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Is Aussie culture being faded out on Aussie screens?

Pristine waters on sandy beach shores and cute koalas aren’t the only things Australia is popularly known for. From the animated toe-tapping penguins in Happy Feetto the grit and humour of Paul Hogan inCrocodile Dundee, Aussie films are distinguishable worldwide, with the industry having made iconic flicks that will live on long after they’ve been produced.


But in the past year, movie producers, directors and cinephiles alike have voiced their increasing concerns for the Australian film industry. This apprehension grew after the Australian government announced in May 2018, a $140 million merit-assessed grant, available over four years from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2023.


Named the ‘Location Incentive’, this was implemented to attract international investment that is said to boost Australian jobs in the Aussie film industry. This is in addition to the ‘Location Offset’, a 16.5% refundable tax rebate which is calculated on Qualifying Australian Production Expenditure (QAPE).


According to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, the funding will ensure a pipeline of international production comes to our shores, keeping our creative talent, actors and film crews at the forefront of the world market and will bring more than $260 million in new foreign investment into the Australian economy.


The Location Incentive is a merit-assessed grant of up to 13.5% of QAPE and complements the government’s existing 16.5% Location Offset tax rebate. Film makers must be eligible for the 16.5% Location Offset first and if the project is eligible for the 13.5% Location Incentive, this can effectively take the tax rebate up to 30% on any qualifying Australian spend.


Put simply, this means any large budget international productions which film Down Under have the financial motivation to do so because they can tap a 30% rebate on all money spent in the country. But with such an enticing financial motivation for Hollywood blockbusters, where does it leave Aussie productions?


Although it’s predicted that the Location Incentive will create more than 3000 jobs for Aussie cast and crew, and support the services of around 6000 businesses each year, there’s no guarantee Australian stories will be produced and backed, with fears of Hollywood blockbusters overshadowing original Australian productions.


Last year local films profited a total of 4.5% of total box office profits in Australia and even Screen Australia– the Australian Federal government's key funding body for the Australian screen production industry – received $81.85 million in taxpayer funding for 2017/18, a $2.59 million decrease from $84.44 million in the previous year.


In response to the Australian film industry’s threat, the Make it Australiancampaign was formed to encourage and implement a strong government commitment to a sustainable film and television industry for producers, cast and crew, writers and directors.


The movement was the brainchild of four major industry associations – Screen Producers Australia, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the Australian Directors Guildand the Australian Writers’ Guild. But the effort has gained little traction.


And according to the 2018 Australian content in subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) catalogs: availability and discoverabilityreport – which examines the availability and discoverability of Australian film and television content on Netflix and Stan – a lack of quotas on media platforms can be the reason for a low level of Australian content.


As of 22 August 2018, the number of Australian film and television titles on Netflix fell by 7% and made up 1.6% of its total content. The alarming truth is, even as new media platforms like Netflix continue to extend their reach into homes across the country and make millions of dollars from Australian subscriptions, Aussie audiences have no guarantee new Aussie films and stories will be told through film or that Australian talent will remain on our shores and not be tempted to move to Hollywood, home to the stars.


It’s important for Aussie culture to be depicted through Australian television and for our communities to see films that speak to us and make us think about our own lives. Without support and constant diligence, the future of the Aussie film industry is questionable.

For more info on how the film industry Down Under is changing, tune into the new podcast presented by CGU in partnership with SBS, The Few Who Do– two hosts, one problem, two possibilities. Episode 5, features award-winning Australian director Gillian Armstrong and co-founder of one of the world’s leading independent creative digital studios, Zareh Nalbandian of Animal Logic.