Partner up with Australia:

Film Victoria, Edko Films & Village Roadshow Entertainment Group

Shooting Chinese thriller, The Whistleblower, the largest ever Official Co-production to be made in Melbourne, has been a three-way partnership between pre-eminent Chinese producer Bill Kong, Perfect Village Entertainment’s Greg Basser and Film Victoria that evolved from incubator Irresistible Films.


Making The Whistleblower with Greg Basser and Perfect Village Entertainment was a very spontaneous and natural process. Edko Films and Village Roadshow Entertainment Group are long-term partners and when the script of The Whistleblower first came out last June, I sent it to Greg and we both thought it was a perfect opportunity for a China-Australia Co-production.

Greg and I are also partners in an incubator company, Irresistible Films. It was founded in 2008 with the aim of discovering and nurturing new Asian directors. In fact, The Whistleblower director Xue Xiaolu directed her debut work Ocean Heaven in this incubator program.

The film Cold War, which won nine statuettes in the 2013 HK Film Awards, also came out of the program. With the Official Co-production opportunities in Australia, Melbourne offered a great range of locations and has a great feel about it. With the Docklands studio near the city and the ease of getting trucks around, we were happy to look further throughout the state of Victoria. Moreover, we thought the beautiful Yarra River would be perfect for our big finale and the Hazelwood power plant has a spectacular look.

The Whistleblower

Film Victoria were very keen to have us and offered us great incentives. They were able to show us a great variety of locations that fitted the style and the context of our script and opened up the possibility of us doubling Africa here in Melbourne. We reworked the script so that Melbourne has been shot for Melbourne.

The film market in China has grown exponentially in recent years. But our film industry is still at a premature stage and co-productions are a good way to acquire the knowledge we need. Australia has a well-developed film industry in all professional senses. We believe that The Whistleblower has set a good example for film professionals from China and Australia and thus will create more co-production opportunities.

Adapting to the differences in culture and work habits between countries is a challenge that all multi-language co-productions face. That being said, filmmakers do speak the same professional ‘language’ and we just need some warm up time to fix these discrepancies. In short, there’s nothing that will discourage us in the future.

We only brought a few key crew from China/Hong Kong. About 95 per cent of our 200 crew are local Australians and we are already good friends on top of our professional cooperation work.

Building and maintaining a good partnership like we have with Greg and the Australian screen community demands an open mind for different ways of thinking, as well as different ways of doing things. It’s about good communication, mutual trust and tolerance.

I will absolutely be coming back to Melbourne for more co-productions.


Vice Chairman, Perfect Village Entertainment and CEO,
Village Roadshow Entertainment Group

Partnerships are in our DNA. They’re what we’ve built our life on and are what the film business is all about – relationships not transactions.

The strength of decades-long relationships means that nothing is a zero sum gain. If the goodwill is there, people want to work with you and it becomes a win-win situation.

Our relationship with Warner Bros. goes back to 1971 doing video distribution deals. Over 47 years it’s encompassed theme parks, cinemas globally, film distribution in Australia and New Zealand, film libraries and the physical Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast. As a natural consequence, when we looked at creating a film studio in 1986, who better to get on board with than Warner Bros. That relationship has led to the production of 90 feature films, from The Matrix trilogy and Oscar® winners like Happy Feet, up to Ocean’s 8 this year.

Our relationships also led us to working with Golden Harvest, distributing Bruce Lee films starting in 1971. We’ve had a 46-year partnership around the world and it’s given us great local partners in Asia.

On The Whistleblower we are lucky to be working with Bill Kong, the pre-eminent producer of films in China over the past three decades, who has titles like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The House of Flying Daggers; and Lust, Caution to his credit.

When we established Village Roadshow Pictures Asia in 2011 we focused on the Chinese Indigenous independent film business, which was then less than five years old. To do that you have to have a local partner and I was introduced to Bill by Michael Linton at Sony. From the get-go, Bill and I hit it off and he invited us to be part of an incubator company, Irresistible Films, which we set up in Hong Kong. The purpose was to foster young talent. One of my passions is passing things forward and with Irresistible Films we’ve been able to give a leg-up to young filmmakers.

From 2011-2017 we did business with Bill through Irresistible Films and he was like our local ‘Godfather’ in the industry. We get on well and we trust each other. That is the basis of a great partnership.

Bill rang me in 2016 and said he was thinking of making a film in Australia. He had a script and suggested it could be a treaty film (Australia and China have an Official Co-production treaty).

The story appealed to us. The concept of a white-collar thriller with the hero as an ex-pat Chinese is something different for the Chinese market, which is getting increasingly crowded. And to be able to shoot in Melbourne provides Australia with additional tourism and other opportunities.

We jumped on the opportunity to work with Bill and writer/director Xue Xiaolu who has had great success in China. Jenny Tosi and Caroline Pitcher at Film Victoria have been fantastic in assisting us on all aspects of the shoot and we couldn’t be more thrilled with how it’s going.

The Matrix

I’ve been in Hollywood for 12 years with VREG setting up the business side and getting the partnerships we have beyond the dating stage.

If you are involved in global production, partnerships are not just about sticking your hand out for funding but about working together for the longer-term good. If I am spending $100 and that generates $300 of economic activity, it’s a win-win.

It’s been important for us to work with the various arms of the Australian Government and state agencies locally and internationally. The embassy in China and the Consul General in Los Angeles are great supporters and great connectors, as are Ausfilm and Screen Australia. Plus, we love being part of the Australia-China film forums that Ausfilm and Screen Australia run in China each year. It closes the loop for us in bringing partners together.

The relationship between the Australian film industry and Hollywood is straightforward in that the skills base is there and Australians are in key roles in front of and behind the camera. The level of talent and expertise is well known and well respected. Among the studios there are no concerns about talent or crew and the state screen agencies are supportive.

70 to 75 per cent of territories around the world have incentives at 30 per cent so it really has to be a level playing field in that respect. The new Australian Government’s AUD$140million Location Incentive goes a long-way to achieving that.



The Victorian screen industry is in a very privileged position. We are taking our time in building a robust strategy and responding to the changes of the structure of screen content globally.

Our main strengths are in TV drama production and mid-range features. We have a great studio complex, Docklands Studios Melbourne, that is made for these types of productions.

We also have a prolific VFX sector and our tech skills are worldclass, evidenced by Method Studios Australia’s recent work on Christopher Robin.

We have formal and informal partnerships and collaborations with local and international partners who we support through various funding mechanisms and incentives. They range from supporting projects from story ideas through to development and production and supporting local production businesses.

We helped Every Cloud Productions monetise Miss Fisher’s Murder Mystery spinoffs and commercial products, from board games to a costume exhibition. We also helped Princess Pictures to grow and explore international opportunities and assisted NBC Universal’s Matchbox Pictures founder Tony Ayres in developing his own production company, backed by NBC Universal Studios International.

Two key projects made in 2018 and readying for imminent release are Justin Kurzel’s True History Of The Kelly Gang, developed with the UK’s Film4 and The Cry, the BBC’s upcoming drama made by Scottish outfit Synchronicity Films in conjunction with the ABC.

The Leftovers

Our involvement with Bill Kong and Greg Basser in making the Chinese thriller The Whistleblower in Victoria is a true partnership.

We have ongoing relationships with China and Chinese companies in post-production and that’s how we met Bill Kong. Now China has developed its own post-production capabilities but making a film like The Whistleblower, which is the largest official Chinese-Australian co-production to shoot in Victoria, is an enormous opportunity to grow the relationship.

Greg Basser, through Perfect Village, developed the script here and it’s been shot as Melbourne for Melbourne. It’s being made as a 40 per cent Producer Offset film, accessing federal financing and Official Co-production structures, while the Victorian Government helped with production funding incentives and the location survey.

A separate key benefit from the film will be how China views Australia in terms of tourism and getting the Chinese market more familiar with Melbourne. The burgeoning relationship between Australia and China in film is about realising the right opportunities. Elsewhere, our relationship with HBO has been phenomenal for both physical production and VFX.

Director Daina Reid who worked on HBO’s season 3 of The Leftovers, is a case in point in how we work hand in glove with our international partners on talent development. Within two weeks she was picked up to work on The Handmaid’s Tale and directed episodes 11 and 12 of season 2 of the series. Reid will create projects to work on here that will grow our capability and expertise. We like to think we are breeding talent and experience.


For more information about Film Victoria’s support, contact:

Kirsten Badcock
Head of Marketing & Screen Production Attraction
[email protected]