By Nina Hendy
The bright city lights, quaint townships, vast deserts, pristine coastlines attract legions of industry legends from across the globe to Australian shores.
The Australian screen industry has global movie makers bashing down our proverbial door ready to make the next big blockbuster on our shores.
These industry heavyweights are attracted to our diverse and picturesque natural and man-made landscapes. But they’re also being enticed by government contributions and tax incentives.
These incentives are working. The Matrix, Mission Impossible 2, Star Wars, Wolverine, The Great Gatsby and Ghost Rider are just some of the big screen movies shot in Australia in recent years. Not to mention the countless numbers of Australian-made movies made locally.
But exactly how much these incentives earn Australia isn’t well understood, which has prompted Screen Australia to tackle a new project to measure the economic, cultural and social value of the Australian screen sector.
The research, announced in February this year, aims to quantify and articulate exactly what the screen sector contributes to our economy.
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason says that the value of Australian screen culture to international diplomacy efforts is increasingly apparent.
“The recent appointment of actor Chris Hemsworth as new global ambassador for Tourism Australia shows just how potent our screen stars are for international relations,” Mr Mason says.
Bringing films to Australia takes a lot of work by various Federal and State Government bodies behind the scenes. Of course, the fact that the Federal Government opens the purse strings incentivises global movie makers to shoot and produce their productions on Australian shores.
For example, late last year, government heavyweights announced that they had attracted 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios to bring their production of Thor: Ragnarok here, starring Australia’s Chris Hemsworth. The production is being shot in Queensland during 2016.
The film is expected to bring more than $300 million in offshore investment to Australia and provide more than 3,000 jobs and use the services of thousands of Australian businesses. Arts Minister Mitch Field says that every job created in the film and television industry supports 3.57 jobs in other industries and bolsters the economy.
The financial incentives work. In fact, $47.25 million in direct funding to bring this production here has meant that spending US dollars in Australia makes good financial sense for producers. The government will also include a 16.5 per cent tax offset for the productions via the location offset - designed to entice big budget film productions in Australia.
Government-funded organisation Ausfilm is another industry body working to market Australia to international film producers. It pushes our feature film production credits, television production credits and climate to filmmakers around the world.
Meanwhile, Federal Government figures show that in 2014/15, there were 56 applications for the location offset and Post, Digital and Visual Effects Production (PDV) offset, which equates to a 30% rebate. These incentives resulted in production expenditure of $356.73 million, and rebates payable in 2014/15 for those offsets totalled $69.4 million.
These incentives inject fresh work opportunities into the Australian industry and expose those earning a crust from the industry to overseas talent, which ultimately leads to a better quality Australian product.
State governments also jostle for a slice of the movie-making pie. New South Wales gets the biggest slice of all, with the NSW Government announcing last year that it has helped secure Sydney and regional NSW as the primary filming location for Mel Gibson’s next blockbuster, Hacksaw Ridge.
It’s a big coup for the state. The blockbuster film will generate around 720 jobs and over $26 million in production expenditure across NSW. Pre-production got underway in July last year, and is expected to be completed late this year.
According to the 2014/15 Screen NSW stakeholder report, production finance worth more than $4.3 million and Regional Filming Fund grants of $375,000 supported the production of 32 local film, television and interactive projects in NSW.
The state government agency’s figures show that these projects jointly leveraged more than $89 million in NSW production expenditure and supported over 5,500 jobs, proving a shot in the arm for various regional areas of NSW, too.
The constant work to secure these films continues in earnest, so keep your eyes peeled. The next big blockbuster could be shot in your local neighbourhood soon.