Disney Eyes Early 2015 for Big-Budget Shoot in Australia

The mystery film could be the most expensive to shoot in the country

Disney is eyeing a production date of early 2015 for an untitled tentpole, with the studio asking the Australian government to increase its incentives to secure what is being touted as the biggest budget feature to shoot in Australia.

Nearly 18 months ago, Disney had an agreement with the then Labor government, announced by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, under which it would have received a $21.6 million location incentive to shoot 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea down under. But that is not the project now being eyed for the incentive, a source confirms to The Hollywood Reporter.

The $21.6 million incentive originally intended for 20,000 Leagues was just under the $25 million grant that 20th Century Fox received to make The Wolverine in 2012. That film, according to politicians, created more than 1,750 jobs, used more than 1,000 Australian companies and generated $80 million of investment across the country. It had the effect of raising the locations incentive to around 30 percent. 

Now it's emerged that Disney has asked for that $21.6 million to be increased to 30 percent of the film's budget, and union the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) has backed Disney’s call for the government to increase the incentive. MEAA said it is currently negotiating a labor agreement with Disney for wages and conditions for crew who will work on the film.

In a statement MEAA said it “understands the Federal Government has agreed to allow the additional funding incentive originally reserved for 20,000 Leagues to be reallocated to this new production, however the studio has asked for a funding top-up to 30% of the budget.”

In an open letter to federal arts minister George Brandis, MEAA director Malcolm Tulloch said the union supports Disney’s request and pressed the case for a permanent increase to the location offset. The current location offset is set at 16.5 percent, but the previous government had offered several films a higher incentive on a case-by-case basis.

“As you would be aware the Location Offset plays an integral part in securing international feature films in a very competitive global market…. However the strong Australian dollar and increased competition between international jurisdictions has led to some of the lowest of offshore production on record. This is of serious concern,” Tulloch’s letter said.

“MEAA is aware that there have been a significant number of productions that have applied for a one off increase to the Location Offset to make productions viable. None of these productions have however come to fruition. As a result of uncertainty in this area Australia is now being overlooked by international feature film producers,” the letter continues.

“We would encourage the Federal Government and your department to work constructively with the film’s producers to ensure that this production is filmed in Australia. We would also encourage the Federal Government to consider increasing the Location Offset to 30% permanently and thus support in the long term the feature film industry in this country,” Tulloch said.

Aug. 18, 5:40 p.m. A previous version of this story incorrectly named 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as the Disney film being prepped for a 2015 shoot in Australia. THR regrets the error.