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Industry Report: Financing

Federal funding puts Australian films into action


- Whether it's Animal Kingdom or Packed to the Rafters, there is one good reason why Australian films and TV dramas are flourishing again. by Garry Maddox

In the words of a famous pop group, it comes down to money, money, money …

A review of the screen production sector to be released today by the federal Arts Minister, Simon Crean, shows film and television is being funded at record levels.

A new system of production incentives has led to a tripling of government support in the past three financial years to $412 million.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)Cine Iberoamericano Int

With further investment by the agency Screen Australia, production increased to a record $731 million last financial year.

While the country still struggles to attract foreign production because of the high value of the dollar, the tax rebate scheme introduced in 2007 has inspired a local film revival that has included Australia, Mao's Last Dancer and Tomorrow When the War Began. It has also boosted television drama.

''Although it's still early days, the increase in activity, particularly the production of Australian large budget films, such as Baz Luhrmann's Australia and George Miller's Happy Feet 2, and the box office performance of films such as Tomorrow When the War Began, shows the government support for the sector is having a significant impact,'' Mr Crean said.

The scheme includes a ''producer offset'' that allows filmmakers to claim back 40 per cent of qualifying expenditure for films and 20 per cent for television dramas. The review found the offset is allowing them to work with higher budgets and tell Australian stories to a wider international audience. There are early indications it is also ''improving market focus and leading to better box office performance''.

But it has also brought extra administrative burdens for producers, with more having to use mortgages and share portfolios to fund production until they can claim the rebate.

That concerns Antonia Barnard, the producer of A Few Best Men, a comic film from the director Stephan Elliott about a disastrous wedding.

She believes the producer offset is working well for television but not so well for film.

''It does work well in the feature industry but we're having more and more trouble getting the loans [to finance production] until the offset is due,'' she said. ''People are pulling out of that market rather alarmingly.''


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