Australian shoot gets budget freeze

Country, Hawaii bidding for Hanks' 'Pacific'

SYDNEY — HBO has joined a list of Hollywood studios delaying decisions on Down Under shoots as pressure mounts on the Aussie government to announce the outcome of its broad review of film funding and incentives announced in the May 2006 budget.

“The Pacific,” sequel to the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks series “Band of Brothers” has, since the end of last year, been rumored to be shooting in Australia.

Budgets for the 10-part drama have been drawn up, casting has commenced, locations scouted and the art department is already at work in Melbourne.

Despite this considerable pre-production commitment and a final budget likely to top A$150 million ($120 million), neither HBO nor production partner Playtone has publicly announced the production and the shoot is not a certainty until it does.

It could still go to Hawaii, which has been bidding intensely against Oz.

There are rumors in Oz that Hawaii even offered to remove a cap on the amount of rebate “The Pacific” would be eligible for, and meanwhile uncertainty continues about its budgeting in Australia.

Feds remain tight-lipped, though a May budget announcement is now likely.

Mark Woods, topper of lobby agency Ausfilm, wants as many projects as possible expediently greenlit but he can’t blame the studios, or local filmmakers, for awaiting the outcome of a review intended to improve shooting and fundraising conditions.

“On the Hollywood level, every meeting I take the question is ‘Should I hold off until the new fiscal year (July 2007)?'” Woods says.

“The Pacific” is eligible for a 12.5% rebate on all Oz expenditure, in addition to various incentives from the states where producers spend money.

The review is likely to change the terms governing the rebate for large scale productions and the amount should increase, but by how much?

Some of the more optimistic in the industry believe 16 percent will make Australia competitive. For “The Pacific,” that could be a difference of more than $4 million.

Pressure for an early announcement is intensifying, with execs from some of the bigger studios now joining the army of Aussies making beelines to Canberra to put their cases to government.

Woods refused to discuss the specifics of “The Pacific” but says, “should a production of that scale come to Australia it would be a transforming moment for the industry.”

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