What The Matrix Has Done for Sydney
The Matrix sequels are massive. The Daily Telegraph gives you an idea of what it took and some of the shooting techniques that you can expect:
So this trilogy is an exercise in stretching capabilities. Few businesses have the means or the influence to shut down cities and galvanise disparate public agencies into coordinating such a stunt, let alone afford the insurance cost.
The Matrix Reloaded's production team is one of those businesses. It has dumped at least $150million into the local economy in the past 12 months, creating more than 1000 jobs. Meanwhile, one insider suggests 200 people have been employed for more than two years. This compares with a standard film shoot which is usually completed within three months. "It's an industry," he says.
Yet the $600million production is more than just a boon to Sydney; it is creating a whole other web of hitech industries likely to generate multibillion dollar revenues.
Already, The Matrix Reloaded is the most anticipated film on a number of film fan websites and the single biggest project that's ever been filmed here. Yet simultaneously, video games (for both console platforms and online) have been filmed in Sydney and source material for a TV series, a documentary, cartoon and comic books have been generated here.
Rather than being mere spinoffs, most of the ancillary projects are complementary, even integral, elements to the film. For example, the video game Enter The Matrix is believed to focus upon stars Jada Pinkett Smith and local actors Anthony Wong and Lachy Hulme. It alone is bigger than most Australian films.
A series of animated shorts, by some of Asia's most cuttingedge designers, for the internet and later a DVD titled Animatrix will possibly get a cinema release prior to May as mini "prequels" to The Matrix Reloaded.
Sydney has proved to be just the place to generate a film like The Matrix, which was given to the filmmakers with the strict instructions to produce "the best they could with a limited budget".
"It was a remarkable situation [in 1998] for us, in that the studio gave us an amount of money to make the picture but [told us] 'We don't want you to skimp though'," Silver says. "It was a great time -- there was great interest in the Australian tax system and the Government in general to help motionpicture production here," he says.
"Sydney is a city that's gone out quite deliberately, quite consciously, to secure itself a new industry," says NSW Premier Bob Carr. "We didn't have international movie making, certainly not on this scale, before 1997."
Fortunately, the 2000 Olympics prepared the city for major logistical inconveniences The Matrix has given Sydney. While Mission Impossible II was a nice postcard, The Matrix Reloaded and Revolution use Sydney's CBD as an intrinsic part of "the matrix".
"Sydney's getting a bit of a reputation for doing sophisticated and complex things," says the NSW Film and Television Office's Chief Executive Jane Smith.
The Matrix's current city shoot, shown on a computer simulation, passed through the Premier's Department Filming Roundtable with ease less than a month ago. The only hiccup has been the tension between the US producer and some departments that wanted a higher public profile for this month's filming.
The Roundtable, formed three years ago for such largescale film projects, included in this instance representatives of Sydney and North Sydney councils, the Police and Fire Departments, Road Traffic Authority, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Sydney Buses, State Rail Authority, Environmental Protection Authority, Film and Television Office and the Premier's Office.
While the fees might be sizeable, Smith contends "Sydney now has the capacity to do complex shoots with relative ease".
Exactly what this shoot will become won't be known until May or November next year when the sequels are released but precedent suggests something special.
The reclusive Wachowski brothers have already given cinema the famed "bullettime" technology in which hundreds of still images shot simultaneously are morphed into a 360 degree cinematic image.
They're believed to have also invented a threedimensional "blue screen" room for the upcoming films. This would allow characters to become more convincingly immersed in specialeffects environments.
"What the computer is letting us do is make movies in an environment where anything is possible," says Silver.