Screen Australia updates co-pro requirements

More flexible terms to be available on co-productions

SYDNEY -- Screen Australia plans to change the requirements for its international co-production program in an effort to increase the level of production in Australia, with new draft guidelines issued for public comment Thursday.

“Screen Australia wants to ensure that Australian filmmakers have the greatest possible chance of working with the best international talent to produce stories that engage and entertain global audiences,” said Ruth Harley, Screen Australia CEO. 

The increased flexibility of the new guidelines combined with a co-production’s access to Australia’s 40% tax rebate, known as the producer offset, will “make working with Australian practitioners on official co-productions internationally appealing,” she said. 

The key changes include: allowing a writer from outside the co-producing partner countries to contribute to a screenplay as long as he or she is not a credited writer of the screenplay; allowing an increase in the total number of points for qualifying productions including an increase in discretionary points for the contribution of creatives such as visual effects and sound designers, as well as allowing the nationality of the source material to be taken into account; and giving producers an early letter of compliance from Screen Australia confirming that the production meets the co-production guidelines, allowing producers better access to finance. 

The changes will have to comply with each relevant treaty. 

Australian filmmakers have been asked to comment on the proposed changes by July 25. 

They come as the national and state agencies aim to increase the number of foreign productions shooting in Australia and provide support for foreign filmmakers wanting to work with Australian producers here, in a bid to boost flagging offshore production levels as the result of the increase in the value of the Australian dollar. 

“The proposed changes will help to increase the level of production in Australia and ensure greater sustainability,” Harley said.

Other recent initiatives to boost the levels of offshore production here include changes to threshold and minimum spend requirements for the federal government’s post, digital and visual effects and location rebates and AUS$20 million ($17.3 million) in funding from the New South Wales government to attract offshore productions. 

Australia currently has official co-production agreements with 11 countries and it is believed that another is in the early stages of negotiation with India. 

In the last two financial years, a total of five feature films, three kids' animated TV series and one children’s TV drama series have been made as official co-productions. 

They include: French co-pros “The Tree,” the Cannes Film Festival’s closing night film and “Santapprentice"; German co-pro, “At World's End”; U.K. co-pros, “The Boys Are Back,” “Oranges and Sunshine” and kids' TV drama series, “Dead Normal”; and two Canadian and one French animated kids' TV series. In the 2009 financial year a total of six co-productions were made with an Australian spend of AUS$30 million and total budgets of AUS$47 million. 

Screen Australia also said that, from July 1, international co productions will be managed in a combined Co-production-Offset Unit. This will “align the administration of the Co-production and Producer Offset programs so that they can provide an effective and efficient service to applicants,” the agency said.