Budget boost for Australian film and TV

By Rachael Turk

The recent Federal Budget saw a dramatic turn of events for an ailing Australian film and television industry when Communications Minister Helen Coonan and Arts Minister George Brandis announced a $283 million boost through a range of  changes, including a 40 per cent tax offset for feature film production and a complete restructure of government film agencies.

Making redundant the former 10BA tax offset, the package includes a new producer rebate and an increased location rebate. The Australian Screen Production Incentive – Location Rebate will now be extended to Australia’s burgeoning post-production, digital and visual effects sector – a sector that found international acclaim at this year’s Academy Awards and Visual Effects Awards through films including Blood Diamond, Charlotte’s Web, Superman Returns and Kennedy Miller’s Happy Feet.

The 40 per cent tax rebate is expected to increase film and television production volume (a 20 per cent rebate for television drama and documentaries is also expected to kickstart local television drama production), but the onus is still on producers to find the remaining 60 per cent of funding.

Whilst welcoming the new rebates at large, the executive director of Screen Producers Association of Australia, Geoff Brown, says, “we need be careful which producers we’re talking about.
"The rebate delivers to established, capitalised major production companies that have the capacity to cashflow the facilities themselves and access other monies. But the small-to-middle range producer might end up having to sell off most of his or her producer’s rebate in order to make that last 15-20% of budget.
“If the underlying principle of the producer’s rebate is to retain ownership of I.P., this seems a bit redundant.”

CEO of the Film Finance Corporation (FFC), Brian Rosen, predicts state agencies will become involved in cash flowing films, as might entrepreneurial enterprises and banks.

“The sign of a healthy industry is one that can make this kind of system work. Indirect subsidy is more powerful than direct – it allows filmmakers a greater level of control over their own destiny, rather than the onus being on a Government agency to prop it up," he says.

“The rebate is saying to the industry ‘It’s time to mix the art with the business’."

While the industry had anticipated the merger of federal screen agencies FFC and the Australian Film Commission (AFC) was anticipated, it had not generally predicated that Film Australia would be included in the merge.

Film Australia CEO, Daryl Karp, says that, based on her dialogue with Canberra, it would very much be ‘business as usual’. Aside from a streamlined approach to documentary development and marketing through the single agency, she says the Australian documentary sector will benefit from a formal reinstated commitment to the National Interest Program and an additional $2.5m per annum for History production, which will flow on to the independent sector.

For more see www.if.com.au

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