Aussie film, TV drama production jumps 68%

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SYDNEY -- An expanded slate of TV drama and the big-budget feature "Australia" pushed the value of film and television drama production in Australia to AUS$625 million ($544 million) for the fiscal year ending June 30, a 68% increase compared with a year ago, according to the Australian Film Commission's annual national production survey released Wednesday.

Although production benchmarks increased across most parts of the sector, the AFC was cautious in heralding the increases, branding them merely an "improvement."

AFC CEO Chris Fitchett said the return to stronger levels of production activity was "good news," particularly on TV drama production. In total, 33 feature films and 645 hours of TV drama were made in Australia in 2006-07, and another 16 projects had their post, digital and visual effects work done here.

While the overall increase in production came off a low base from the previous year, this year's total is well in excess of the five-year average of AUS$545 million ($474 million) measured by the AFC.

Six foreign features totaling AUS$111 million ($96.6 million), up from AUS$27 million the previous year, were made Down Under. 2Production of local features was valued at AUS$218 million ($190 million), boosted by Baz Luhrmann's epic "Australia," which was shot during the year in Queensland and Western Australia. Overall, the number of Oz features made was slightly down, 24 compared with 29 in the previous year.

Three co-productions also were made with AUS$19 million ($16.5 million) of their budgets spent in Australia.

With Fox backing "Australia," foreign investors provided the bulk of financing for the feature film slate, contributing AUS$198 million ($172 million), or 73% of the total.

Private investors tipped just AUS$13 million ($11.3 million) into production; production and distribution companies contributed AUS$14 million ($11 million); and government agencies provided AUS$45 million ($39 million), or 17%, with AU$37 million ($32 million) coming from the Film Finance Corp.

The number of hours of TV dramas increased substantially -- from 583 the previous year to 615 -- with production expenditure totaling AUS$253 million ($220 million). Such foreign TV dramas as "The Starter Wife" and "Monarch Cove" spent AUS$29 million ($25 million) in the country.

Australian TV broadcasters, pay TV services and production and distribution companies contributed 71% of the AUS$192 million ($167 million) of funding for the TV drama slate, with commercial free-to-air broadcasters providing the bulk of the financing. Investment from pay TV companies also increased during the year.

The Film Finance Corp. invested about 14% of the total finance, or AUS$39 million ($34 million), in TV dramas.

In addition, two years worth of data collected for the postproduction and visual effects sector show that it has become significant part of the overall production sector.

Income to postproduction companies came to AUS$129 million ($112 million), or 30% of total production expenditure, with foreign production accounting for about 28% of that.
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