I am taking this straight from the Commercial filming and photography page for Sydney’s Cockatoo Island, a piece of public land that lies in Sydney Harbour “upstream” from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and at the junction of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers.
“Cockatoo Island offers some exciting locations for film and photographic projects. As well as a striking harbour location, Cockatoo provides backdrops ranging from striking heritage buildings to gritty industrial remnants.
The island contains remains of a convict prison, houses dating from the 1840s, immense workshop spaces, cranes and dry docks and many more unusual locations – all within a 10-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay.”
So it sounds like this island, the largest in Sydney Harbour, might be worthwhile for a photo-shoot. I then checked the rates and just about fell backwards out of my chair. For a full day (10 hours, daylight only) the published rate is $1,250 including GST. That’s for a “low intensity” shoot which limits photography to publicly accessible areas only, with minimal set up allowed. If you want to do “medium intensity” commercial photography – which allows you one ‘back-of-house’ location per day, that’s $1,500 for the daylight hours.
And how does the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust – the gatekeepers of Cockatoo Island – define “commercial photography”? Is it just high-level advertising photography? No … many other image-taking activities are considered to be commercial as well.
This is the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust’s definition of a commercial activity: “Use of Trust lands as a backdrop for other filming or photography purposes is classed as commercial activity requiring prior consent and the payment of a licence fee. Examples of this use include teaching photography, taking photos for publications, public display or sale, creation of filming/photography portfolios, photoshoots and the making of short films.”
So on that basis editorial photography for magazines is a commercial activity and thus liable to pay the $1,250 a day fee. As is taking pictures for postcards or public exhibition and the creation of filming or photography portfolios. To class all of them and especially the latter as commercial activities leaves me more than a little gobsmacked.
My 18-year-old son is a budding film-maker – well he has just completed his major work for the Higher School Certificate which was a short film – but the very idea that you would class him as a “commercial” film-maker because he is making a short film which he may put into a portfolio is absolutely absurd. OK, the Trust … “permits photography or short-film making without a fee by enrolled students for the sole purpose of completing an education assignment set by an accredited secondary or tertiary education provider.” But anything beyond that is considered a commercial activity. (“Low intensity” filming will set you back $2,000 a day on Cockatoo Island.)
Now the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has probably done a very good job on preserving and restoring Cockatoo Island’s maritime heritage. Indeed, since August 2nd of this year Cockatoo Island has been part of Australia’s latest World Heritage site addition as a component of the Australian Convict Sites that were first nominated back in January 2008.
However when it comes to understanding the extreme financial pressures that can bear down on small-scale film-makers and photographers – or even attempting to understand the concept of “freedom of expression” – it would appear that the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust are complete galahs.
For further details see – http://www.cockatooisland.gov.au/venues/film.html