Seventeen Australian feature films went into production in the 12 months to June 30, less than half of each of the previous three years, but government film agency Screen Australia says there is nothing to worry about.
“Only eight Screen Australia financed films started shooting in 2010/11, down from 21 last year,” the agency notes in the 2010/2011 edition of its annual drama report, made public this morning. “This does not reflect a decrease in funding provided for feature films; it is merely a timing issue relating to production schedules and will be balanced by an increase in Screen Australia features in the 2011/12 slate, with films such as Drift, Mental, The Sapphires and The Kath & Kim Filum already underway.
For the record, the 17 Australian films that commenced principal photography in the 2010/2011 financial year compared to 40 in the 2009/10 financial year, and 38 in each of the previous two years.
Four of the 17 films focussed on in the current research report are international co-productions, namely 33 Postcards, which was made with China, Bait (Singapore), Iron Sky (Germany and Finland) and Singularity (UK).
Three are very eagerly anticipated titles by directors that have well-and-truly proven themselves with hit films, namely Any Questions for Ben? from Rob Sitch (The Dish, The Castle), A Few Best Men (pictured) from Stephan Elliott (Easy Virtue, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and The King is Dead! from Rolf de Heer (Bad Boy Bubby, Ten Canoes).
Much buzz has also built around Mark Lamprell's Goddess and there is considerable curiosity around Kieran Darcy-Smith's debut Wish You Were Here. Snowtown and The Tunnel have already been released publicly and The Hunter is in cinemas now. Crawlspace, Hail, John Doe, Redd Inc and Undertow make up the rest.
Australian films that cost less than $500,000 are not counted unless they are released in cinemas or are invited to screen at a major festival. The 17 that were included had a total budget of $120 million – $88 million of this was spent in Australia – which puts the average per film budget at $7 million. Some years one or two big-budget Hollywood-financed Australian films drag up this average and this is highly likely to be the case in the current year because of The Great Gatsby from Baz Luhrmann and Paradise Lost from Alex Proyas.
Some years big-budget US blockbusters use Australia as a location but the strength of the Australian dollar is discouraging them; in the most recent financial year only the Chinese film Love in Space and the Indian film Mr Perfect filmed on Australian soil. Australian visual effects teams provided $30 million worth of visual effects on foreign films but only after these films were shot elsewhere.
Including adult and children's television drama, a total of $495 million was spent in Australia on drama production. This was a 33 per cent drop on last year, principally because of the lack of high-budget features going into production. The $322 million spent on 40 dramas for adults was the highest expenditure for more than a decade.
For a full copy of the report click here.