/News 28.11.22


Village roadshow Studios (VRS) on Queensland’s Gold Coast, has been running strong, adapting and expanding for 35 years. At the studio for 32 of these years has been the personable and hard-working yet humble Studio President, Lynne Benzie.

Lynne has a hands-on approach to facilitating production, she is a perfect combination of all things required to run a successful, world-class international studio facility and can often be found with her companion, Chloe (the Shih-Tzu/Poodle) by her side. Ausfilm was delighted to catch Lynne for a lively Q&A about life in the Village.

Please give us a brief intro about how Village Roadshow Studios came about, and how you came into your role

The Studios were built in 1986 by Dino De Laurentiis, who built four sound stages, the admin building [where Lynne’s office is now located] and a few workshops. When Village took over the company in ’88 Stanley O’toole come in to run it, and built stage five. Village established a 50/50 part-ownership between Village and Warner Bros. When I commenced in 1990 they had just completed Stage 5.

I started as the PA for the General Manager. As the Studios started to grow my role started to change. In 1996 I was promoted to Studio Operational Manager, in 2003-2008 to Vice President and in 2008 to President.   

My role involved dealing with productions, marketing the studios, project managing building stages and water tanks, all the legal aspects, and maintenance whenever it is required. I have never just sat there in my office if something needs repair and my team are busy. I’ll go and help, I’ll do whatever is required to keep things running smoothly.

How many stages does Village have now, were there any specific productions that contributed to the major expansion of the space as we know it?

The facility now has nine stages, and Warner Bros. over the years has been a key player in our expansion. They partnered with VRS to build Stages 7 and 8 in 2000, along with workshops and storage. We partnered again with Warners in 2001 to build the big water tank for Fool’s Gold. They funded the cost of the tank, the Queensland Government contributed towards that cost and Village provided the land.

In 2018 we built Stage 9, thanks to the Queensland Government, as it was originally built for the Commonwealth Games, but Marvel were able to utilise it before the games started for Thor: Ragnarok [filmed in 2016]. It has been in use since its first day, so it has been a great asset for the studios.

In that case, Stage 9 is in use at the moment, are you allowed to say what is currently taking place in there?

It is in use. Kong [the Godzilla vs. Kong franchise] have been occupying Stage 9. They are back again, filming the third feature. The last day of shooting just finished on Wednesday [Nov 9th].

Can you tell us some of the changes you’ve seen in the Aussie international film industry over your career?

When the Studios first started, nobody really knew that studios in Australia existed. We were constantly marketing, we would travel regularly to the US and continued to promote the existence of the studios.
There was no incentive and no film commission. Eventually, the Pacific Film and Television Commission came on board, now known as Screen Queensland and then the industry started to grow.
Over the years, the crew depth has expanded and we have also expanded. Now everybody is migrating to Queensland on a level we’ve never seen before, which is great. Industry work used to be more erratic, now it’s clear, there is a sustainable career for people who want to work in the industry.

It’s great to witness the longevity first-hand; I’ve worked with some of the same crew since I started. Some have children in their 20s and 30s also working on production. When productions are here for so long, they are like a little family at Village.

Pictured right: Kate Marks, Ausfilm CEO and Lynne Benzie, President of Village Roadshow Studios in a Queensland rainforest

Do you have any favourite productions which have taken place at VRS?

Each one has been a favourite for different reasons. I’ve seen so many great things, and interacted with them on so many levels.
Aquaman was just incredible, Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales was phenomenal as well, they’ve all been so different. The really big ones are great because they employ so many crew, so many businesses benefit from it, and they leave infrastructure behind. Nautilus is here at the moment as well. What they’ve built is just spectacular.

Each one is a favourite, there’s no way to pick just one.

What it is about Queensland and VRS that keeps production coming back?

It’s the whole package; the diversity of locations, incentives, exceptional crew, the can-do attitude and of course, the studios. Village has three water tanks – we have attracted around 12 productions specifically because of the water tanks. Also, Queensland has so much variety and amazing weather and it’s all very close, there’s no need to travel far to get to locations, dense jungle to city-scape is all within reach. It’s user-friendly, the local council has a film development division – City of Gold Coast – who, along with the [Australian] Government and Screen Queensland, work closely with productions and are able to provide great support.

We have hosted so many great large-scale productions, Thor: Ragnarok, Elvis, Aquaman, San Andreas, The Shallows, and so on. Everybody has realised that we’ve got everything to get a great production really working well. Once they start to come, they see it for themselves, it’s a proven track record at this point. Eric McCleod [Producer of the Kong franchise films], has been back three times. Rob Cohen did both San Andres and Aquaman.  Producers and studios are constantly coming back now.

The Gold Coast has grown, we’re competing with the rest of the world on a level that is sustainable and expansive. We also work with domestic productions, which is also important to ensure we support all aspects of the industry. Additionally, there’s the lifestyle advantage we have here; there are not many places where you can get an apartment right on the beach and drive half an hour to arrive at the Studio.

“In fact, I had a challenge for Eric and Rob, whoever came back the third time would get a street named after them. Eric did come back with the third instalment of Kong; because they had already filmed Skull Island and Godzilla vs. Kong at the Studios. Before Eric left we did an official photo for the opening of a street.”

Lynne Benzie

Do you have any words of advice to offer other aspiring females rising up in the industry or wanting to?

Be very curious, never give up, and network.

There are many diverse people working within the industry. People outside the industry may not realise they have more of an opportunity than ever before to work in production. Some may have experience in seemingly unrelated fields, like engineering, accounting, dressmaking, there’s a need for all these roles within the industry these days.

If you don’t have success on one job application, don’t stop. Be curious, be diverse, you might want to be a producer or director, but it is important to be open to working in any department you can, as it may open the door to meeting the right people. Don’t give up, and keep open to opportunities that are available.

What are your favourite things to do on your days off?

Relax, walk the dog, keeping fit and catch up with my friends. My sister is back in the UK and I only have my cousin in Queensland [Lynne is originally from the UK] so my friends are really important to me, they are like my family, so I like to spend time with them. Sometimes on the weekend, it’s just nice just to walk the dog, chill out and relax when I’ve had a really busy week at work.

I like to go to the movies, read books, it depends on the weekend and the weather, but I’m just enjoying life.

Do you have a favourite beach in Queensland?

When I travelled to Queensland with my sister in 1981, the one I always remember is Whitehaven Beach, a pure white silica sand beach, I’ve never seen anything like it. The pristine beaches that we have down here on the Gold Coast and the long stretches of uninterrupted beach, it’s phenomenal. My lifestyle here, with the beaches, is just amazing.

Can you tell us what you love about your team and working at VRS?

They are all very enthusiastic, dedicated and committed to production. It can get very busy, we regularly have multiple productions running. All have different needs, different personalities and different requests, so it’s important that we work well as a team. To see a film come in and to watch it transpire and grow is amazing.

Have you always wanted to work in the film industry?

No, when I left school, you never had the diverse opportunities that we have today, we were usually encouraged to be a secretary, a nurse, a teacher or a housewife.
I travelled to Australia because my sister came for a holiday, I had been doing secretarial work in engineering, so when I came to Australia I worked as a PA with a few different companies. I worked in Sydney, moved to Melbourne and travelled on a work trip to the Gold Coast for the ’88 World Expo. I quickly realised that the Gold Coast was the place to be, and moved up here one month later. Village Studios were looking for a PA to work with the General Manager so I applied, and because of my diverse background I was successful in getting the role – I had worked at EMI with sales and marketing, engineering, IT, in the building trade and I had worked in hospitality. The role needed so much variation and I had to learn the ropes as I went along.
So no, I never aspired to work in the industry, I just happened to be there in the right place at the right time.

Do you have a favourite film or series?

There’s a few. My parents used to watch the old black-and-white movies, and I still love them to this day. Films like Ben Hur, Maltese Falcon, Great Escape. There are so many that stimulate the senses on so many levels but I am not into horror movies – I have tried watching but get too scared. I do like sci-fi movies, I would have to say The Terminator started it all for me. I still love going to the cinema, I love that immersion. It’s just you and that big screen that you can get lost in.

Any final words you would like to add before we wrap up this wonderful interview?

It has been a great journey and I’m proud to be a part of this amazing industry.  It can take a long time to get projects locked in, but the rewards are outstanding. I have been lucky to have developed some long-standing friendships with producers, studios and executives. Not just in Australia but in LA. It is great to see all the crew, the set-building and everything it generates for the community and local businesses.
It is like a little village when they’re all here, thousands of people, incredible at what they do. It’s actually quite sad when they all leave because you become attached to the people you work with.
People now to like to come to my office to visit Chloe [Lynne’s Shih-Tzu/Poodle], it’s not about me or my shoes anymore, it’s all about the dog (Lynne laughs). They come down for hugs when they’ve had a hard day. I’m quite proud of seeing what the crew have done, and what they achieve. Despite how demanding it can be, the rewards are worth it.