Former Disney Studios Chair Dick Cook to Make Two Adventure Films in Melbourne

Dick Cook GETTY - H 2016
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His Dick Cook Studios will shoot big-budget adventure features 'Ranger's Apprentice' and 'The Alchemyst' at the Australian city's Docklands Studios Melbourne.

Former Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook is set to make two fantasy adventure films in Melbourne, Australia, through his production shingle Dick Cook Studios after securing upward of $20.5 million (AUS$30 million) in incentives from the Australian and Victoria region governments.

Dick Cook Studios (DCS) will establish its Asia-Pacific base at Docklands Studios Melbourne and will be headed up by Melbourne-born managing director Kate McLean.

The Docklands Studios Melbourne facility is set to expand with the construction of a $31.5 million, 3,700-square-meter soundstage, it was also announced. As one of the largest in the southern hemisphere the new stage is designed to allow Docklands Studios to attract and host large-scale productions while still providing world-class facilities for smaller TV and film projects.

The production company has a pipeline of major family-focused projects in development. Production will start in the second half of 2020 on its first feature, Ranger’s Apprentice, based on the adventure book series by Australian author John Flanagan, which follows the adventures of a young orphan chosen as an apprentice ranger to keep his kingdom safe.

Following that film will be The Alchemyst, based on the fantasy novel series The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by famed Irish author Michael Scott, about an alchemist who holds the secret to eternal life. The film will be co-produced by Australian production company AMPCO and its executive director Mario Andreacchio, who has had the project in development since 2012, initially with Lorenzo Di Bonaventura. Filming on The Alchemyst will start in early 2021.

Cook said: “Melbourne is an extraordinary city for screen production with a strong track record of both local and international productions — we are proud to now be a part of the wonderful industry here." He added that The Alchmeyst is “exactly the kind of quality family entertainment we look forward to producing.

The two films are expected to provide a $192 million boost to both the Victoria region's and Australia’s economy and employ around 4,500 cast and crew. Each film will use the services of around 800 local businesses.

“Dick Cook has an impressive résumé at Disney and is now establishing an exciting new venture into family-friendly entertainment in Australia. This is a vote of confidence in the Australian screen industry and the production facilities on offer, and recognizes the depth of local capability and talent we have available to bring films to life,” Australia's Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said.

The Australian government made its financial commitment for the movies under its $140 Locations Incentive Fund, which, when used with its Location Offset, effectively provides a 30 percent rebate for eligible large-budget international productions.

Kate Marks, CEO of locations marketing agency Ausfilm, said the announcement takes the number of international productions attracted to Australia to 10 in the 15 months since the introduction of the Australian Government’s Location Incentive Fund.

“Around the world we are seeing a shortage of studio space, paired with increased demand in content production out of the U.S. and China," Marks said. "It is an astute and timely decision by the Victorian Government to expand and build a super stage within Docklands Studios Melbourne."

Currently in production in Melbourne is Paramount Television and Anonymous Content’s 10-part adaption of best-selling novel Shantaram and Netflix original Clickbait.