Tax breaks boost Australian TV, film 7%

Report shows $675 million spent on production in 2007-08

BANGKOK -- In the first year of new federal tax breaks, Australia saw a 7% rise in the money spent on film and television production on its home turf to $675 million, the country's leading industry body said Monday.

The increase in film and TV budgets spent down under was boosted by a rise in imported productions, foreign co-productions and TV dramas, according to the Screen Australia 2007-08 Drama Production Survey.

Screen Australia chief executive Ruth Harley said that the rise "marks a good base from which to measure the future impact on production levels of the federal government's new incentives."

The annual survey covered all purely Australian films and co-productions as well as movies made or edited in Australia by filmmakers visiting from overseas.

The survey covered 41 features and 700 hours of TV dramas shot in Australia, as well as 14 projects from overseas that did their post-production, digital or video work down under.

Led by HBO's big-budget WWII miniseries "The Pacific," foreign TV drama and feature productions spent more than $250 million in Australia in 2007-08, accounting for 37% of the money spent in the period and the highest amount spent in the category over the last three years. "The Pacific" contributed more than half the $250 million in the category, Screen Australia said.

The 29 Australian features surveyed had budgets totaling $128 million, the highest recorded single-year amount for domestic features if large-budget foreign-financed titles, such as Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" (2006-07), are removed from the equation. However, the record 2007-08 sum of all domestic film and TV budgets fell below the five-year average of $147 million.

Also surveyed were five features made as official co-productions. They accounted for $49 million spent in Australia, well above the five-year average of $23 million.

Of the 690 hours of TV drama made in Australia during the period, Australian and co-produced shows spent a total of $256 million in the country, more than in any year since 2001-02. Adult TV series and co-produced children's programs -- which reached a record 85 hours -- made up the bulk of the increase.

The 2007-08 production calendar was the first in which the Australian government offered tax refunds under the so-called Australian Screen Production Incentive. Subsides for using Australian locations began in May 2007.

The subsidies were introduced to try to increase productions in Australia.

The number could rise again in the 2008-09 report because Screen Australia said it was too early for its latest report to account for any impact from the so-called "producer offset" begun in late 2007.

The latest survey also showed that film and TV postproduction, digital and visual effects budgets spent in Australia averaged $129 million a year over the last three years, making up about 23% of the country's total production expenditure. Australian productions accounted for 73% of this work.