The Australian federal government will offer some $280 million ($400 million AUD) to attract large inbound foreign film productions. The measure was announced Friday local time by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The new Location Incentive plan will provide cash grants over the next seven years. It is in addition to Australia’s Location Offset system, under which projects can receive rebates for production and post-production work done in the country.
The Location Incentive program also follows a $175 million ($250 million AUD package) revealed last month to support the wider arts and entertainment sector recover from coronavirus. Of that, $34.4 million ($50 million AUD) was allocated to the film and TV sectors, much of it in the form of financial guarantees for insurance policies that allow film and TV productions to restart.
“The Location Incentive is an economic multiplier. It will sustain the vitality of Australian screen production and support jobs and local businesses,” said federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher. The government calculates that it will maintain 8,000 jobs over the seven years. Those will in turn benefit 9,000 businesses.
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Part of the calculation too is that Australia has managed the coronavirus outbreak better than the U.S., making it a more attractive place to locate large, complicated movie productions. However, that argument is currently weakened by the recent lockdown of Melbourne and the country’s ongoing travel and flight restrictions.
Ten Hollywood movies that have been able to access $86 million ($123 million AUD) of finance under the Location Offset rebate scheme include the recent “Thor” and “Godzilla” titles and the ongoing Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
“South Australia has increased its investment in high value international production in recent years, with productions including the state’s biggest ever screen production ‘Mortal Kombat’ demonstrating the state’s capacity to deliver. ‘Mortal Kombat’ has provided a strong pipeline of work through the entire South Australia screen sector, including significant work for our world class post production, digital and visual effects companies,” said South Australia’s Minister for Innovation and Skills, David Pisoni. “With South Australia one of the safest places in the world right now, and one of the first places in the world to resume production, the state is ideally placed to take a slice of this new fund in the post-COVID recovery.”
But guilds want more emphasis on local production. “Whilst inbound productions are an important part of the overall Australian production industry, at this critical time we also need to ensure there is balance in government assistance for the whole ecosystem,” said industry group Screen Producers Australia. “
Significant gains in employment, investment and creative output could also be achieved through an extension of the tax incentive for domestic television content, the Producer Offset, which should be increased from 20% to 40%. This would also address the anomaly whereby international productions are able to access higher levels of support than local productions, which create local IP, employ local creatives and create great Australian cultural content.”
SPA goes on to argue that the local content quotas on Australian TV should be reimposed after the end of this year. They were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak in order to give broadcasters flexibility at a time when the supply chain was disrupted.
“If it’s not made immediately clear to all market participants that the television quotas will apply in 2021, 10000-15000 Australians will be needlessly put out of work next year,” SPA said in a statement.