An offset not worth Knowing?

Alex Proyas regrets shooting Knowing in Melbourne. he told Miguel Gonzalez that Australia must rethink the rebates for international films if we want to keep them coming.

“Sadly, I regret bringing the production of Knowing to Australia,” says director Alex Proyas of his latest film, which stars Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne and claimed the top spot at the US box office when it was released on March 20. “We genuinely thought that we would qualify for the 40 percent Producer Offset, because it’s essentially an all-Australian production.

Still to this day, I’m really upset that we were not able to qualify for that rebate, and I don’t understand why.”

The director says it’s ironic that Massachusetts, the American state where the story actually takes place, was offering a better rebate for production (35 percent) than the Location Offset (15 percent) they’d end up receiving in Australia. He believes that during his pre-production there was “an enormous lack of clarity” about how the Producer Offset would work, and then it was too late for them to move. The U$55m Knowing suffered as a result.
“Things changed and the goal post moved. I love shooting in Australia, it’s my home, but it’s a miracle that it was shot here, a fluke. If we’d had a little bit more forewarning, we would have made in the US. “The production lost many millions of dollars as a result. The studio, Summit Entertainment, were immensely supportive, but they were hurt by this scenario.” The director of Dark City and The Crow believes that the favourable current exchange rate gives big Hollywood films a viable reason to come to Australia, but the situation could change if the Aussie dollar went up against its US counterpart.

Under such circumstances “there’s very little incentive to make those movies here”, so Australian rebates must become more competitive if the country wants to continue attracting high-budget productions, “particularly when they’re driven by Australians, as it was  in this case”. “Is there something between that 15% Location Offset and the 40% Producer Offset? I don’t know, but this notion of films having to comply with certain Australian requirements is just total bullshit. “I’m in a constant dilemma because I make films set in fantasy environments. My next project (Dracula Year Zero) will be a U$140m period epic about the origins of the Dracula legend, set in 13th century Transylvania. How on Earth am I supposed to qualify that film in terms of Australian content? I want to shoot it in Australia, but I’ll probably end up in New Zealand.”
According to Proyas, this situation is worse than what happened to George Miller and his planned Justice League film in 2008. “George was still in the early stages and he could re-asses the situation. No matter how much Australian filmmakers like him, Peter Weir or myself want to bring productions to Australia, if we’re not given the level of support we deserve, our films will just not be made here. It’s as simple as that.
They need to listen to the people who are in this kind of position.” Proyas has worked with Peter Jackson’s companies Weta Digital and Park Road Post-Production in I, Robot and Knowing respectively, and he admires Jackson’s efforts to develop an industry in New  Zealand, which he believes should be replicated here.

“The crews that I work with are so talented, and they don’t know what their next project will be because there’s nothing happening. Without production, these talents will evaporate; we have to make our industry a viable business. I’ve been saying the same thing for 20 years… it never seems to get any better, but we can only hope”.


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