Australia bounced back in 2007

TV, film production shows 68% increase

SYDNEY — The Aussie film and TV drama production biz has halted its freefall and surged into the black with new figures showing a 68% increase in production expenditure last financial year.

An Australian Film Commission survey of the 12 months to June 30 shows local and foreign production amounted to A$625 million ($538 million), compared with $319 million the previous year — well above the five-year average.

Year-on-year the figures jump around too much to argue for any particular trend other than general growth over time.

The number of local films made fell from 29 to 24 but the amount spent making Australian films rose, as did expenditure on foreign films, but co-production expenditure fell.

Fox’s romantic epic “Australia,” helmed by Baz Luhrmann with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, skewed the survey because the production’s entire budget was included for the year it began shooting. So while most of Australia’s spend has occurred since July, the entire budget is included in the previous financial year.

Television drama production increased by $43 million to $242 million, a return to the highs of 2002-03.

The Nine Network’s big budget border patrol drama “Sea Patrol,” Seven’s “City Homicide,” the final series of “McLeod’s Daughters” and increased drama funding to pubcaster the ABC accounted for the surge.

Film and television production in Australia is now almost as likely to take place on a computer as on a backlot and 88% of all business occurs in the eastern states.

The release of figures for the last financial year was delayed until now by the federal election. But they reveal a production upswing was already under way when the former government signed off on its budget relief package for film and TV producers.

The four-year plan provides $248 million to help Australian producers attract private investment, increase equity and build production companies, rather than chase funding from project to project.

The offset will give producers of Australian films a 40% rebate (20% for other media) and a 15% rebate on post-production, digital and visual effects on projects with more than a $5 million budget.

There is also the Location Offset of 15%, which aims to encourage large-budget overseas films and TV productions to shoot in Australia.

Increased television drama production was seen mostly in Victoria and New South Wales, which regained its crown as Australia’s production centre lost last year to Victoria.

The AFC’s analysis of post, digital and visual effects activity for the past two years revealed income to PDV companies from work on features and TV drama totaled $122 million in 2005-06 and $111 million in 2006-07 representing approximately 30% of total production expenditure during that period by features and TV drama projects in Australia.