Queensland needs 'Hobbits' to boost tourism: producer

Queensland needs to exploit the movies and television programs it makes to attract more tourists, according to an industry veteran.

Producer Jonathan Shiff is currently filming the $12 million second series of the smash hit Mako: Island of Secrets at the Village Roadshow Studios in Coomera.

The action adventure series about mermaids is a spin-off from the H20: Just Add Water aimed at pre-teenage girls.

Multiple distribution deals, including with US on-demand service Netflix, have seen it draw approximately 300 million viewers worldwide.

Mr Shiff said New Zealand’s ownership of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies was a great example of using a creative product as a badge of national pride.

Northern Ireland is also cashing in on fan-based tourism, with tourism advertisements and products based on Game of Thrones locations.

“We are bringing 300 million people a week pictures of Queensland, and it would be great to join the dots more so Tourism Queensland can ride that wave,” Mr Shiff said.

“I don’t necessarily need to see Qantas planes with Mako Mermaids on it ... but people often go through the gates at Seaworld saying ‘Where are the Mako Mermaids?’

Mr Shiff said his show already had loose cross-promotion in place with Seaworld, but there were many more avenues to explore.


“I think there’s a lot of potential in doing so, and there’s no downside,” he said.

“The intellectual property is out there, the brand is worldwide in its fame, it can be leveraged on.”

The Queensland government invested $720,500 in production development funding to secure Mako Mermaids and its 500 associated jobs for the Gold Coast.

Along with Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and earthquake blockbuster San Andreas, the series is part of a pick-up in activity in the Queensland film industry, which had been in the doldrums two years ago.

Arts Minister Ian Walker said he was keen to explore ways such productions could have an economic flow-on effect once cameras stopped rolling.

“I think creating other attractions that will build on the exposure Queensland gets through film is a great idea, so I’ll be talking to [Tourism Minister] Jann Stuckey about it,” he said.

“The Premier visited Disney studios when he was in the States recently and he’s come back with some ideas with linking tourism and film as well.”

Screen Queensland chief executive Tracey Vieira took on the role in February, and said a key focus would be fostering the emerging sector which could produce the next hit.

“I’m really focused on television, because that is the core of training here in Queensland,” she said.

“We really need more television and that’s something I hope to deliver.”