NSW Government flags cuts to Made in NSW fund, PDV and games rebates

'The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart' filmed in NSW thanks to the Made in NSW fund.

UPDATED: The NSW Government has signalled it will make cuts to screen funding in next week’s state budget, including the Made in NSW fund, the Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) rebate and the Digital Games Development Rebate Program.

The Made in NSW fund is designed to attract high-end film and television to the state. The pot of money, bolstered to $175 million over five years by the former Coalition government in 2020-21, has not only helped to attract Hollywood fare Down Under such as Universal’s The Fall Guy, directed by David Leitch and starring Ryan Gosling, and Will Gluck’s Anyone But You, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, but supported Australian projects such as George Miller’s Furiosa, Disney+’s The Artful Dodger, Amazon’s The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart and Stan’s Prosper.

At present, the NSW Government offers a 10 per cent rebate on PDV and games development work carried out in the state with a minimum threshold of $500,000. Similar rebates are offered in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia, so any changes to the program will likely made NSW uncompetitive with the rest of Australia, despite the state boasting the clear majority of the country’s PDV businesses.

The impending changes to screen funding were first reported yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald and form part of a larger series of cuts to arts and cultural programs flagged by NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey. Arts Minister John Graham said $188 million was cut to the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade on March 8 by the Coalition, two weeks prior to the polling day. Graham told the SMH some programs across trade, innovation, tourism and screen programs will have significantly reduced funding, while others will be cancelled outright.

What the exact changes to the Made in NSW fund and the PDV and games rebates will be have not yet been publicly specified. While IF has contacted both the office for Minister Graham and Screen NSW about the nature of the cuts, it did not receive a response to the question. It is understood that current Screen NSW funding agreements will be fulfilled.

According to the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Film, Television and Digital Games survey, the NSW screen industry generated more than $3 billion in total income in 2021-22. Of the 4,575 film and video production businesses in Australia, 3,051 are based in NSW. Of the 604 post-production businesses, 308 are located in NSW.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has called the proposed changes “devastating”, and argued they will put jobs, revenue and investment growth at risk for years to come. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) similarly said the cuts would damage the state’s credibility and competitiveness as a global film and television “powerhouse”.

A NSW government spokesperson told IF Minister Graham will be meeting with the MEAA and SPA this week and hold an industry round table on Tuesday 26 September, to consider a revised approach to domestic and international screen support – in film, television, and digital games.

“The forthcoming Arts, Culture and Creative Industries policy, as well as Screen NSW’s Three-Year Strategy, presents a timely opportunity to submit a business case that aligns with and supports the objectives of the new policy to give NSW the competitive edge,” the spokesperson said.

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said the cuts were a disaster for screen practitioners both in NSW and beyond.

“It shows disappointing short-term thinking about the value of the screen industry”, he said.

“To cut a fund [Made in NSW] that reportedly brings in $20 for every dollar invested and creates thousands of jobs is hard to comprehend, especially when, after years of stagnation and setbacks, the sector had been so optimistic about its future prospects. 

“With the Australian Parliament on the verge of regulating the reinvestment in Australian content by streaming platforms, this action by the NSW Government will see this state missing out on the new investment and job opportunities available. 

“The timing of this cut is particularly hard to understand, just when creative industries are seeking to engage positively with the new government in the development of the state’s first Arts, Culture and Creative Industries Policy. Submissions had barely closed on this consultation when news of these cuts was announced. 

“While other states are actively opening doors for screen industry growth, NSW is slamming them shut. NSW cannot afford to be complacent and send such a strongly negative signal to the world as it is doing with these cuts.”

MEAA chief executive Erin Madeley said Sydney and NSW’s infrastructure, workforce and locations alone were not enough to ensure that there was a constant stream of work to the state, and that programs like Made in NSW and the PDV rebate were vital.

“The reality is NSW is competing on a global stage for screen productions and government funding and incentives can make a real difference when studios are deciding where to locate a production.

“We appreciate the NSW Budget is under pressure in a difficult economic and fiscal environment and that the cuts to this program were made by the previous government.

“But we urge the Minns government to either reinstate this program or to meet with the screen industry to discuss alternative strategies to ensure NSW remains a leader at home and abroad.”

The 2023-24 NSW Budget will be handed down September 19.