Australian film success highlights importance of government support

ARIANA DEELEY

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The Water Diviner, Holding the Man and Oddball were among the top ten Australian grossing films in domestic box office Photo: screenaustralia

The Australian Film Industry has broken its all time Box Office record by hitting $64 million dollars this month, for 2015 so far.

The milestone surpasses the previous record of $63.4 million, set in 2001, and can be attributed to the success of Australian films such as ‘Mad Max Fury Road’, ‘The Water Diviner’, and ‘Paper Planes’.

CEO of Screen Australia, Graeme Mason said it’s important to celebrate success when it comes along, and predicts the figure will reach $70 million by the end of the year, with several major Australian films yet to be released.

“Given that the theatrical landscape is more challenging than ever before, Australian films have well and truly over-performed,” Mr Mason said.

He also noted, the Federal Government supported many of the films contributing to the year’s success through various funding, development, marketing offsets and innovation programs, through Screen Australia, and other agencies.

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Mad Max: Fury Road took out the number one spot, making $21.65 million in domestic box office, and over $373 million worldwide Photo: Flickr

However, these movies were all filmed and produced years before the Australian Film sector saw the federal government slash millions of dollars worth of grants and funding in the 2014 and 2015 budget.

Screen Australia alone saw a cut of $38 million in 2014, with a further cut of $3.6 million over the following four years, whilst the Australia Council lost $28.2 million, and Screen Producers Australia lost $29.2 million over the four years.

Head of Business & Audience for Screen Australia, Richard Harris said the organisation is now facing challenges of trying to absorb further funding cuts without vastly reducing funding to film production and development.

“We’ve quarantined funding up to now but we’ve essentially said, ‘we’re really kind of at a critical mass in terms of where we deliver the money that goes into production funding and development funding,’ so any further reductions will actually impact on production and they will have impacts in the years out,” Mr Harris said.

“We need the government to be aware of that in the future.”

Mr Harris said while the Australian film industry has an important contribution to our economy, the flow on impact of having a thriving film sector is where we reap the economic benefits.   

“The important thing about the economic contribution is that there is an ecology of production that occurs in Australia, which is partly because of government funding that goes into screen production from us, from the ABC and so on, but that actually has flow on impacts to the capacity for us to produce things like the International films that were just announced.” 

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Two of Hollywood’s biggest upcoming productions will take place in Australia next year – the new Thor flick to be shot on the Gold Coast and the new Alien film expected to film in Sydney Photo: dmarge

He added, government support for a well established and functioning film industry is crucial in order to attract international productions.

“You just can’t attract Thor for example, and the new Prometheus film if you don’t actually have the capacity built in your sector.”

While the 2016 productions of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’’ and ‘Alien: Lost paradise’ are alone expected to bring $217 million to the Australian economy, Mr Harris said Australian film is an important contribution to Australian culture, not just the economy.

“It makes an important economic contribution, but from our point of view, it’s actually an important part of our culture, it’s essentially being able to tell Australian stories to Australian audiences, and because of the current market situation, it just doesn’t happen without government support.”

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