Melbourne Screen Hub opening up opportunities for cross-collaboration

MSH directors and tenants with MSH general manager Ian Anderson, Film Victoria CEO Caroline Pitcher, Film Victoria manager production attraction and support Joe Brinkmann, and Creative Victoria senior policy officer Matt Cox. (Photo: Daniel Mahon)

Already the Melbourne Screen Hub – a newly-opened collective of service companies located in Yarraville – is a “thriving little 24/7 business”, according to general manager Ian Anderson.

The idea for the hub, now home to more than 30 tenants – across grips, gaffers, catering, camera, lighting, props, stunts and costumes – came about last year.

Previously, a number of businesses and crew used to store equipment in shipping containers and park their trucks at Docklands Studios Melbourne. However, when the construction of the studio’s sixth sound stage began, they needed to move offsite.

Thus, the idea for the Melbourne Screen Hub was born: an industry-led space where businesses could be co-located, together with an office complex with hot desking and co-working spaces.

Film Victoria and Creative Victoria worked with the screen business owners to identify a suitable site, and the Victorian Government provided seed funding of $1.3 million.

“We found there was demand for a facility where crew could store their gear, trucks and vehicles securely, and have wet weather cover to maintain the gear,” Film Victoria CEO Caroline Pitcher tells IF.

“But on top of that, we all identified an opportunity in which crew could come together in their downtime to innovate and help each other out. That’s where the hub concept came from.”

Located on Cawley Road, the site is 10 minute drive to Docklands and next to the Westgate Freeway, allowing for easy access to locations. The site is secure and open 24 hours a day.

Tenants moved on site in February, with Film Victoria hosting an official opening in late March.

The site has been compared to Canal Road Film Centre in Sydney, which GM Anderson (ex DDP Studios and Deluxe) thinks is a good comparison, noting there hasn’t been something like this in Melbourne before.

“Everybody being under one roof, it’s great for cross-collaboration with different people and different companies. A few of the younger camera guys have just taken a space for trucks, but they’re all chatting with each other and they’re sharing equipment,” Anderson tells IF.

“It’s become a community, which I think is important when you work on your own.”

In addition to Anderson, the hub is overseen by 10 directors: Andrew Jerram, Liv Pulbrook, Richie Young, Glenn Arrowsmith, Andy Pappas, Drew Rhodes, Rachel Nott, Adam Hunter, Luke Stone, and Ruru Reedy.

Prop master Pulbrook’s online prop store the Prop Collective was one the businesses that previously operated at Docklands from a shipping container, and she was among those driving the search for a new site.

She tells IF the relocation has been fantastic for her company, and there are great benefits to being able to collaborate with colleagues, chat about what jobs are coming up and what is happening in the industry.

“We all know each other. We work really closely on film sets when we’re on the same job, but it’s not often that we see each other when that job finishes,” she says.

“The hub has facilitated a place for us to all get together, share information and share knowledge.

“It’s a much easier springboard for all of us to collaborate and help each other grow our individual businesses and be supportive to each other going forward.”

In the long-term, Anderson hopes to work with educational institutions so the hub may be utilised for training, internships and placements. They have also set up a test-and-tag facility on site that anybody can come and use, and Film Victoria hopes to host events on the site to connect industry and showcase businesses.

“We’re trying to think of things to enhance the industry,” Anderson says. He’s also keen to have emerging producers visit the space and meet technicians so they can better understand their work and see gear in operation.

Pulbrook adds: “We’re all really experienced film industry technicians. It’d be really great if we could use that experience and knowledge and pass it on to the next generation in some way.”

While the hub’s warehouse space is at capacity, there is still office space, and hardstand and parking space available. When people are out on jobs, some space is available for sub-leasing.

Film Victoria will manage the funding contract for the site over the next three years.

Pitcher says: “Film Victoria is certainly committed to looking at expansion plans in terms of infrastructure holistically for screen. That doesn’t start and stop with studios. We’re looking at ways in which we can assist with creative collaboration and spaces around that.

“We already have ACMI X, but we certainly can’t ignore how productive our technicians are when they’re associating with each other in a physical environment. I refer to The Arcade, which over many years has been such success in South Melbourne for the digital games sector.

“Bringing people together under one roof creates enormous opportunity in terms of collaboration, ideas, generation, innovations and so forth, and even talent and resource sharing and troubleshooting.”

Tenants include:

  • Austunts
  • Sunday Lights
  • GForce Film Services
  • Flycam Camera Systems
  • Little Feat Lighting
  • Propstars
  • Offset Film Services
  • SK Industries
  • Stone Grip
  • The Grip
  • Two Suns Lighting
  • Savage Film Services
  • Vanessa Cern/Densie Goudy (Props)
  • New World Media
  • Fierce Rigging
  • The Prop Collective
  • The Motor Pool
  • Thompson Film Services
  • Southern Aurora Films
  • Redfox Unit Services
  • Genset
  • SFX Services