Australian screen drama production hits record high

Total screen drama production in Australia has increased a healthy 11 per cent from last year, raising the total spend to $837 million – the highest on record.

According to the Screen Australia 2013/2014 Drama Report, released today, the sector as a whole is in a strong position across all states.

South Australia in particular broke records with the value of drama production in the state increasing almost 50 per cent on last year’s record levels ($50M) to $73 million.

Other highlights include domestic production levels accounting for over 76 per cent of the overall drama expenditure, clocking up a tidy $640 million; as well as the production of feature films rising 18 per cent to a spend of $297 million. This increase was due in part Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, to be released on Boxing Day, and Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt. International co-productions such as Maya the Bee and Life also contributed significantly.

The 2013/2014 Australian TV drama slate slipped eight per cent for a result of $343 million; with children’s drama activity also decreasing along with TV drama co-productions, down from six last year to two.

However, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason was quick to point out the decline in TV drama comes after a record year in 2012/2013.

Of the overall results, he said: “It is fantastic; it’s a record level which is amazing. I am very happy obviously to see that local features are looking good, foreign production coming down here is looking good, TV is a tiny bit down but really off the record high [year] ever so that’s still looking fantastic.”

Mason was pleased the positive results came at a time when there had been some concern surrounding Australian box office performance, which has so fallen rather flat (but still with hopes of being resurrected by The Water Diviner later in the year).

“We know that people are very busy and there’s a lot going on. I think people sometimes don’t want to see the big picture. Also another thing you’ve seen in the report is that it’s not just Sydney and Melbourne performing, all the states are doing well, particularly South Australia who has had a record spend,” he said. “Then you look at the ACT who had three shows shot there, including The Code, and they’ve never had that. So whilst it’s not in this year’s figures, if you look at Tasmania they have The Kettering Incident which has been filming for 18 weeks and it’s got The Light Between Oceans filming now and Lion is about to go down there. It’s really strong across the board.”

Foreign production also played a significant part in the production expenditure total, with Angelina’s Unbroken and action thriller San Andreas (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) both choosing to film here.

Mason further pointed out these large-scale productions didn’t confine themselves to the larger studios or cities, with parts of Unbroken being shot in rural NSW.

“We also had The Last Cab to Darwin, 8MMM and Strangerland all filming in Broken Hill and Alice Springs. That is fantastic to represent different parts of Australia onscreen. It gives a real economic injection to the regions and it promotes Australia as a tourist destination. So, quite frankly, what’s not to love?”

Mason credits the producer offset for attracting such projects to our shores, with the report stating the scheme’s total value amassed to $137 million in the past year.

It’s a trend Mason hopes to see continue, with him stating: “Queenland’s got Pirates of the Caribbean 5 filming now; Sydney has Truth with Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford here at the moment. I think there will be other things coming here. Even if they don’t start filming this fiscal year, I think we will get the commitment for a couple of other high-profile Australian-led projects, which is really exciting.”

To see the full 2013/14 report, click here