New film rebate model has biz looking up Down Under

FFC chief calls shift 'monumental'

A new era for Australian filmmakers is dawning with the promise of a deeper working relationship with Hollywood and vastly in-creased government subsidies, according to an executive who has played a key role in bringing the indigenous industry to an apex.

As the industry starts to move from a direct-subsidy and tax-concession model to a system of rebates, Film Finance Corp. CEO Brian Rosen said that his fellow filmmakers should be set for a "monumental shift."

Rosen spelled out his vision of the future as the Australian parliament last week passed laws that will bring the new financing packages to fruition.

Since the Irishman took the reins of the organization 41/2 years ago, it has helped provide funding to more than AUS$1 billion ($830 million) worth of feature films, TV dramas and documentaries, and he has steered the organization toward a more commercial model.

Rosen, who said he always has given himself five years in the job, believes that the new industry funding structure will allow a larger slate of bigger-budget films to be made and a closer working relationship with the specialty divisions of the U.S. studios to be developed.

"It's a monumental shift in the Australian industry — a blank canvas that will work for the new millennium," Rosen said. "It's about supporting success, and (it) will allow filmmakers to fund projects that are inspirational, ambitious and capture a larger audience."

Rosen, whose producing credits in Australia and Hollywood include "James and the Giant Peach" and "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest," said the new structure provides the chance to bring "some fresh, good ideas to the table not tainted by the old agency."

He added: "I'd like to think I can make it work and make some great films here."

Of his term at the helm of the government-backed funding body, he said: "Since being at the FFC, my (aim) was to get more money in. We were there to support filmmakers and were successful at extracting better terms from distributors and broadcasters for filmmakers. We've given first returns back to filmmakers, and we were very strong advocates of the rebates."