Local film association questions preferential treatment for foreign studios

Local film association questions preferential treatment for foreign studios

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has today welcomed the Federal Government's $400 million injection to attract film production from overseas, but has called for clarity on local content quota removals which could force more than 10,000 people out of work.

The association has sounded a note of caution, urging a balance in support is needed for imported productions with assistance for the making of Australian stories told by Australian voices. 

SPA, led by CEO Matthew Deaner (pictured), said the local sector had been hit hard by the coronavirus and the effects of certain government decisions.

"Significant gains in employment, investment and creative output could also be achieved through an extension of the tax incentive for domestic television content, the Producer Offset, which should be increased from 20 per cent to 40 per cent," the association said.

"This would also address the anomaly whereby international productions are able to access higher levels of support than local productions, which create local IP, employ local creatives and create great Australian cultural content."

But SPA claims the biggest threat facing the local industry is the effective suspension of the drama, documentary and children's content quota requirements that apply to commercial free-to-air television, and the drama requirements that apply to subscription television.

"Whilst the Government's announcement of support for international productions is forecast to deliver 8000 roles for Australians, if it's not made immediately clear to all market participants that the television quotas will apply in 2021, 10000-15000 full time equivalent jobs will be lost next year creating a massive problem for our sector," the association said.

"Whilst the decision not to enforce the quotas in 2020 was ostensibly to do with COVID-19 related interruptions to supply, as the Government's investment of $400 million demonstrates, our industry is innovative and adaptive and is already back at work.

"However, the lack of certainty regarding the application of the quotas in 2021 is heavily distorting the market, and throwing doubt over projects which were well developed and ready to be greenlit."

The association explained with the the finalisation of COVID Safe working guidelines and the announcement of a $50 million fund to get productions going again, there was no justification for further blanket suspensions and the "ongoing lack of clarity is affecting shovel-ready projects".

"We urgently need the Government to release the demand hand-brake imposed by the uncertainty regarding 2021 quotas," SPA said.

"Given the lead times for production, the market needs a signal regarding 2021 quotas immediately, to allow for delivery in 2021.

"A failure to make a decision in the coming weeks will effectively result in an inability to supply, despite the industry's readiness and capacity to deliver the content broadcasters need to meet their quota requirements."

Updated at 3:47pm AEST on 17 July 2020.

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