Cultural funding report shows NSW government lags behind in production and distribution investment

Film Crew
Film Crew

The New South Wales government invests less in film and video production and distribution than any mainland state, yet is benefiting from Federal Government incentives and its status as the screen capital.

The recent Cultural Funding by Government 2015-16 report, prepared by the ABS for the Meeting of Cultural Ministers this month, shows NSW invested only $5.8 million on ‘film and video production and distribution’ compared to $40.4 million by Victoria, $18.6 million by Queensland, $15.2 million by WA and $8.2 million by SA.

Yet the most recent Drama Report from Screen Australia shows NSW attracted more than double the feature film and TV drama production activity ($463 million) of any other state, the next best being Victoria’s $217 million, ahead of Queensland’s $97 million, WA ($28 million) and SA ($27 million).

That NSW expenditure was up $128 million on 2014-15 and the best in five years. Yet that activity was boosted by the Turnbull Government’s one-off  $47.3 million payment (split with Thor: Ragnarok’s Queensland shoot) to attract Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant to Sydney. That cash enticement was funded largely by the $35 million earned from the sale of Screen Australia’s studio complex at Lindfield on Sydney’s north shore. The Federal Government’s Producer Offset incentive also enticed the high-budget film Hacksaw Ridge and Jane Campion’s TV series, Top of the Lake: China Girl, to film in Sydney.

The centralisation of the sector in Sydney, evidenced by the 71 per cent of total budgets for feature film and TV drama production in 2015-16 being taken by NSW-based production companies, has meant the NSW government has not needed to match the expenditure of other states. Arguably, New South Wales’ complacency means the best Australian features are being made elsewhere. In the 2015-16 slate, WA’s investment helped produce the features Jasper Jones, Hounds of Love and Breath. Meanwhile, Victoria’s investment in digital initiatives led to PDV (post, digital and visual effects) work there on US productions Doctor Strange, Ghostbusters, Underworld: Blood Wars and Games of Thrones series 6.

The investment figure by the NSW state government has barely deviated over time, with the 2012-13 estimate of expenditure for ‘film and video production and distribution’ being $6.0m, which was 34 per cent lower than the 2011-12 figure.

Separate Screen NSW program funding figures for 2015-16 show it allocated $7.2 million for the year, $980,000 of which was for the Sydney Film Festival and $4.1 million on production finance. A further $375,000 went to the Regional Filming Fund and $45,000 was spent on location scouts and international visits. The 2017 NSW Budget allocated $7 million to the Made In NSW program to attract new TV drama and international ‘footloose’ projects.