Government Subsidies Help Lure Film Productions to Australia

World Report: Australia

Gov coin continues to be the wizardy behind the Oz film industry

The recent $21 million payment to keep “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” afloat Down Under is clear evidence of a country employing creative means to keeps its appeal alive to big overseas productions.

Oz’s economy may be great and powerful, but that has long been the (flying) monkey on the back of a local

film industry having a tough time attracting runaways. To make sure the rest of the world doesn’t forget that this far-flung isle has a wealth of local talent and abundance of diverse locations, the industry has managed to get at least one blockbuster a year to make the trip, thanks to generous one-off government subsidies that are similar to those offered in New Zealand to The Hobbit.

The latest recipient of the Oz government’s largesse is the Disney tentpole “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” toplining Brad Pitt, that got a one-off payment of $A21.6 million ($20.7 million) in April instead of just the Location Offset, which is set at 16.5% of a foreign film’s qualifying spend.

While the value of giving government coin to Hollywood has been debated Down Under, Ausfilm topper Debra Richards harbors no doubt that it’s an important incentive for the industry.

“Encouraging international offshore production keeps Australia and the local industry competitive,” says Richards. “A major production such as ‘20,000 Leagues’ means jobs, continuity of work, skills and training, and innovation and investment back into the local industry.”

The one-off payment is similar to the $13.5 million given last year to “The Wolverine” to have it film in and around Sydney, and forms part of the Creative Australia policy to boost local arts and international pics.

“It is possible,” says Richards says of seeing the return of the one-off system. “The federal government announced an additional ($20.7 million) location incentive in the recent national cultural policy, Creative Australia, to keep Australia competitive for international production — on top of ‘The Wolverine’ and ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ payments — so there is an opportunity to access the additional incentive on top of the current Location Offset.”

These incentives make Oz appealing again in a tough market, but a permanent hike in the Location Offset would signal more security and has been alluded to in Creative Australia should the dollar remain high.

Not that all is lost, since a few local co-prods have also attracted some big name talent in the past year.

Michael and Peter Spierig (“Daybreakers”) are in pre-production in Victoria on Predestination, a sci-fi based on a short story by Robert A. Heinlein (“Starship Troopers”) and starring Ethan Hawke. Ewan McGregor is filming crime-thriller “Son of a Gun” in Western Australia. And the long-awaited, Mel Gibson-free fourth installment in George Miller’s Mad Max series is in post-production.

One-off government payments are making sure that at least some big U.S. productions head to Oz, but some more policy wizardry may be needed should the high dollar continue.

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  1. Ray Arco says:

    While offering cash incentives to attract foreign production is OK sustaining professional jobs, etc, the same amount placed for development of original content good for both local and especially the global markets, it will create more revenue for everyone, incl. the Gov’t! Emulating Hollywood is good for education, but the Eurpeans diversified Co-Production system should be more conducive for So. Pacific countries. The question is with which Aussie Film/TV Co. we could proceed accordingly based o a number of such outrageously unique content and cash in on the fact that except for in-house development money, there are no such funds in the U.S.! One can enhance local profits on multiple stries development & packaging than with a tentpole. I argued this in both Sydney and Melbourne last year, BUT…

    Most people, business strategists included, think horizontally rather than vertical, whereby Film/TV/:Publishing/Games are part of the larger Leisure Industry scope thatshould and could bring 40% additional contribution to the GNP! When I asked – incl.the China Film Prod. Assoc. Chairman – what he prefers: To wait for a Ho. tentpole, or have a “traffic exchange” of 100+ new filmmakers exchange, etc., the replky was there or wherever and whom I asked in the Industry in over 40 countries, that they oprefer the 100 and not wait in order to build their own Film/TV/Publishing Industry back-to-back. And yes, WE DO HAVE THOSE KIND OF STORIES & formats THAT COULD BE STARTED IN AUSSIE FOR GLOBAL MARKETS!

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