With a range of scenic locales from beaches to deserts, and an array of highly-rated actors and film professionals, Australia has always been popular with international film and television production companies. International drama production here is worth more than $1 billion annually and now a new financial incentive has underscored Australia’s desirability as a location for international film and television shoots.
Network 10 and Paramount + executive producer Sophia Mogford says Australia’s popularity as film location is trending upwards because production professionals now understand so much more about this wide brown land – once known mostly for crocs and roos.
The new Paramount + premier drama One Night series is set in scenic Thirroul, on the coastal south of Sydney, demonstrating how well a vibrant location can frame a narrative. The six-part series features talented Australian actors and Mogford says it follows the successful Paramount + Australian drama Last King of the Cross, an original ten-part Sydney-based series is based on the life of a notorious nightclub boss.
Other Australian-made Paramount + streaming successes include comedy series Spreadsheet about a divorced mother of two and her plans for commitment-free sex and the premier drama series Five Bedrooms, featuring a group of friends who pitch in together to get a toehold in the property market.
“Australia used to feel like it was a very long way away, it’s now much more accessible,” Mogford says. “Plus, we’re able to educate people more: it’s not just red dirt, as far as sets and environments go. Plus, we have the sound stages and the sets and the ability to build the sets that people need for big movies. As more and more productions come here, people’s talents and abilities grow as well.”
International film executives have begun to realise just how rich the landscape and talent pool is in Australia, she adds. Whereas once Australia was known for novelty films and productions – heavily characterised productions and films – now Australia-made productions don’t need to rely on their “Australianness” to do well.
The location offset rebate which officially began in July 2023 will provide a solid financial incentive to make international films and television here.
Kate Marks, chief executive officer of AusFilm, a public-private partnership which connects Australia with the international film and television community, says the offset had been 30 per cent since 2018 and it was a key reason for an uptick in international productions made here. But until this year, the offset, which requires a minimum spend in Australia, was managed in a two-tier process.
“Now it’s a flat 30 per cent, so it’s more streamlined, more straightforward and more consistent,” she says. “Over the last five years, Australia has had a competitive program of financial incentives in place. Now it’s being made even more competitive.”
Marks says providing film and television companies with incentives via the tax system is a strategy used globally with the aim of generating inward investment and boosting international film and television activity and employment. Australia offers a range of grants and incentives to attract international film and television productions, and AusFilm can assist with advice on requirements.
As well as the location offset, from July 2023 the federal government will provide a Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Offset – a 30 per cent rebate for work on post, digital and visual effects production in Australia, regardless of where a project is filmed.
Australia has always been a really attractive destination for physical production and also post-production and visual effects,” Marks says. “We have a long-standing history and reputation. In recent years, we have seen an increase in productions and we expect to see that maintained in the future.”
International film and television productions, from the US in particular, started coming to Australia in increasing numbers in the late 1990s and Australia now competes with Canada, the UK and various states in the US to attract film and television production work. Marks says the data show the current streamlined 30 per cent tax rebate will keep Australia firmly anchored as financially-competitive film and television production location.
Australian professionals make it easy for production executives. “For a country our size, we have a pretty incredible talent pool,” Marks says. “International productions generally don’t need to bring in very many crew; they can tap in to what we have here. And Australian actors are at the top of their game.”
International film and television productions not only bring employment and economic benefits to Australia, the finished products burnish Australia’s image internationally. Global audiences can see a variety of Australian locales and witness Australians at work and play. This can have a flow-on effect encouraging tourism and business opportunities and boost Australia’s profile around the world.
A range of mechanisms support international film and television production in Australia including potential financial incentives provided by federal, state and local governments.
AusFilm has an office in Los Angeles as well as in Sydney and works to promote Australia as a world-leading production destination with annual outreach programs in international markets. “We can provide creative, policy, and financial advice,” Marks says. “We can pitch locations and connect filmmakers to businesses and crew here.”
To hammer home the infinite variety of Australian film locations, the AusFilm website includes an image library with a range of sumptuous photos of “inspirational locations” in Australia. Various categories are listed, such as the “Arid” category, including images of the flat red dust around Broken Hill in outback NSW and the Discovery Bay sand dunes in Victoria, and the “Tropical” category, with photos of Tambourine Mountain in Queensland and the Top End in the Northern Territory.
The website also has a directory of the “finest screen talent in the world”, both behind and in front of the camera. Australia has four major studio complexes with the latest in facilities, and Australian acting talent is recognised world-wide, winning a glittering array of awards and nominations. The film and television sector comprises more than 3000 creative businesses working on all aspects of film and television production. The AusFilm website lists renowned actors, directors, special effects supervisors, cinematographers, composers, costume designers and stunt coordinators amongst many others.
A steady stream of local productions is essential to maintain the top-level skills and facilities Australia can now provide, Marks says. “We want a robust domestic sector supported by international production, so even if there’s a global reduction, we’ll still see a strong and steady pipeline of that activity here.”