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Delays hurting local stories, say producers.

Industry urges a rethink over Location Offset threshold, as it keeps waiting patiently for local streaming quotas.

Screen Producers Australia has reiterated the urgency for the Australian Government to bring forward long-awaited legislation to regulate mostly global streaming platforms.

In evidence given yesterday to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics Inquiry into the Bill that will implement announced changes to Australia’s Location and Producer Offsets, SPA maintains delays are hurting local productions.

“The absence of any Government legislation for a commensurate regulation on mostly global streaming platforms to invest in some minimum levels of Australian screen stories risks exacerbating a trend in screen production in which international projects are growing while investment in our local screen storytelling is in decline,” said SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.

SPA welcomed most of the measures in the Bill, particularly the new training obligations being attached to the Location Offset to upskill the sector and an increase in the rebate to 30%.

But it urged a rethink over a proposal to raise the threshold for access to the Location Offset from $15m to $20m.

“Getting the balance right between backing international projects and ensuring audience access to home-grown stories is critical for audiences to experience their own culture and for a sustainable and independent future for all our industry,” he continued.

“We need to recognise that there is a critical interdependence between international work and having a robust Australian industry telling Australian stories. Local is where pretty much everything and everyone gets their start.

“International projects are attracted to film in Australia because of our reputation for quality crew, technical know-how, strong screen-friendly culture, and financial support. Without an independent Australian industry, eventually, our expertise will be hollowed out, making us increasingly less attractive to international projects.

“The one amendment we seek is to retain the threshold for access to the Location Offset at projects sized at $15m rather than $20m so that smaller independent international work has opportunities also to be supported here – which will invariably generate work for smaller local businesses who can use this service work to sustain themselves in between local commissions.”

Tracy Viera of Hoodlum Entertainment agreed, saying, “Whilst we wait for streaming regulation, doing production service work has been a huge opportunity and a lifesaver not just for our business but other producing businesses that have typically been Australian production companies.”

She continued, “The decision to increase the threshold from $15m to $20m is going to have a negative, unintended consequence on businesses like ours that have been able to do the service work.

“Firstly, the US big studio films don’t need companies like ours. They have the US executives and they hire the best local crews. But the small independent offshore films that utilise Australian companies to do the service work, operate in the budget area of $15m to $17m. This is important for us and it’s become critical to our business. It helps us have a sustainable business between the peaks and troughs of Australian content. But it’s also opened the doors for businesses like ours to take our Australian films globally through the relationships we’ve developed in those production service jobs.

“The threshold increase also doesn’t consider what happens when the Australian dollar gets stronger. It will become harder to achieve, particularly for those independent films. We urge you to consider maintaining the current threshold in consideration of how this piece of legislation for offshore projects can continue to bring benefits to local businesses in ways that will help us have sustainable businesses.”

2 Responses

  1. If SPA were serious they’d be pressuring the government to reinstate proper quotas on the FTAs rather than this very odd points system we’ve got instead. Mandating 50 or 100 hours of scripted Australian content on to 7, 9 and 10 would see a much bigger investment in this space than trying to force OS streamers to pick up the ball that FTA so eagerly dropped. Everyone wants to see more money spent, and more risks taken on Aussie scripted content, and there is more than one path to get this, but unfortunately SPA don’t seem to see it.

  2. International productions are attracted here by 30-40% production subsidies, a 30% location subsidy specifically designed to move productions here and subsidies from arts body, and of course the sunshine.

    Imposing quotas won’t make many Australian stories. Foxtel was subject to 10% quota and has since spent precisely 10.0% of their revenue on low budget local productions. Mr Inbetween’s sale to the US and High Country’s sale to the BBC are their major overseas successes. They may never get a wider airing to Australians on FTA.

    The Australian dollar is so weak that the US, Canada and Europe are buying up all of our economy including any production company that makes a hit, the few that aren’t already foreign owned and controlled anyway.

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