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Sir Ridley Scott keen to film next three Alien prequels here

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop considers raising the Location Offset in 2016 budget as Sir Ridley Scott’s next Alien film is welcomed to Sydney.

Not only is Sir Ridley Scott set to shoot his next Alien film in Sydney, but if all goes to plan, Australia will be the home to all three of the upcoming prequels.

Alien: Covenant, starring Michael Fassbender, was lured to Australian shores thanks to a grant from the Federal Government, and will pick up where prequel Prometheus left off.

“When this finishes there will be another one and then another one, which will gradually drive into the back entrance of the Alien film in 1979,” Mr Scott says, adding that together they will answer some of the great mysteries of the Alien world.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she first caught wind of the fact Mr Scott was eyeing Australia as a potential location last September in New York.

“I was very interested to hear him speak of the quality of our infrastructure, the depth of talent of our people (and) the fact that the Australian dollar is doing the right thing, in his eyes,” she told media in Sydney.

Ms Bishop says she is “deeply interested in promoting our creative economy”. That coupled with the investment a film the size of Alien would bring and a director of Ridley’s calibre, made it an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

The Foreign Minister noted that the screen industry both here and abroad have been lobbying successive Australian governments to lift the Location Offset to 30%, as other countries have, to make Australia more competitive and attract big-budget films to our shores.

She acknowledged the resistance from Treasury and others to the idea previously, “but in view of Prime Minister Turnbull’s urging that we be more agile and more nimble, I brought back the proposal to the Minister of Communications Mitch Fifield”.

In October, Ms Bishop says the Location Offset was lifted from 16.5% to 30% in the form of a grant to secure two productions – Alien: Covenant and the next Thor film, starring Chris Hemsworth – for filming in Australia.

“We’re now considering in the context of the next budget the permanent changes to the location offset to bring them in line with the two other offsets, the Producer’s Offset and the Post-Production Offset,” she says.

Alien: Covenant will deliver some $60 million to the NSW economy, and Sir Ridley Scott says they will be looking to employ local technicians, visual effects companies, businesses and actors to work on the film.

“The key in this instance, is bringing in a film that will employ upwards of 600 personnel who will be Australian,” he says.

Mr Scott, who named Muriel’s Wedding, Breaker Morant, Walkabout and The Overlanders with Chips Rafferty as some of his all-time favourite films, says he feels something of an affinity with Australians.

He added “the whole point” in shooting Alien: Covenant here is to then hopefully film the following two other Alien films in Australia as well.

“I think if this is successful it’s already a nice flag to say let’s film the next here,” he says.

For Ms Bishop, this is just another reason why changes to the Location Offset are being flagged, so the screen industry can continue to grow through experience on these big-budget flicks.

“Hearing Sir Ridley talk about sequels and further films, indicates not only how our taxation framework must remain attractive, but we also want to build that pool of talent and expertise,” she says.

Recently, the Location Offset hasn’t been the only area of contention, with discussions around lifting the Producer’s Offset, which for film is at 40%, but for television remains at 20%.

With local TV content increasingly expensive to make, talk has been brewing around the idea of doubling the Producer Offset, available to qualifying television productions, from 20% to 40% to bring it in line with film.

“Creating an even playing field would ensure that Australian content remains relevant to our diet of screen content,” Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason says.

Mr Fifield said at the recent Screen Forever conference that it was something the Federal Government was aware of and was examining.

Alien: Covenant will film in Sydney’s Fox Studios in 2017, with a scheduled release in October 2017.