The Australian government has revealed a $400 million plan to create 8,000 jobs a year in the film industry as part of a major arts sector splash.
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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the cash injection should attract an estimated $3 billion in foreign expenditure and support jobs for lighting technicians, actors, set designers, crews, extras, special effects professionals and carpenters. The program will run for three years and is designed to attract foreign productions to shoot in Australia.
“Behind these [movie] projects are thousands of workers that build and light the stages, that feed, house and cater for the huge cast and crew and that bring the productions to life. This is backing thousands of Australians who make their living working in front of the camera and behind the scenes in the creative economy,” Morrison said.
The plan marks an expansion of the government’s film industry Location Incentive which includes $250 million to be spent over the coming year on the creative economy.
That includes $50 million in a Temporary Interruption Fund designed to help local producers secure finance and recommence filming that was paused due to Covid-19.
Speaking on Friday from the Gold Coast, a Hollywood blockbuster hotspot, Morrison said the $400 million scheme has already attracted interest from Hollywood heavy-weights Jerry Bruckheimer and Ron Howard.
“We have Disney making films here, we got the Marvel syndicate, they have known it for many years, our capability. They know this is a safe place to make a film. This is an industry that can be drawn on here in Australia to produce world class productions,” Morrison said.
“Whether it’s Hollywood or Bollywood, or wherever they’re coming for, they know they can come here and make the films that will create great success.”
“[This] will generate the jobs, whether it’s from making coffees or the quite sophisticated work which is done on prefabrication of sets. The film industry reaches in so many different sectors and people who work in the sector also work in other industries, particularly here around the Gold Coast,” Morrison said.
The announcement follows fresh figures on Thursday revealing the Australian unemployment rate growing to 7.4 per cent in June, despite 210,000 jobs being added.
The risk to 15,000 jobs
Screen Producers Australia welcomed the announcement, but said more needs to be done to support the production of Australian stories.
“Whilst inbound productions are an important part of the overall Australian production industry, at this critical time we also need to ensure there is balance in government assistance for the whole ecosystem, and that there are also appropriate support measures in place that will allow us to continue to make Australian stories, told by Australian voices, supported by sustainable Australian production businesses,” it said in a statement.
“Significant gains in employment, investment and creative output could also be achieved through an extension of the tax incentive for domestic television content, the Producer Offset, which should be increased from 20 per cent to 40 per cent. This would also address the anomaly whereby international productions are able to access higher levels of support than local productions, which create local IP, employ local creatives and create great Australian cultural content.”
It said a more pressing issue is the suspension of Australian content quota requirements applying to commercial free-to-air television and subscription services.
Screen Producers Australia also warned that 10,000 to 15,000 full-time equivalent jobs will be lost if the local content quota is not reinforced in 2021.
“The lack of certainty regarding the application of the quotas in 2021 is heavily distorting the market, and throwing doubt over projects which were well developed and ready to be green-lit.
“With the finalisation of COVID safe working guidelines, and the welcome announcement of a $50 million fund to get productions going again, there is no justification for further blanket suspensions and the ongoing lack of clarity is affecting shovel-ready projects that can help get the economy moving and will ensure jobs for thousands of Australians.”