Are location incentives good bang for buck or a sugar hit?

Why do politicians support rebates like location offsets and could funding be better divested into Australian rather than Hollywood stories?

Unlimited public funding for Hollywood film productions in location incentives makes little sense, it has been argued.

Amanda Lotz, Professor at Queensland University of Technology wrote in Nikkei Asia that location offsets support productions that tell stories about anywhere, by anyone.

“This will not deliver Australian stories and will likely make it harder to tell such stories as local producers compete with deep Hollywood pockets for studio space and creative talent,” she wrote.

“The cultural reasons for supporting movie and film production were forgotten in the early 2000s. Policy became tuned to measures intended to support sector and job growth. But economic benefits are difficult to evaluate in an industry as mobile as film and television production.”

Many of the jobs created employed in the screen sector were temporary positions (or transient perhaps?), she argued.

“Hollywood productions chase the best incentives around the globe, making rebates less effective than support for industries that are less mobile and which employ workers permanently,” said Lotz.

“Why do politicians support rebates like location offsets? Politicians like getting their picture taken with movie stars. Announcements of big productions coming to town attract favorable news coverage. Filmmaking-support agencies and Hollywood lobbyists use rhetoric and self-funded reports that claim economic benefits from local filming.”

She questioned whether spending more on community infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, or live performance spaces might be better public investments.

This week the NSW Govt announced further funding for its Made in NSW incentive programme.

In a statement, Screen NSW said: “Established in 2020, the Made in NSW fund is a five-year program with an original budget allocation of $175 million, designed to support the advancement of NSW as a destination for international and local feature films and major television drama programs.

“Since 2020, the funding has leveraged approximately $1.78 billion in production expenditure in NSW and created over 25,000 jobs in the state.

“It has attracted major international productions including Anyone But You, The Fall Guy and The Kingdom of the Planet of The Apes, and Australian productions including The Artful Dodger, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart and the upcoming The Narrow Road to the Deep North to NSW, cementing NSW as the premier filmmaking destination in Australia.”

One of the additional benefits is surely in tourism.

News.com.au reported since The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart Google searches for Agnes Bluff jumped more than 1600 percent after the series aired.

The Prime Video series was also filmed at real locations in Central Australia, including Alice Springs Desert Park, Simpsons Gap, Ooraminna Station, Standley Chasm, and Ormiston Gorge. While Australia is the top country searching for Agnes Bluff, it’s followed by Spain, Canada, the UK, US and Italy.

But Professor Kevin Sanson, head of the School of Communication at Queensland University of Technology, said when Hollywood comes to town, the local industry essentially transforms into a service industry.

“It creates jobs for below-the-line workers largely, crew, technicians, even someone whose job it is to stand at the perimeter of a shoot location and explain to neighbours that they can’t go through,” he told news.com.au.

“For example, that does very little for our screenwriters in Australia. They’re not benefiting from a location offset because that work is being brought in from abroad. We’re really just servicing the technical side of those productions.”

2 Responses

  1. This is just one piece of the puzzle though. There’s plenty of money out there for development and filming and writing for local stories, no one is getting dudded there money wise, but they are getting dudded through a severe lack of commissioning. As stated in the article, getting big productions to shoot here make a lot of money for the below the line people, but it’s mentioned like it’s a bad thing? These people need to work as well and the more jobs the better, as there’s so little local production here in the scripted world, the below the line people end up working commercials most the time just to get paid.

    1. They do get dudded there. Most Australian writers are hired as contractors to write around a supplied outline. They create little and they don’t get to develop their skills and progress. A lot of the ABC’s kids shows are written by out of work comedians because they are cheap and available. Kingdom of The Planet Of The Apes is US film, written and directed by Americans, funded by American capital, IP that is American owned, because they bought the rights to British novel and developed them, and generating profits for Americans. If the Canadians offered a higher subsidy it would have been filmed there and look the same. It’s not even a good film, but it made hundreds of millions for Disney. So Ladies in Black gets poached by SA and looks nothing like Sydney, while this funding is used to poach production from SA that look nothing like Adelaide.

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