Action fantasy I, Frankenstein films on location in Melbourne
New action fantasy movie I, Frankenstein filmed on location in Melbourne, Australia. Based on a graphic novel, the film follows Frankenstein’s monster in a dystopian city 200 years after he was created in the events of Mary Shelley’s original book.
Australia was chosen as a filming location partly because the country is a base for writer/director Stuart Beattie. Brisbane and Sydney were among the cities considered, but the period architecture in Melbourne was considered the best fit for the story’s modern dystopia.
“Much of I, Frankenstein is set at night in a darkened world,” said Location Manager Drew Rhodes: “Melbourne has elements of European architecture, from Victorian to Gothic to Art Deco. Melbourne also offers a Central Business District which has narrow cobblestone lane ways adjacent to buildings of bluestone and sandstone, an aesthetic that appealed to the producers.”
Production was based at Dockland Studios Melbourne, a facility close to the city centre that offers five sound stages, the largest of which is 25,000 square feet. Other films shot at the studios in recent years have included Ghost Rider and Knowing – both starring Nicolas Cage – and also the Steven Spielberg-produced World War II miniseries The Pacific.
Outside the studio, the production team filmed at several historic parts of Melbourne, including Ormond College, which is part of Melbourne University, as well as the Regent Theatre and the artists’ colony known as Montsalbat, which became Doctor Frankenstein’s lab. There were extensive set builds at each location to meet the team’s production needs.
Filming also took place at the city’s Argus building, the former home of the Argus newspaper that had been abandoned for 15 years.
The City of Melbourne has a well-established structure for dealing with productions of this size and we have a very close working relationship.
Drew Rhodes, Location Manager
“It had a great broken feel to it,” Rhodes recalled: “A central void had been created when the building was gutted through all floors including the roof so the building was open to the elements.
“I frankly didn't think we'd get permission to use the building, but when we did the challenge became how to make the building safe for use and get the large amount of infrastructure in place for seven nights of filming. This required an extensive cleaning and refit of equipment such as stairs and a freight lift within the shell of the building.”
Many of the biggest challenges of the shoot arose from the combination of night filming and getting permissions from the relevant authorities. The team worked with complex lighting rigs, prepared for large-scale stunt work and needed to make the locations look rundown, in keeping with the film’s dystopian feel.
“The City of Melbourne has a well-established structure for dealing with productions of this size and we have a very close working relationship,” Rhodes added.
“We were thrilled that I, Frankenstein chose to film in Melbourne and work with Victoria's talented screen practitioners,” commented Jenni Tosi, head of Film Victoria: “The quality and diversity of our locations were a big part of securing I, Frankenstein - our European and period architecture, gothic cathedrals and our edgy laneways were perfect for the production.
“Melbourne has excellent studios and facilities, talented and hardworking crews, financial incentives and a film-friendly reputation that we’re extremely proud of - we’re supportive of all aspects of production and we work closely with local councils and government agencies to ensure filming here is as easy as it can be.”
“Everything you need is [in Melbourne],” said writer/director Stuart Beattie: “There are great visual effects houses, great locations and great sound stages. We were basically able to create an absolutely believable European-style city.”
Australia has been edging back into the international spotlight over the past year or so, with Angelina Jolie having chosen filming locations in Queensland and New South Wales for her World War II biopic Unbroken. Dwayne Johnson’s big-budget earthquake disaster movie San Andreas will also shoot in Queensland, doubling the region for California.
The Australian government remains under pressure from the production industry to increase the value of its formal filming incentive programme, especially since New Zealand introduced sweeping changes to its tax credit offerings in December 2013.
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