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Australia Told to Look to Asia for Future Growth

Report urges rebalancing of film, TV efforts

HONG KONG – Australia’s film and TV industries are being urged to engage more with the rest of Asia.

“Now is the time for the Australian screen industries to strengthen ties, formalize co-production arrangements and develop sound knowledge of working with our partners in Asia,” said Ruth Harley, CEO of regulatory and finance body Screen Australia, commenting on a new report.

The study “Common Ground: Opportunities for Australian Screen Partnerships in Asia” was commissioned and produced by Screen Australia in association with consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

It shows the greatest opportunities in China, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea, and names India, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand as offering potential for the future.

Harley says that many other sectors of Australian business have growing trade relations with Asia and that the screen production sector needs to be organized and capable in Asia as well.

Audiovisual exports to Asia have averaged $50 million per year for the past three years. Harley said that the target should be to double that figure in the next five years.

Research showed many companies and individuals have had long-standing relationships in China and that many delegations to the region had been sent and received by Australia, but that they amounted to ad hoc efforts.

“The shape of the world is changing. We are competent in Europe, we are competent in the U.S., therefore we need also to be competent and competitive in Asia, the world’s fastest growing economy,” said Harley. “We need to get a baseline, a coherent strategy, see where government can help.”

Australia’s strengths that can be leveraged within Asia include good projects; good stories that work at local and international level; a strongly collaborative attitude; great talent on screen and at the craft level; and stable government. While Australia is not a low-cost production centre, the Location Offset Incentive and various government financial commitments can bring down the cost of doing business.

Harley noted that while the bilateral co-production treaty with China relates only to feature film, possibly the greatest opportunities for Australian firms in China lie in the factual entertainment area. She cited the recent example of Bearcage Film’s six-part series “The Story of Australia,” which was commissioned and broadcast by Chinese state network CCTV-9. It was watched by an estimated 21 million people and earned praise directly from China’s president Xi Jinping.

“Working together with our regional partners, Screen Australia is building on networks forged by our predecessor agencies and by the broader Australian screen industry. This includes the significant ties between our public broadcasters ABC and SBS and countries in the Asian region,” said Harley. Next month Screen Australia will lead a delegation of 25 producers and commissioning editors to Beijing and Sichuan TV Festival

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