News 07.04.21

A CUPPA WITH U.S. PRODUCER, E. BENNETT WALSH



Ausfilm was fortunate to sit down and have a quick cuppa with the first American in the entertainment industry let into Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Producer on Mortal Kombat, E. Bennett Walsh.

The film, like many films, was exploring locating in a number of territories. Director/Producer Simon McQuoid and producer James Wan are both Australian and are deeply familiar with Australia’s vast and diverse locations and its talent pool. Walsh, also no stranger to filming in Australia, turned to his trusty go-to filming destination. Having seamlessly accessed the Australian Federal and State screen production tax incentives on film productions in the 2000’s and 2010’s, he recalls the incentives as all-round “easy” and “very positive”, and were one of many reasons he continuously returns to Australia for production and post-production.

“Well, I’m well-versed. I’m maybe too versed about the incentives. Studios call me: ‘Can we do that?’, ‘No, you can’t do that’.”

E. Bennett Walsh, Producer, Mortal Kombat

A large production in more ways than one

The production engaged 650 crew in total in Australia. They had two units going like there were two films, who were used to doing six to eight-week shoots. They did 13 weeks on the first unit and 10 on second unit. A total of 23 weeks of shooting with both the same size of 140 people shooting crew per unit.

The Aussie VFX vendors

Having worked with Aussie-based VFX Supervisor, Chris Godfrey, on Stealth back in the early 2000’s in Sydney, Walsh was delighted to work with him again to create the 1,700 shots for Mortal Kombat. This humongous amount of shots first started at 900. VFX Producer, Prue Fletcher, oversaw this enormous film from pre-vis to finals.

The production is a perfect example of a large number of Australia’s leading post, sound, music and VFX companies working together and delivering all the post, sound, music editorial, score record and VFX remotely to the US from four cities across Australia: Adelaide in South Australia, Perth in Western Australia, Melbourne in Victoria and Sydney in New South Wales.

The lead VFX vendors were Ausfilm Members Rising Sun Pictures, Method Studios Melbourne and MR. X. The production particularly benefited from these three lead vendors due to the fact that all of them had specialities in 3D character animation, which Walsh noted “the pool of vendors in the world that do 3D character animation is very small”.

Adelaide based Rising Sun Pictures were awarded a diverse package of 600 stunning vfx shots including the film’s climactic scene, which depicts a furious battle involving Cole Young (Lewis Tan), the film’s hero, and the rival ninja warriors Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada). Walsh trusted Method Studios Melbourne as he has worked with them numerous times and knew that a character like the four-armed monster Goro had to been done with Method, as well as the robot-armed Jax, the winged character Nitara, and the sharp toothed Mileena. Mr. X truly showed off its immense talent as it pioneered the character of Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and his bionic arm. Other Australian VFX vendors who supported the production were KOJO (post and VFX) and Resin in Adelaide and SLATEVFX and Fin Design + Effects in Sydney.

With RSP, they not only carried out character design, but also the design of the props, in which Walsh notes is not as common amongst Australian companies. Normally, there is an art department, along with a concept artist, but another way to approach character and prop design is with a VFX company doing the design, as what they’re designing is going to end up being what they have to do in the shot. “So, they’re working on it from a two-point perspective. And they did a great job”, says Walsh.

E Bennett Walsh
This picture: Producer, E. Bennett Walsh. Picture at top: Director/Producer Simon McQuoid & Walsh.

Remote post is the way of the future!

Walsh recalls his time based at Spectrum Films for nearly two months. Spectrum, situated on the Fox Studios lot in Sydney, had converted a new mix stage into ATMOS. Their colour grade took almost three months, a longer than usual process, “the shots are very complicated. They have layers, and we’re trying to get a look down that was positive”, says Walsh.

Having gone into Trackdown, the music and scoring stage next door to Spectrum and SLATEVFX, and observing their bookings, he notes that a lot of their work is remote scoring.

“So, we did remote recording because my composer stayed in LA, and we did it here in Sydney. And like, there’s no reason why you can’t do that. And the PDV Offset [30% rebate from Federal and 10% rebate from SA, NSW and Victoria] works for that.”

E. Bennett Walsh, Producer, Mortal Kombat

If the director, the editor and the sound designer are in LA, Walsh is insistent that a filmmaker can have the whole sound department here in Australia. Along with what he deems as “robust VFX companies” in Australia, it is well-known and esteemed global producers like E. Bennett Walsh that will continue to work with the post, sound, music and VFX talent and facilities and keep reaping the benefits that Australia has to offer.

Reap the Rebates in Australia

Want to know more about Australia’s screen production tax rebates? The Australian Government offers a 16.5% Location Offset combined with up to 13.5% merit-assessed Location Incentive grant (effectively 30% on your qualifying spend in Australia), the Producer Offset (40% for features/20% for non-features) and a 30% PDV Offset.

You can also combine a Federal screen production tax rebate with a combination of Australian state government rebates and grants. New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia all offer between 10-20% PDV Offsets. Meaning your production could claim up to 50% rebates in post, sound, music and VFX eligible production spend in Australia (conditions apply) whether your film is shot in Australia or not.

For more information about how Australia’s incentives work read this Factsheet, or email Ausfilm’s Erin Stam.