Australian production value rises in 2008-09

Foreign productions drop to just $20 million in fiscal year

SYDNEY -- Increasing audience demand for local TV dramas and the first full year of the operation of the producer offset, versus a sharp drop in foreign productions in Australia, has seen the value of production here rise slightly to AUS$688 million ($619 million) overall in the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to Screen Australia’s annual National Production Survey released Thursday.

The 29 Australian feature films in this year’s slate had total budgets of $328 million, while 646 hours of Australian and co-production TV drama spent $277 million, the highest amount in eight years and up on last years spend of $231 million.

Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley described the survey findings as “an important result for the industry."

“2008-09 was the first full year of operation for the Producer Offset, and while a single year’s data makes it difficult to attribute the strong level of Australian production to the effect of the Offset alone, the outlook is encouraging, particularly considering the financial uncertainty that characterized 2008-09.”

There was, however, a sharp drop in foreign productions, which spent just $20 million here, compared to $226 million the previous year. Six Indian features were made here with production spend of just $1.8 million each.

Screen Australia described it as “an extreme contraction of foreign feature production” given that expenditure usually averages $88.2 million annually and there is generally at least one high-budget US title shooting here.

However, several foreign titles have started production since July 2009, including “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”

The low foreign spend was offset by two big budget local animations -- “Guardians of Gahoole” and “Happy Feet 2” which started production during the year and an increase in co-productions. Local feature film production totaled $328 million, well above the previous year’s $153 million and the five-year average of $175 million.

Confidentiality provisions in Australian tax laws prevent Screen Australia from publicly identifying productions that used the producer offset but the agency said it estimated that the offset would provide between $135–145 million in indirect government assistance to this year’s slate.

Elsewhere income from post, digital; and visual effects work was $39 million for 2008-09.