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Australian drama film production spend up 45% but children’s drama falls 27%, Screen Australia reports

Local film production expenditure has increased by 45% from last year, from $195m to $284m and Australia’s total expenditure on drama production has reached an all time high, at $1.3b across 151 productions, according to Screen Australia.

The findings, which appeared in the annual Drama Report released this morning, aim to measure the health of the Australian screen industry and report on the production costs of Australian and foreign feature films, TV drama and online programs, which commenced this financial year.

Ten’s Wake in Fright was one of the many Australia dramas which contributed to TV drama expenditure

Last year, $850m was spent across 120 productions in Australia.

According to Screen Australia, the growth in expenditure and titles in the feature film production category was driven by Peter Rabbit and a range of domestic and co-production initiatives including Sweet Country, Swinging Safari, Cargo and Mary Magdalene.

Investment in Australian television drama production also climbed, from $310m last year to $321m this year – an increase of 3.5%.

The majority of the spend came from half-hour comedy formats including The Family Law, Here Come the Habibs! and Get Krack!n, while adaptations such as Wake in Fright and Picnic at Hanging Rock also contributed.

Meanwhile, children’s television drama production fell by 27% to $48m, down from $66m last year.

This year, 13 Australian children’s TV dramas were made.

A category which was measured separately for the first time was Australian online drama, which contributed $14m to overall expenditure.

This category included children’s programs Trip For Biscuits and Drop Dead Weird, as well as titles which premiered on Stan, ABC iView and YouTube, including The Other Guy, Let’s Talk About, Other People’s Problems and The Superwog Show.

When looking closely at the types of shows Australian TV drama is investing in, the most significant investment goes towards mini-series (in-house productions), which collected $209m this year, down on last year’s $220m.

Meanwhile Australian TV drama series made up $105m of spend this year, up from $78 in 2015/16.

Telemovies saw a dip from $11m to $8m this year.

Australian TV Drama spend for 2016/17. Source: Screen Australia annual Drama Report

But overall the 29 foreign projects which began shooting in Australia contributed most significantly to drama expenditure for FY17, at $557m from six feature films and three TV dramas.

Another area of rapid growth for Australia’s production industry is in post, visual and digital effects (PDV) services, which climbed 17% from $215m to $252m across Australian and foreign drama titles.

Looking across Australia, 36% of Australia drama film spend came from NSW, followed by 33% in Queensland and 25% in Victoria.

The major financial contributors to the sector were producers, production companies, distributors and broadcasters (57%), which together contributed $252.9m to 77 titles.

Foreign investors contributed 47% of the finance for this year’s feature slate, with $162.9m provided for 23 titles.

Screen Australia contributed $13m for 16 features which commenced production in 2016/17 and over half of the TV and online drama titles were supported by the industry body, totalling $24.3m across 45 titles.

The Producer Offset – a refundable tax offset for producers of Australian feature films, television and other projects – added $52.9m to local television and online programs and $99.7m to Australian feature projects.

Total drama expenditure for 2016/17. Source: Screen Australia

Commenting on the results, Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia said it was great to see Australian production continuing to grow.

“Crossing the $1 billion expenditure threshold is an incredible milestone for the Australian screen industry and has not happened by accident. There is a whole ecosystem of support measures that keep our industry firing, including direct government funding, tax incentives and Australian content quotas,” Mason said.

“We know television is becoming more expensive to make, but the demand for that content both locally and abroad is clearly increasing when you have shows like Picnic at Hanging Rock securing US sales before production had even wrapped.”

Commenting specifically on foreign features and children’s television, Mason said: “The financial dividend from foreign feature production is undeniable and is of particular benefit to our crews who have the opportunity to work on big budget projects.

“Although the production of children’s television works in a cycle that mirrors the quota requirements, this year’s sharp decline in expenditure is notable.”

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