Spend on drama slides 18% as COVID plays havoc with production schedules

Spending on drama in Australia fall 18% in 2019/20 as COVID forced the near total shutdown of large-scale productions, according to Screen Australia’s Drama Report.

Just over $990 million was invested in drama, with expenditure by 74 Australian productions accounting for $543m (55%), down 32% on last year’s record result.

In total, 41 foreign projects generated $447 million in spend, an 8% increase on 2018/19.

Screen Australia said the pandemic forced the postponement of 26 Australian drama titles and “continues to present significant challenges”.

Chief executive Graeme Mason said: “Never in the 30 year history of the Drama Report have we seen an event like the COVID-19 pandemic. While we looked on track to celebrate a record year in many areas of the industry, the pandemic is estimated to have postponed around 26 Australian drama titles with total budgets exceeding $325 million. This large scale impact is unprecedented.

“Several challenges remain with many projects reporting increases in costs as they make necessary adjustments to work in a COVID-safe environment, while others are yet to resume work or get started for a variety of COVID-related reasons.

“This will also have a flow-on effect as some productions slated to commence work in 2020/21 have not been able to, with dramatic changes in production schedules impacting the availability of cast, crew and studio space.”

More positively, Mason said there were signs the sector was bouncing back.

He cited support from the Federal Government’s Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF) and Screen Australia’s direct COVID-19 funding that has enabled staff to return to work  on projects with combined production budgets of more than $330 million.

“The TIF continues to fill a vital gap in getting productions back up and running, and has now been replicated in many other countries,” Mason said. “I commend everyone in the industry on their tenacity, resilience and ability to adapt and find ways to move forward in the midst of a global pandemic.”

Minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher MP, said: “It’s testament to the industry’s strength and resilience that despite COVID-19’s impact on the sector, spend on drama production in 2019/20 still reached nearly $1 billion.”

He said the government’s $400 million increase to the Location Incentive Scheme, announced in July, will attract foreign film and TV productions to Australia over the next seven years.

“We have also announced further reforms to the long-term regulation and funding of content,” he said. “The $50 million Temporary Interruption Fund to date has been allocated to 23 approved projects supporting the safe return of production. And we have provided additional funding of $53 million to Screen Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation for the development and production of quality Australian content.”

New South Wales accounted for 48% of Australian spend to reach $475 million, while Victoria accounted for 28% ($297m).


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