Screen Australia report shows boom in Australian TV production

Australia saw a record expenditure of $376m on local television production in the last financial year, according to Screen Australia’s latest Drama Report.

The results identify television as the fastest-growing sector of drama production with a 25% increase in expenditure from the previous year.

Fiona Cameron, chief operating officer of Screen Australia, said the results demonstrate Australia’s “versatility and creativity”, and the capacity of Australian producers to create dramas of international quality.

Cameron partially attributes the increase to popularity of subscription video-on-demand, which has unlocked the potential of television for complex and quality storytelling.

“It has made everyone very keen to produce the next big thing,” she says.

At present the report only includes production on dramas that are either broadcast or streamed on a catch-up service. Screen Australia are looking to expand this definition for next year’s report, Cameron claims, in response to the groundbreaking work available on YouTube. She cites Screen Australia’s web series Aunty Donna 1999, which has 3.3m individual views.

“Undoubtedly online drama is where there’s a huge amount of risk-taking,” Cameron says. “It does push boundaries, it is risky, it is edgy.” But, she claims, it is receiving international attention.

YouTube dramas aren’t the only ones catching the world’s eye. Australian productions across the board are meeting with increasing commercial success in foreign markets. Many titles, including Top of the Lake, Doctor Doctor, and Cleverman have been sold for distribution overseas.

Doctor Doctor has been sold for for UK distribution.

Aussie drama Doctor Doctor has been sold for for UK distribution.

“Typically Australian drama… is harder to sell [overseas],” Cameron concedes. But even where the story is not Australian, increasingly the storytellers are. Hacksaw Ridge, a feature film released last week in Australia and the US, was helmed by Australian directors and screenwriters. “It’s potentially going to be a huge production, and we are taking about the Oscars,” Cameron says.

This success has been furthered by the accessibility provided by online streaming. “A lot of the [Australian] online dramas are watched in other parts of the world as much as they’re watched here,” she claims.

Hacksaw Ridge, starring Sam Worthington, promises critical acclaim for its Australian writers.

Hacksaw Ridge, starring Sam Worthington, promises critical acclaim for its Australian writers.

Another area of rapid growth for Australia’s production industry is in post, visual and digital effects (PDV) services. Though total expenditure in this area is down 9% from last year, in 2015/16 Australian PDV companies raked in $105m from foreign productions, smashing last year’s record by 20%.

This achievement was driven by the increasing number of US productions hiring Australian companies for post-production, a trend which Cameron believes demonstrates Australia’s world-class capabilities in this area.

“It’s very rare that America exports [these] services,” she explains.

A total of 9 US TV productions underwent post-production in Australia, including season 6 of Game of Thrones. The critically-acclaimed episode ‘Battle of the Bastards’ took home several Emmys including awards for visual effects, sound mixing and single-camera picture editing.

It was an Australian post-production team behind Game of Thrones' landmark episode 'Battle of the Bastards',

It was an Australian post-production team behind Game of Thrones’ landmark episode ‘Battle of the Bastards’,

Looking to the future, Cameron is confident Australian stories will continue to break accent and cultural barriers, and increase their marketability overseas.

“Neighbours and Home and Away still sell enormously overseas,” she points out. “A great story… will cut through.”


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