in Fremantle – whether it is the whole project or some aspects which will support our film and TV industry.

“The McGowan Government is committed to transforming Victoria Quay into a modern hospitality, tourism 

and cultural hotspot for Fremantle.“The first step in this process has been the launch of the exciting new Gage Roads brewery just opened at A-Shed – transforming the heritage asset into a terrific new Western Australian-owned venue for Fremantle,” Ms McGurk said.

“The Future of Fremantle Planning Committee is continuing its work to develop land use and economic development opportunities for Fremantle’s inner harbour – to ensure we develop a comprehensive strategy to make Fremantle more vibrant and a better place to live.

“This work will inform which projects are ultimately pursued for Victoria Quay. What’s clear is that Victoria Quay will absolutely be transformed into a terrific, revitalised asset for our city.”


 ‘Deeply disappointing’

A FILM production company launched in Fremantle on the back of the McGowan government’s film studio promise says the election backflip is “deeply disappointing”.

Fremantle Motion Picture Company director Simon Holland said the city’s under-utilised SEwest end was the perfect location for a studio, adding a “vibrant and much-needed additional industry in the beating heart of creative arts in Western Australia”.

Goldilocks zone

Mr Holland said Fremantle was in a “Goldilocks zone” for film production with its historic streets and buildings, cafe scene and world-class  councillor (and tourist destinations.

“The town has anW immense capacity to support a film industry and use talented and hardworking crew to communicate uniquely Australian thoughts and ideas through film; an art with proven profitability and business modelling nd associated industry benefits.

“The Fremantle Motion Picture Company sprang from the singular hope that the West Australian government would offer a rare opportunity to develop an industry additional to the grinding of rocks or the shipping of livestock. 

“We believe West Aussie ideas are valuable, and should be explored and developed here, with business backend to launch careers send more talent out into the atmosphere with Fremantle being the perfect hub for this industry.

“The broken promise stunts the belief that this government believes in Western Australians and our capacity to impact the world, but really, it damages West Aussies’ belief in the government’s ability to support them. 

“The film art – all those wonderful stories, filled with inspiring characters, thousands of jobs and millions of dollars have a home, and that home is Fremantle, Western Australia.”

Fremantle Theatre Company director Renato Fabretti was more sanguine, saying a studio was a big win for the film industry where ever it lands.

“Fremantle is a great choice for it, clearly, given our supportive community and burgeoning arts scene; a true and unique flavour to our port city,” Mr Fabretti said. 

“And I hope it does land nearby if not in the wider City of Fremantle itself. 

“The team at FTC would embrace the sharing of artist and creative technicians that this would naturally lead too, as well as the lift it would offer the scene in general.

“I think the location discussed had clear strengths in terms of the public facing element and business sustainability of such a film studio ‘quarter’ plan, and parallels the benefits of such sites in Melbourne and the Gold Coast, and I personally always assumed there’d be additional builds nearby south of Fremantle to support that arm of the build, that could take advantage of more private sites.”

Mr Fabretti said film studios around Australia were rarely just a “big shed” so there was scope for associated activities even if the quay didn’t work.

“On the one hand it’s about having support sites close-by to house post production teams, set building crews, equipment housing and the wider technical elements that support what happens on the sound stages,” he said. 

Theme parks

“On the other hand, these production necessities are often paired with basic revenue producing elements like a public cinema complex, restaurants, bars, film-themed recreation and theme parks. 

“I assumed – and these are just my own assumption based on knowing a little bit about how hard it likely is to maintain revenue streams for such endeavours – that the sound stage and film studio build would likely have to balance and marry these two facets of the ecosystem to protect itself for the years ahead.

“I’m positive Fremantle would take a huge leap forward with the capacity a working sound stage would offer it! 

“But I’m also sure that getting it right may take time right now.”

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