New research has indicated Australian producers are more and more looking overseas for opportunities to grow their businesses.

In the wake of recent developments such as Rake, The Dr. Blake Mysteries, Dance Academy and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries all being picked up internationally, as well as recent successes of films such as The Rover, The Railway Man, The Great Gatsby, 52 Tuesdays and The Babadook; feedback from the production sector indicates fresh levels of optimism for business growth in international arenas.

The research, conducted by Screen Producers Australia, revealed 76 per cent of the businesses believed their business would grow over the coming year, with most businesses looking to the global market for production and distribution partners, for both their creative and financial objectives. Forty-eight percent are actively seeking international investment in their companies and a whopping 76 per cent are actively developing co-productions.

“The key for me is that businesses have adapted to look for opportunities that are international and they are really driving those opportunities very hard. So everything we can do to help facilitate those opportunities in our domestic space is very important,” Executive Director of Screen Producers Australia, Matthew Deaner, tells IF.

“If you think about what has been achieved by companies like Hoodlum, Jungleboys, Porchlight, See-Saw, Highwire over the past 12-18 months, it’s really quite incredible and we shouldn’t underestimate what it has taken them to get to this point. From a whole heap of pretty careful investment decisions and policy settings and commercial relationships between broadcasters and production companies; they have really allowed those businesses to blossom on the international stage.”

According to Deaner, it is therefore fundamental these overseas opportunities are continued to be supported domestically.

“The reason you want to enhance [these opportunities] is that you get an economic return on everything that happens when you’re talking about internationally faced work,” he says. “You get a cultural return on that because you are getting creatives that are working in multiple markets and you’re getting the product itself working in international markets. You also get this broader diplomatic or soft diplomacy dividend for the country. You get an economic dividend, a cultural dividend and a diplomatic dividend.

“When a creative has an opportunity, like Peter Duncan on Rake, that then gives another pathway to someone else, like Tracey Robertson working at Hoodlum on Secrets and Lies. The Aussie mafia – and I say that in the nicest possible way – kicks in internationally and we continue to foster this reputation for doing really interesting work. It builds and builds and builds and it’s really important that that’s supported.”

The ways in which this can be supported Deaner says can be divided into two main categories.

“Part of it is about whether or not you have an environment here that allows for content to be commissioned. That is a key aspect,” he says. “So investments by the ABC, investments by Screen Australia, competitive offsets – they all trigger the ability to make the content. Then the type of commercial relationship with broadcasting platform or a distributor and a production company, it allows for that company to take those rights and exploit them around the world and drive their benefits.

“The ability we have to create that content in the first place is really important, as well as the relationship between the broadcaster and the company which allows the production to fly and travel.

So they’re the important things that are in place to really commit this to go forward.”

Deaner also pointed out the need for the regulation of existing and the pursuit of new co-productions in the future.

“The other layers to this are about the number of co-production treaties we have. We need agenda setting in terms of other countries and refinement of those co-production agreements and finding new pathways into new markets,” he says. “We have 11, the UK has 39 and Canada has 53. But we haven’t quite got the same international pathways as the British and the Canadians have at the moment.”

Mr Deaner said that Screen Producers Australia is supporting many international efforts, including recently inking a Memorandum of Understanding with Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television in the UK as well as the Canadian Media Production Association. This builds on Screen Producers Australia existing agreement with the Producers Guild of America in the US.

"Each year at Cannes, Berlin, London, SXSW, Kidscreen and Shanghai (to name a few) Screen Producers Australia organises member-only initiatives and forums at the major festivals targeted at enhancing opportunities in the international market. Membership of associations, including the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), has provided further exclusive opportunities for future collaborations,” he says.

“Screen Producers Australia will also continue to pursue coordinated ways of working with AusFilm, Screen Australia, AusTrade and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as we seek to strike a balance between industry-led initiatives and Government supported events.”

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