For the second financial year running, expenditure in Australia on scripted screen productions hit new heights, reaching $2.29 billion including a record spend on homegrown titles.
The findings, from Screen Australia’s 32nd annual ‘Drama Report’ released today, found the increase was driven by a record spend on Australian theatrical features, as well as a record spend on Australian subscription TV and subscription video on demand (VOD) titles.
Of note, the spend on Australian theatrical features more than doubled compared to the same period in 2020/21 - rising from $314 million to $655 million. Meanwhile, spend on foreign features and TV/VOD halved from $511 million to $251 million.
The findings represent yet another year of expenditure hitting new records, and follows on from the 2020/21 period when $1.9 billion was spent on drama productions in Australia. At the time, Screen Producers Australia rung alarm bells as most of the growth came from foreign productions rather than locally made titles.
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said cracking the $2 billion mark was an ‘incredible milestone’ for the sector, noting it was a bumper year for Australian scripted content which made up two-thirds of the spend.
“This is a unique year for feature film, with several high-budget Australian projects starting production including Dr George Miller’s Furiosa which are bringing significant economic and creative benefits,” Mason said.
“However the number of Australian films that went into production has decreased. It’s no secret that the content landscape across film, television and online has changed and viewing habits are continually evolving.
“This is most evident in the reduction in films being produced for theatrical release, the shift in drama spend from television to online platforms, and the increasing spend on premium drama.”
Mason said it was heartening to see such demand for local content on streaming platforms, and pointed out recent success stories like The Dry’s sequel Force of Nature, mystery series True Colours, and the final season of YouTube ‘mega-hit’ Meta Runner.
The CEO added that despite expenditure on Australian children’s content falling from historic highs, there were plenty of top-notch programs going into production over the past 12 months.
“We know the value and power of Australian children’s stories, and it’s vital for our kids and our national identity that Aussie children are able to see themselves reflected on screen,” Mason said.
“Children’s content has declined from historic highs as the sector adjusts to digital disruption, new audience habits, and changed content regulations and funding support.
“Despite this there are still high quality projects going into production with some wonderful titles to enjoy from this year’s slate including Barrumbi Kids shot in the Northern Territory, Crazy Fun Park in Victoria, Beep and Mort in South Australia, Rock Island Mysteries in Queensland and The PM’s Daughter in Canberra and New South Wales.”
While the spend on foreign production dipped from last year’s record to $777 million, Mason said it was still looking healthy against the five-year average.
Within this total, foreign titles that shot in Australia reached $442 million, including Joe vs Carole, Nautilus, La Brea series 2 and Young Rock series 2. This was 44 per cent below last year’s record spend, but 19 per cent above the five-year average.
“Projects like Ticket to Paradise offer important opportunities for Australian creatives to cut their teeth on big international productions and we have more to look forward to next year with the Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes and the sequel to Godzilla Vs Kong,” Mason said.
“Australia has also made a name for itself in PDV, with projects including TheFlash and The Marvels undertaking work here, and we’re thrilled to see this part of the sector growing to record highs.
“Our focus now is to work together with the industry to address gaps in skills and capacity that have come as a result of the production boom, to ensure we are in the best position to keep up the pace and further boost the potential of Australian stories and storytellers."
On a state-by-state split, New South Wales set a new expenditure record, bagging more than $1 billion (approximately 45 per cent of the national share). Victoria also hit a record high with $556 million (24 per cent of the national share), while collective spend in the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Tasmania also set a new record, more than tripling from last year’s $18 million to $57 million in 2021/22 - or 2 per cent of the national total.
Meanwhile in Queensland, the report found the state’s industry contributed $465 million to the local economy and hosted four international productions, benefitting on momentum from last year’s record expenditure in the state.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was the state’s pandemic measures that kept the industry booming during the tumultuous period.
“As the sunshine state opened up from the pandemic, its reputation as an ideal filming destination — backed by a winning combination of incentives, crews, locations and facilities — contributed to a pipeline of feature films like Ticket to Paradise, Wizards! and sci-fi series Nautilus flocking to Queensland, as did homegrown series including Upright and Darby and Joan,” the Premier said.
“Queensland rode the wave of record-breaking investment in Australian drama by streaming services, with Screen Queensland supporting projects from Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Paramount+, Amazon and more.
“Netflix alone produced four titles in Queensland — Boy Swallows Universe which is currently in production, Irreverent, A Perfect Pairing and True Spirit.”
The South Australian screen sector also achieved record-breaking results in Drama Report, with a total of $144 million spent in the state during 2021/22 - the second highest year on record for the region.
Included in the $144 million total spend was a record-breaking $89 million expenditure on PDV (post production, digital and visual effects) – South Australia’s highest PDV spend on record, and a more than 115 per cent increase on last year’s total of $41 million.
“In this year of the South Australian Film Corporation’s 50th anniversary it is a pleasure to celebrate another milestone with these record-breaking results for the state’s screen industry,” SA Film Corporation CEO Kate Croser said.
“The state’s soaring drama expenditure in 2021-22 is even more significant for the fact that it was driven by productions led by South Australian production companies and producers, the majority of which are based on underlying South Australian IP, and which employed 83 per cent South Australian crew including 75 per cent South Australian resident Heads Of Department.”
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