Feature film and TV drama production in Australia dropped in 2002/03 for the first time in eight years, according to the annual National Drama Production Survey released today by the Australian Film Commission. Total expenditure in Australia fell by 23%from $663 million to $513 million.
The total number of feature films made in Australia in 2002/03 was 26, down from 39 in 2001/02. The largest decline was in Australian feature productions – down from 30 to 19 – with co-productions holding steady at 2 and foreign features falling from 7 to 5.
The value of Australian film and TV drama production decreased overall by 21%, from $343 million to $271 million. Feature production fell by 63% from $131 million to $49 million, due largely to a lack of foreign-financed local features in this year’s survey and a drop more generally in foreign investment.
There were no Australian features with budgets over $10 million this year (compared to three last year and two the year before), and only one in the $6-10 million range (three in each of the last two years). Two films were made as co-productions this year and both had budgets of more than $10 million.
While local television drama production has remained relatively steady over the past four years there was a dramatic fall in the area of adult TV drama co-productions made primarily for the international market. This has led to an overall downturn in expenditure in the foreign adult TV drama production sector of 50%, from $102 million in 2001/02 down to $51 million in 2002/2003.
These results are of great concern and a reminder of just how fragile Australian film and television production is. A downtown in the availability of funding both from overseas and within Australia, coupled with a downturn in the foreign production sector, has reduced the size of feature film and TV drama production by almost a quarter.
The Australian film and television industry remains critically important to ensuring Australians enjoy a rich, vibrant cultural heritage. It is also an industry, which continues to project Australia to the world and launch Australian creative talent into the global marketplace. With the US Congress considering providing over US$500 million of tax breaks to their own industry and as negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the US draw to a conclusion, these figures underscore the importance of on-going support from the Australian Government through both regulation and subsidy if our local industry is to survive against the Goliath of the US audiovisual industry.
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