Report's rosy but leaves little coin for runaway productions

SYDNEY – A long-awaited government review of the screen production industry is in, with few concrete changes to coin and nothing to make Oz more attractive to international prods.

Announced in March, the review’s was tasked to look at the viability of the screen production sector and to take a close look at the government incentives – the 40% Producer Offset, 15% Location Offset and 15% visual effects offset.

The figures surrounding the Producer Offset show a rosy picture as coin has trebled from A$136.7 million ($137 million) to $413 million in the three years since the Australian Screen Production Incentive was introduced in 2007-08.

“Although it’s still early days, the increase in activity, particularly the production of Australian large budget films, such as Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’ and George Miller’s ‘Happy Feet 2,’ and the box office performance of films such as ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ shows the government support for the sector is having a significant impact,” said arts minister Simon Crean on the release of the report.

But the fact that the coin has mainly gone to big-budget prods does not address the sustainability of the local industry and the lack of medium budget local films. More importantly, films using the Producer Offset must have strong Aussie content and are not available to runaway prods. Offshore pix are left with the uncompetitive 15% Location Offset, which is trumped by many U.S. states.

Ausfilm, the government body charged with bringing offshore prods Down Under, said it had hoped for more from the report. While the government recognized the interdependence of the offshore film industry and the health of the local biz, and recognized the challenges such as a strong Aussie dollar, it had put in a clear submission to the review for a lift in subsidies.

“When the offsets were introduced the dollar was 65 cents-70 cents and now we’re at parity,” new Ausfilm topper Debra Richards told Daily Variety. “We will continue to put our case and to argue an increase because we don’t want to see no production here and we don’t want to see our businesses fall away because of that.”

Richards said there were currently no major international features skedded to lens Down Under and said runaways were effectively “at a standstill.”

Ausfilm will continue to lobby government and put in a formal response to the review, which is due March 11.

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