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Gold Coast film industry main attraction

A recent string of overseas blockbusters and local productions has made the Gold Coast one of Australia's most film-friendly locations.

Internationally renowned cinematographer and Gold Coast local Ben Nott, who directed photography on this year's Australian Vietnam War film Danger Close - The Battle of Long Tan, says the city is aware of the benefits of a big-screen production.

"The Gold Coast Council is great because it understands the local value of film production," he says.

"The knock-on effects can benefit local businesses. Some councils make it harder to stage a production, but the Gold Coast actively promotes itself as a film-friendly destination."

A grazier's son from central Queensland, Nott expected to end up in the family business, but a chance advertisement for a flatmate changed the course of his career.

"At 23 I moved into a share house, and one of the rooms was always bolted shut and had a weird chemical smell emanating from it," he says.

"I thought it must have been a drug lab."

But when Nott confronted his roommate, he learned the truth: it was a photographic darkroom.

"Watching film that I'd shot develop in there was a eureka moment. Pure magic," he says.

The roommate was also a camera assistant for film productions and introduced Nott to the business.

"I did it all: lighting, sound, gripping, and eventually found my way to the camera department to become a Director of Photography."

After years shooting TV commercials, in 1999 Nott broke into the world of US TV series and telemovies, which at the time were shot in Australia thanks to a favourable exchange rate.

"You live and die by your CV in this business, so I was able to build mine up quite substantially by working on these international productions," he says.

"That opened the door to The Company."

Produced by Hollywood heavyweight Ridley Scott and shot in Toronto, Budapest and Puerto Rico The Company is a six-hour, three-part television mini-series that covers the early years of the Cold War in post-WWII Europe.

"Being able to recreate moments from history and being true to the period's aesthetic, is a great photographic challenge," Nott says.

For his efforts, The Company delivered Ben a Prime Time Emmy nomination and international recognition.

In the wake of that breakthrough, Nott has brought his style - a glossy, 'big picture' look - to productions both international and local, but chose to make the Gold Coast home.

"You have to ground yourself, especially if you have a family," he says.

"Otherwise, you end up living a transient lifestyle and your kids don't really have a home."

With its local movie studios and international airport, the Gold Coast was an obvious choice.

"We are spoilt for choice when choosing shooting locations here in South East Queensland," Nott says. "If you draw a circle with a 30-kilometre radius around Oxenford, where the Village Roadshow studios are, you'll cover so many different terrains. This is a big attraction for productions when deciding where to set up base".

For Danger Close, the production crew faced the challenge of trying to recreate a Long Tan rubber plantation on the Gold Coast.

"Through the locations department at Screen Queensland we ended up finding suitable timber plantations in Kingaroy and Nerang," Nott says.

"Our challenge was to emulate the look of Long Tan to the point where the audience accepts the background canvas and remains immersed in the foreground drama. With the help of art department dressing, lens and framing choices and some atmospheric effects (smoke) I feel we were able to create Vietnam 1966 in Queensland 2018. I'm really proud of Danger Close."

Recently, Nott filmed, At Last, an Australian-Chinese co-production specifically set on the Gold Coast.

"They really wanted to showcase Gold Coast iconography, so you've got the Coast playing the Coast. There's nothing to disguise. Roll the camera!"

Between shoots, Nott enjoys being so close to the ocean.

"I love kite surfing and paddleboarding, and I love being home so I can spend time with my family," he says.

"When I'm away and I have to spend three or four months at a time communicating via Skype, it's hard."

Nott says the Gold Coast's versatility and film infrastructure make it a great place to stage film productions.

"There is plenty of top-notch crew available here to service any level of production as well as a growing number of writers and producers generating homegrown product. The film business is great for the local economy."

* This feature has been produced in collaboration with City of Gold Coast

© AAP 2019