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Pandemic defying film industry lights up
While COVID-19 forced soundstages around the world to sit idle, 2021 was an unparalleled year for the production of both local and foreign TV and film projects in Australia – with a record $1.9 billion spend. Nope, that’s not a typo! An influx of international films and TV shows were moved down under where production was able to continue, with less disruption due to the pandemic. In fact, a total of 63 foreign projects accounted for $1.04 billion of the spend during that time, more than doubling the previous year's $447million spend. Meanwhile, 95 local productions generated $874 million during the same period.
“The industry was very well placed for a number of reasons, including Australia’s management of the pandemic, the range of quality facilities across a number of states and ongoing government assistance,” said Adam Moon, General Manager Stage and Screen. “The important thing now is for the industry to maintain the momentum.”
So with the Australian TV and film industry in an exciting place, we looked at how the industry has been transformed over the past decade.
The decade that put down under, on top
Over the past decade, a number of factors have contributed to Australia successfully attracting an increasing number of international productions to our shores. For starters, a new posse of influential Australian actors and directors have increasingly been using their star power to attract major productions down under. This long list of home-grown talent – including Chris Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Guy Pierce, Margot Robbie, Eric Bana, Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts, Isla Fisher and Toni Collette – have often been keen to shoot closer to home and helped to draw international attention to our locations, crews and facilities.
Australia has also earned a well-deserved reputation for its hard working crews, highly skilled creatives, world-class studio facilities, diverse landscape, excellent pre and post-production companies, special effect specialists and good weather (2022 rain and floods excepted!). While the lower AU dollar, and an increasing number of generous Australian and State Government financial incentives, have made it possible for Australia to punch above its weight.
Additionally, during the past five years or so, local production studios have had significant success negotiating with big players like Disney, Amazon, Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox to bring multiple large franchises to shoot in Australia. Rumour also has it, that Marvel Studios are in talks to set up headquarters in Sydney for the next five years.
On the home front Australia has also experienced a steady increase in the popularity of local storytelling and productions – for both film and television. Regional crime noir movies like The Dry have achieved box office success, while George Miller’s Mad Max prequel, Furiosa, is filming in Australia this year and is expected to be the biggest film ever to be made here. According to Screen Australia – “in 2020/21, total Australian production budgets (in 2020 dollars) increased by 91% over the previous year. This increase was largely due to the high-budget films Baz Luhrmann's ELVIS and George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing.
Facilities to take on Godzilla
“Australia provides a great experience in terms of filming – plus pre and post-production – often better than anywhere else in the world,” said Adam. “And with world-class studios and facilities in almost every state, there is so much opportunity in Australia.”
International productions are drawn to primarily Queensland (Gold Coast and Brisbane), New South Wales (Sydney and Byron Bay), and Victoria (Melbourne) to create their content. There’s also strong interest in shooting in South Australia, Western Australian and the Northern Territory. Recent productions secured for filming in Australia include Godzilla vs Kong, Thor: Love and Thunder, Three Thousand Years of Longing, The Legend of the Ten Rings, Shantaram, The Alchemyst and Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives.
Keen to get a bigger slice of the action, the West Australian government has committed $100 million to launch a $20 million production attraction fund and to develop a $100 million studio and sound stage in Fremantle. Meanwhile Russell Crowe is backing a proposal to build a $400 million studio in Coffs Harbour. The world is now very aware that local businesses have the cutting-edge skills and technical know-how needed to produce live action, documentary and animated film productions. So it’s no surprise that Australia is benefiting from the global boom in demand for quality content.
Show me the money – the power of incentives
One of the biggest factors in determining whether a production heads down under remains the value of the Australian dollar, compared to the US dollar. This usually means that Australia is a cost-effective place to work, as production companies get more bang for their buck. But while that value changes daily, the Australian film industry offers a steady and generous number of government-led tax incentives and offsets to amp up the appeal for international productions.
In 2020 the Federal Government’s $400 million top-up to the Location Incentive program, took the total rebate to 30% helping Australia to stay competitive. This incentive is supporting the local industry to capitalise on the growing demand, attracting an estimated $3 billion in foreign expenditure. Additional incentives available to eligible productions include the Producer Offset and a 30% post, digital and VFX offset.
As the states also compete against each other, many state governments offer extra rebates and grants to secure productions. For example, the City of Gold Coast offers grants when you work with Gold Coast based Post and VFX companies, whether your film is shot in Australia or not.
Confused? Stage and Screen client, AusFilm, knows their way around the incentive matrix and can help ensure production companies are aware of any incentives they may be eligible for.
With Australia’s pandemic advantage dissipating, global competition to attract film and TV productions is heating up again. But the good news is, that once directors and talent have worked in Australia, they are often keen to come back. Plus the seemingly insatiable appetite for content from streaming services shows no sign of waning, so the future is looking bright for Australia as we continue to remain attractive to production companies looking to film here.