Aus gov backs one-off payment for Brad Pitt film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

The Federal Government has offered Disney a multi-million dollar one-off payment to lure Hollywood film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo to shoot in Australia.

The Disney production is now understood to be evaluating locations (Sydney’s Fox Studios Australia is the favoured location) with a final decision expected to be made by the end of February.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo – based on the classic Jules Verne novel – is set to be directed by David Fincher and will star Brad Pitt. Fincher has also reportedly been eyeing up Fox’s Gone Girl if the production falls through.

Arts minister Simon Crean yesterday confirmed to The Daily Telegraph that he was meeting with Disney executives this morning at Parliament House in the hope of finalising the deal. Minister Crean later told ABC Radio that the Federal Government had offered Disney $12 million in addition to the 16.5 per cent Location rebate, although he also said that would have to be boosted by state government funding (a source earlier told IF the offer would be more than $20 million).

"We've made our offer but that needs to be complemented by NSW and Queensland but we're still in the mix… and let's hope for the best," he told ABC Radio.  

Minister Crean has also spruiked the potential deal on Twitter ("I'm working hard on this. 2000+ jobs and a big boost to our world-class creative industries. Hope to confirm soon.") and The Kyle and Jackie O Show.

The government decision to back 20,000 Leagues follows a similar one-off approval it granted The Wolverine in early-2012. While the Hugh Jackman action film qualified for the 16.5 per cent Location tax offset, the government added another $12.8 million grant in order to secure the production.

The total $25.6 million government payment was the equivalent of an approximate 30 per cent subsidy on the film’s estimated local expenditure – the level that the film industry has been lobbying for to offset the strength of the Australian currency.

The Greens party has thrown its support behind permanently raising the Location rebate to 30 per cent although the major political parties have yet to make a similar pledge ahead of the September election.

If Disney gives the film final green-light it will prove a fillup for the Australian screen production industry which is facing a dire second half of 2013. While a number of high-profile local productions are currently in pre-production or shooting (The Rover, Son of a Gun, Healing) there are no major foreign films ready to shoot in Australia. In addition, Screen Australia’s decision to spend its entire $42 million annual drama budget within six months also threatens to leave a production hole in the second half of 2013.

While Disney is understood to be very close to approving production, no studio film is guaranteed. In 2009, the NSW government announced that Warner Bros would shoot Green Lantern in New South Wales however, the soaring Australian dollar later saw the studio shift the film to the USA. More recently, Australian film Mad Max: Fury Road, which was set to shoot in Broken Hill, was delayed several times before the production was shifted to Namibia and South Africa.

Australian films (which pass the significant Australian content test) receive a 40 per cent Producer Offset tax rebate on qualifying expenditure. However, only a handful of Australian filmmakers are able to lure Hollywood money to make ‘Australian’ films.

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was filmed in Sydney and remains in post-production while a number of Australian crew were still employed on George Miller’s Fury Road for its overseas shoot (the film still ostensibly claims to be Australian). However, Alex Proyas’ Sydney-based Paradise Lost fell over in early-2012 while Rob Luketic has been attached to a number of Australian-based productions although none have been green-lit.

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