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Marvel producer on filming Thor in Oz

Thor: Ragnarok producer Brad Winderbaum on the challenges of creating a Marvel movie in two years and if they will shoot in Australia again.

Thor: Ragnarok / © Marvel Studios

Marvel producer Brad Winderbaum confirmed Chris Hemsworth was “fundamental” in bringing the Hollywood production to film in Australia.

Brad Winderbaum at the Thor: Ragnarok screening in Sydney / Photo credit Mark Metcalfe Brad Winderbaum at the Thor: Ragnarok screening in Sydney / Photo credit Mark Metcalfe

“He lives in Byron Bay, loves the Gold Coast and thought it would be a great place to make the movie,” he says.

“And we agreed. The guys who sit above me at Marvel were able to make the financials work out and it offered us an opportunity to put a lot of the natural beauty of Queensland on screen. It was a brand new palette for our films and gave the Thor universe a new landscape to play in.” (Also look for the Aussie Easter Eggs that New Zealand director Taika Waititi hid in the film.)

However Winderbaum says it wasn’t just the location that drew them Down Under.

“We had world class facilities and a world class crew that was amazing to work with. You could bring any project to Australia and make something amazing,” he says.

“It certainly made it easy for us. The Village Roadshow stages were a great place to shoot. It was also a great place to live. Filmmaking is like being a part of a travelling carnival, and to be able to live on the Gold Coast for six months making this film was an awesome experience.”

Three more Marvel films are scheduled for a 2018 release – Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp – but all have either wrapped or begun production overseas. Is there the possibility then of another film in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) to grace our shores?

“The potential’s always there. I certainly hope we do,” he says.

“Obviously a lot of things have to fall in line to get any movie made anywhere. But I’m definitely an advocate for it. Personally I would make another film here in a heartbeat.”

So far, the MCU is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time and comprises 17 films, with nine more in different stages of production. The release dates of titles are announced years in advance (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is slated for a 2020 release), which Winderbaum says keeps them on track.

“We’re fortunate to plant our flags in release dates early, so we always have a target. Hell or high water, we’re going to release that movie on a specific date and that movie’s going to be the best it can be by the time it comes out. So we’re always moving fast and challenging ourselves creatively every step of the way.”

He says each Marvel film takes about “two to two and a half years to make” from development, through to production, post and release, “just because of the sheer scale of them.”

However that’s but a fraction of the time it takes to make most features in Australia. Just take a look at the timeline of these four Screen Australia-supported titles, which all released in 2015:

Began development* July 2006 June 2007 May 2008 October 2013
SA development funding Single project development Dec 2009 & Feb 2012** Single project development Jun 2012 Single project development Aug 2009, Nov 2011 and Feb 2012 Single draft and late stage development Aug 2014
SA production funding Feature production Oct 2013 Feature production Oct 2013 Feature production Aug 2013 Feature production Oct 2014
Principal photography start date November 2014 May 2014 October 2014 November 2014
Post-production start date December 2014 June 2014 December 2014 December 2014
Aust. release August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015
Total time (first funding - title release) Approx. 9 years, 1 month Approx. 8 years, 3 months Approx. 7 years, 5 months Approx. 2 years, 1 month

*Provided by producer
**Last Cab to Darwin also received development funding from one of Screen Australia’s predecessor agencies the Australian Film Commission in August 2006 and June 2007

With the pressure of the MCU timeline nipping at their heels, Winderbaum says it’s “always a challenge” to make sure a movie has enough development time, but also hits its scheduled release date.

“We had world class facilities and a world class crew that was amazing to work with.”

“Frankly, I’m not sure we ever do stop developing it. We try to give ourselves enough time to write a great script, but we’re also very adaptable and want to keep ourselves open to exploring new ideas throughout the process,” he says.

“Even in post-production there’s a lot of quote-unquote ‘writing’ that happens where you’re re-crafting the story and discovering new ways to use ideas that you’ve shot in ways that are fun and unexpected.”

With that MCU timeline in mind, the development of Marvel’s first female-led movie Captain Marvel, which is slated for a 2019 release is well underway (read more about it here).

“By the way, that project’s going to be unbelievable,” he says.

And while on the subject of female-driven films, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of a standalone Black Widow movie.

“You might be pleasantly surprised. Keep your fingers crossed,” he says, adding, “I’m confirming nothing.”

Here’s hoping it happens. And films in Australia.

Thor: Ragnarok releases in Australian cinemas on 26 October through The Walt Disney Company.