Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
The soaring Oz dollar has all but wiped out Australia as a runaway production location, with no U.S. films and only one U.S. TV project, Sony Pictures Television’s drama pilot Frontier, shooting Down Under in 2011-2012. Foreign productions spent just $A49M ($50.9M) in that period, down from $86M the prior year which was boosted by Fox’s series Terra Nova, according to Screen Australia’s annual drama report released today. The report will intensify industry calls for the Australian government to lift the 16.5% location rebate to 30%. The government says it will announce its decision later this year. On the upside, the total spend on film and TV drama jumped by 25% to a record $623M. And last year’s hike of the post, digital and visual effects rebate from 16.5% to 30% resulted in the highest activity in that area for five years, with post houses attracting 17 films including Ted, The Hunger Games and Marvel’s The Avengers. Some 47% of total drama spend went on 28 Australian feature films including Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (which qualifies as an Australian production) and I, Frankenstein, plus three small foreign features. Luhrmann told Screen Australia he could not have shot Gatsby here without the 40% producer offset for Australian films. “To work with Australia’s skilled film technicians and facilities, and to bring large scale projects like The Great Gatsby to Australia, we can’t have our head in the sand about the fact that the country is a long way away,” he said. “Without the Producer Offset, there is simply no way that we could have picked up on and continued the creative relationships that have evolved with us in Australia.” Every Australian feature took advantage of the rebate and 84% of the TV slate qualified for the 20% offset for TV projects. TV drama fell by 13% on the prior year but accounted for 45% of the spend. Adult drama hit a five-year peak although there was a pronounced shift away from long-form series to miniseries and telepics, while children’s drama contracted.