WA production spend falls to four-year low

Western Australia's government-supported screen production fell to its lowest level in four years in 2010-11 as several productions struggled to raise finance amidst challenging economic conditions.

Screen productions in WA spent an estimated $28.42 million last financial year, bolstered by direct production investment of $3.75 million from ScreenWest, according to the state agency's annual report.

That was almost half of the $52.58 million spent in the previous year. It was also slightly lower than the three-year average between 2008-09 and 2010-11 ($41.05 million) and 2005-06 and 2007-08 ($34.2 million).

"This difference reflects the difficult financial environment the industry is operating in, with productions taking longer than previously to get all funding parties to commit," ScreenWest chief executive Ian Booth and chairman Erica Smyth wrote in the anual report.

"The high value of the Australian dollar is also having an impact on international co-productions and sales."

Booth told IF Magazine that the state had a bumper last few years but the environment was now more difficult.

"It's tough out there – definitely," Booth said.

The $28.42 million production figure includes the budgets of ScreenWest-supported feature films, television drama, documentaries and short films, however it does not include the value of the growing digital production sector. 

Booth also said that in past years WA has hosted long-running children's series such as Lockie Leonard but that has fallen away recently, partly because free-to-air broadcasters currently have enough content to fill their local quotas.

"There's obviously opportunity through ABC3 and we're working with them and there's some great projects in development," he said.

A number of major producers and investors remain interested in filming in WA this year, according to the annual report.

Three WA feature films, which were supported by ScreenWest, were released during the financial year: Mad Bastards, Wasted on the Young and Blame. Popular feel-good movie Red Dog, which was largely filmed in WA, was also recently released. TV productions which received funding included Who Do You Think You Are Series 4 and Series 5.  

The ScreenWest annual report showed that $811,000 that the agency had committed to projects had lapsed during the year, primarily associated with a $500,000 General Production Fund and a $120,000 Stepping Stone TV Co-Production Initiative.

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Source: Screenwest 2010-11 annual report