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SYDNEY – Fueled by big-budget productions like The Great Gatsby and I, Frankenstein, the value of feature film and TV drama production rose 25 percent in Australia for the year ended June 30, according to annual figures released Friday by government agency Screen Australia.
Total expenditures on productions in Australia amounted to $642 million, or AUS$623 million. Feature films accounted for 47 percent of 2011/2012 spending, with 28 Australian features accounting for a total of $305 million. All of those were funded by the so-called Producer Offset, which provides a tax rebate of 40 percent of qualifying expenditures on an Australian feature.
Foreign production was down with no U.S. features shooting on location in Australia during the year. The absence of Fox’s cancelled TV drama Terra Nova, which had boosted figures the previous year, also was a drag.
Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann pointed to the Producer Offset as an integral part of having large-budget feature projects in Australia. “To work with Australia’s skilled film technicians and facilities, and to bring large scale projects like The Great Gatsby to Australia, we can’t have our head in the sand about the fact that the country is a long way away” from Hollywood, he said. “Without the Producer Offset, there is simply no way that we could have picked up on and continued the creative relationships that have evolved with us in Australia and that have so enriched our creative process.”
He added: “Possibly the greatest filmmaking asset Australia has is our crews and creative collaborators. This is a hidden and somewhat invisible asset, and one that could not have contributed to the creation of The Great Gatsby without the support of the Producer Offset.”
The tax incentive has been in place for five years, and the figures show that the five-year average for combined Australian TV and feature drama expenditures was up 49 percent over the previous five-year average.
The industry is now waiting on a ruling from the federal government on whether it will increase the location offset for foreign films from 15 percent to 30 percent as it did in a one-off for The Wolverine.
The rising popularity of Australian TV drama accounted for 45 percent of all production in the latest year. Demand for adult TV drama remains above the five-year average, but there has been a shift from long-form series to high-end mini-series and TV movies. TV movie production is the highest it has been in 12 years, Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said.
Children’s TV drama, however, has contracted in recent years, partly due to a gradual decrease in the number of co-productions. Production, including Australian, production dropped further this year.
However, according to Harley, “2012/13 looks set to show higher levels [of children TV production]. A number of programs have been earmarked for production from the commercial free-to-air networks and the ABC.”
On the downside, just 3 foreign features, one each from India, Nepal and Japan, and just five TV dramas, were made in Australia during the year, accounting for 8 percent, or $50.4 million, of production spending.
Meanwhile, the post-production, digital and visual effects sector saw the largest amount of activity in five years, with films such as Ted, The Hunger Games and The Avengers, coming to Australia. That’s largely the result of an increase in the level of tax incentives from 16.5 percent to 30 percent last year, which helped provide $41 million worth of work to the sector for the year.
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