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Checkup finds Oz biz healthy

Survey predicts growth, but advices careful management

SYDNEY — A report on runaway film and TV production Down Under has found that, despite fears, the domestic industry is on track to grow in line with the burgeoning offshore sector — so long as it’s nurtured.

Survey of 161 industryites by government development org the Australian Film Commission found foreign drama productions spent A$191 million ($107 million) in 2000-01 — almost a third of the total outlay.

In the forward to “Foreign Film and Television Drama Production in Australia: A Research Report,” AFC CEO Kim Dalton predicts stronger growth for the foreign sector.

But he warns, “Careful management is needed to reap the economic benefits without jeopardizing the cultural benefits Australians derive from the Australian industry — or losing qualities that attracted international production here in the first place.”

Those qualities include cheaper production costs, low exchange rates and the 12.5% tax rebate announced last year.

However, the government’s decision to limit the incentive to pics budgeted between $8.4 million and $28 million, which spend 70% of their budget in Oz, and the exclusion of TV productions copped some heat.

Local and offshore producers agreed that while economic factors attract productions, the inventiveness and efficiency of crews would keep them coming back. Seven of the 18 L.A.-based producers surveyed (on condition of anonymity) saw a lack of experienced crew as the biggest difficulty to overcome.

Spending by foreign productions has doubled over 10 years, generally due to more expensive pics being attracted. Domestic drama production has increased gradually but slowed in the past few years, now at $337 million annually.

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