Cate Blanchett, Joel Edgerton and Chris Hemsworth are among more than 200 Australian actors, directors, screenwriters, producers and other film and TV talent who have signed an open letter to the Oz government on behalf of the #MakeItAustralian campaign. In the face of “a deluge of overseas content,” the movement calls on federal parliamentarians to protect the local biz by committing to a diversity of quality Australian content for Australian and international audiences.
The campaign is asking elected officials to evolve rules so that new players like Netflix and YouTube have obligations to create original local programs. This comes as, the group says, major supporters of Australian stories such as Screen Australia and the ABC have seen funding cut over the years.
“Our ability to keep telling Australian stories on screen is at risk, our voices in danger of being drowned out by a deluge of overseas content,” the group writes. “And if our nation’s stories aren’t told, they die. And when they die, future generations won’t know who we are and what makes us us.”
The group also points to tax incentives that encourage production in Australia, saying they need to be competitive. This has long been a source of contention. The so-called production offset has been stuck at 16.5% and the industry has lobbied the government ahead of this year’s budget (due to be announced in May) to raise it to 30% to attract overseas filmmakers. The offset has occasionally been increased on a one-off basis for a major U.S. production. Most recently, Queensland agreed to top it up for Paramount’s live-action Dora The Explorer movie.
Big films to shoot Down Under in recent years include Alien: Covenant, Kong: Skull Island, Thor: Ragnarok, and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
The letter further comes as the government weighs a response to the Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review, which has been tasked with finding the “most efficient and effective support mechanisms” for Australian screen content, the Sydney Morning Herald notes.
The campaign references the successful “TV – Make it Australian” push of the ’60s and ’70s which sought local content obligations on commercial broadcasters with, at the time, just 1% of drama hailing from Oz and the other 99% from abroad.
Also among the signatories of today’s letter are Rebel Wilson, Sam Neill, Rose Byrne, Guy Pearce, Peter Weir, Jocelyn Moorhouse, John Seale, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia, Toni Collette, Scott Hicks and Jai Courtney.
Here are excerpts from the open letter:
WE are storytellers — writers, producers, directors, casts and crews who make screen stories that honour past Australians and connect present and future generations to our history and to our values. YOU are elected representatives — the custodians of Australia’s stories, our unique culture. You create the environment within which our nation’s stories thrive or die.
Our ability to keep telling Australian stories on screen is at risk, our voices in danger of being drowned out by a deluge of overseas content. And if our nation’s stories aren’t told, they die. And when they die, future generations won’t know who we are and what makes us us.
We call on parliamentarians, the custodians of our uniquely Australian stories, to commit to growing our screen industry so that our Australian stories will be told to our children, grandchildren and the generations of Australians that follow.
#MakeItAustralia is an alliance of the Australian Directors’ Guild; the Australian Writers’ Guild; the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance; the Screen Producers Australia; and the Casting Guild of Australia.