It has only been two months since Debra Richards has taken on the role as topper of Ausfilm — the org tasked with bringing runaway prods to Oz — yet she has faced a record slump in international prods and a government report that failed to lift subsidies as the industry requested.
But that has not stopped Richards, who came to Ausfilm from feevee org the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA). She continues to lobby the government for more coin a skill learned fighting for feevee against Oz’s powerful free webs.
Although there is no concrete news and there is unlikely to be any until budget time mid-year, Richards says, “We know we’re not knocked out yet so were still in there.”
The industry is lobbying the government to double the existing 15% location offset and the post, digital and visual effects (PDV) offset, also set at 15%, and it is hoped the new figure of 30% will help bring Stateside and other international prods back.
“We lost ‘Battleship’ and ‘Green Lantern’ because it got to a point were it was unsustainable and you could see the dollar rising and the work was not coming our way,” Richards says.
That was before the Oz dollar reached parity with the greenback, and now a subsidy lift is essential to compete.
“My discussion with the (Hollywood) studios was that would be fantastic for them and it would get us back on the page,” says Richards of the proposed 30% rebate. “We’ve always been budgeted for as an option, but at the moment because of the strength of the dollar and the competition from other incentives, we are not being looked at.”
Ausfilm commissioned accounting firm PriceWaterhouse Coopers to do a study of the industry and the firm came up with two options: a straight lift to 30% and a rise in coin that was pegged to the rise and fall of the Aussie dollar. Richards, however, thinks a straight rise is simpler and better. She adds that Ausfilm is getting a lot enquiries about the much higher 40% producer offset that requires a certain level of “Australian content.”
After pressure from the industry, the government undertook a review of the coin, but little changed. Instead the findings took a rosy view of the producer offset, showing that it had trebled, but ignored the call for a lift in location and PDV offsets.
Still, Richards does not see the report as a negative.
“The report did reinforce and put in print — which is good for any industry — the importance of offshore production to the local industry and the interdependence,” she says. “And it acknowledged the tough time we are going through at the moment, so that’s good to have that as a government report and feeding back into government.”
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