Bowen gold rush

Category: Nim's Island News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: June 21, 2007 | Publication: The Gold Coast Bulletin | Author: editors
Publication/Article Link:The Gold Coast Bulletin

WHEN Bowen was founded in the 1800s, there was a strong push for it to become the capital of north Queensland, the political and administrative headquarters of a tropical paradise.

History shows Townsville assumed that mantle -- thanks to the Charters Towers gold rush -- and Bowen has become more famous today for its mangoes than its MPs.

Drive through Bowen today and it's easy to see time has stood still since those gold rush days and you get the impression the locals like it that way.

So when noted Aussie film-maker Baz Luhrmann started scouting for locations for his Hollywood blockbuster, Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, some locals were a little sceptical that he would take such an interest in little old Bowen, population 9000.

But the filming of the Twentieth Century Fox epic has put the sleepy little place back on the map and, since the shoot began a few months ago, 10,000 tourists have visited Bowen.

The local bakery has sold more pies in the past three months than it did in the previous three years as hundreds of cast and crew make it their second home.

In the first three weeks, the production team spent more than $2 million on accommodation alone and 98 locals are working as volunteers and 600 have become extras, including Joy Jocheim, whose family own the local bakery.

Luhrmann has taken a shine to Joy, who he says now has a speaking role in the film.

Jackman has jokingly told her she needs an agent.

Such is the community spirit within Bowen right now that Jackman's seven-year-old son Oscar has been baking cakes at the Jocheim family pie shop and he's already told his dad he wants to live there.

There's now a massive sign titled 'Bowenwood' which greets motorists as they drive into the town. Movies, as the people of Bowen can attest, are big business.

Legendary Scottish actor Sean Connery obviously likes Queensland and he recently spent $3 million on a beautiful bungalow in the Whitsundays.

Over the past decade, Queensland has aggressively targeted the movie-making industry and Deputy Premier Anna Bligh has travelled to Los Angeles on several occasions to shore up relationships with Hollywood studios.

Tax incentives are being offered to US and Bollywood production companies to lure them Down Under.

The outlook remains positive with Jodie Foster and Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin starring next month in the children's adventure film Nim's Island, also to be shot in Queensland.

Later this year, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks will film part of their new mini-series, The Pacific, in the north while Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke will be on the Gold Coast to star in the horror flick Daybreakers.

Beattie Government minders say film and television production in Queensland reaped an estimated $164 million in 2006-7. Cairns and the Gold Coast hosted Fool's Gold, the Hollywood production starring Mathew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, and Heyy Babyy, a big budget Bollywood production, was filmed on the Gold Coast and will hit the screens in India next month.

Then there's our local talent, with people of the calibre of Chris Nyst, the man who wrote Gettin' Square, soon to make his directorial debut on a feature length film.

Yet there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Murmurings continue within the industry that the Pacific Film and Television Commission can do more, that it has only scratched the surface of what is a multibillion-dollar industry.

In this year's federal Budget, further tax concessions were introduced to provide greater incentive for overseas production companies to use Australia.

Bollywood film people have complained repeatedly that the costs of securing locations on the Gold Coast have spiralled and that the city council must devise ways to alleviate these costs, which can be as high as $10,000 a day.

As the Bowen experience shows, movie-making can be a lucrative value-add for any town or city.

We have the facilities and the expertise to attract the best movie houses in the world.

It's time we became fair dinkum and really rolled out the red carpet.