Australian drama production surged by more than 25 per cent to $623 million last fiscal year after Hollywood-backed, big-budget films The Great Gatsby and I, Frankenstein prompted an upturn in feature film production.

The rebound in film production, which climbed from just $121 million to $337 million (putting it slightly above the five-year average of $318 million), according to Screen Australia data, helped stem a downturn in TV drama production.

Total TV drama production fell 23.9 per cent to $286 million, largely due to a fall in foreign activity (US TV drama, Terra Nova, bolstered the previous year’s result) and a drop in children’s drama. The five year average for TV drama production was $337 million.

In 2011-12, all of the Australian feature film slate and 84 per cent of the TV drama slate were Producer Offset projects (the tax rebate stands at 40 per cent for Australian film and 20 per cent for qualifying TV production budgets).

The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann said the Producer Offset rebate allowed the production to be filmed in Australia.

“To work with Australia's skilled film technicians and facilities, and to bring large scale projects like The Great Gatsby to Australia, we can't have our head in the sand about the fact that the country is a long way away,” he said in a statement. “Without the Producer Offset, there is simply no way that we could have picked up on and continued the creative relationships that have evolved with us in Australia, and that have so enriched our creative process.”

The decision to grant the quintessential American story the 40 per cent rebate has not been without controversy after local TV series Lush House was rejected. The process and reasons for such decisions are hidden behind tax secrecy laws which means the government cannot name any production as an Offset recipient (although the filmmakers can).

I, Frankenstein had a $50 million budget. The NSW government, which is understood to have granted Gatsby millions of dollars to film in the state, initially estimated the film would inject more than $120 million into the local economy. However, Gatsby has since gone well over its initial production schedule (its release was delayed by six months to mid-2013) and its budget is likely to have also increased substantially.

Total Australian drama production expenditure, five-year average pre and post Producer Offset

Source: Screen Australia

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