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Creative opportunity: Australian stories: investing in Australian film and television [policy document]



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Creative Opportunity: Australian Stories - Investing in Australian film and television

Senator Kate Lundy Shadow Minister for the Arts

Labor’s approach to a national cultural policy is based on the principles of creativity, participation and access. Unlike the Howard Government, Labor is proud of our diverse Australian cultural identity.

This means that priority must be given to providing opportunities to foster creativity and to provide support to emerging artists.

Labor is committed to ensuring the future viability and growth of the Australian film and television industry.

Labor places a high value on the development of a distinctive Australian culture and identity, allowing Australians to speak confidently to each other and to the world.

Successive Australian governments have supported policies and programs to enhance cultural development and the expression of Australian voices. For over 30 years these policies have helped the Australian film and television industry grow in size and economic importance.

But under the Howard Government, the Australian film and television industry has seen a dramatic drop in production and investment. The industry is now faced with a crisis - placing it on the verge of collapse.

In 2002-03 the television, film and video production industry was worth $1.5 billion, employing more than 16,000 people. In this same period there were more than 2,000 businesses operating in film and video production in Australia.1

Australia has an international reputation for having an efficient, highly competitive film and television industry.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics - Television, Film and Video Production 2002-3

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Given the size of our population, the international impact of Australian productions has been impressive.

However, this impressive reputation is now in jeopardy.

A Federal Labor Government will act to support the growth of the Australian film and television industry.

This support is urgently needed to assure the future production of vibrant Australian content for both domestic and international markets.

A Federal Labor Government will address the dramatic downturn in the Australian film and television industry by providing a $70 million funding boost.

Labor will implement a Film and Television Industry Strategy by:

■ Immediately boosting the Film Finance Corporation’s 2004-05 budget by $50 million

■ Providing $10 million to the Australian Film Commission to establish a Low Budget Feature Fund

■ Providing $10 million for an Australian Film Commission interactive digital content strategy

■ Developing a Blueprint for Growth for the Film and Television Industry

$50 million boost for the Film Finance Corporation

The Film Finance Corporation (FFC) is currently implementing competitive investment practices, incorporating an increasingly varied slate of production and becoming more accountable for the projects in which it invests. Even so, there is a significant unmet demand for investment in feature film and television drama production, particularly in light of rising production costs and declining funding.

Under-capitalised film companies and small feature budgets mean that:

■ Local producers are unable to afford Australia’s international film talent.

■ Development of projects is inadequate.

■ There can be a lack of ambition and scope in the stories producers choose to tell.

The FFC has already put in place a new system of feature film evaluation, which is working to increase the quality, diversity and audience appeal of its annual feature films. However, it is greatly constricted by its lack of funds.

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Labor’s additional funding in 2004-05 will complement these recent initiatives to attract more private sector investment, enabling the FFC to revitalise feature film production.

Labor’s $50 million investment in the FFC will:

■ Fund higher budget and more ambitious projects with the aim of attracting our top filmmakers and actors back from Hollywood.

■ Support the production of a more diverse slate of films with greater potential to appeal to audiences in Australia and overseas.

■ Assist with higher returns on investment in Australian feature films by avoiding the current necessity of having to pre-sell film rights in order to raise production finance.

Low Budget Feature Fund

Enhancing professional development of talented individuals engaged in successful short film productions means supporting them in low budget features. Labor will provide the Australian Film Commission (AFC) with $10 million to establish a Low Budget Feature Fund in 2004-05. This will allow the AFC to establish a program, consistent with Labor’s Blueprint for Growth, to develop the skills of feature film production talent on the job.

Australian film and television’s digital future

Australia must be well placed to participate in the creative industries of the digital future, but we lag behind other developed nations in digital content funding. The AFC’s current broadband funding initiative ($2.2 million over three years) expired at the end of the 2003-04 financial year.

Labor will provide $10 million in 2004-05 to the AFC for an interactive digital content strategy.

This funding boost will help to secure a place for Australia in the future digital world - culturally, through access to a choice of sophisticated Australian content and economically, through the distribution and export of that content.

Labor’s Film and Television Strategy aims to bring Australia much more into step with the increasingly competitive, global business in which it must operate

Developing a Blueprint for Growth

While Labor’s policy provides up front funding to address the current crisis. We recognise that we also have to develop a long term strategy to assure the future viability of the industry.

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Labor will develop a Blueprint for Growth in the industry by undertaking a review of the fundamental and global issues facing the film and television production industry.

This review will encompass public and private investment, development, production, distribution and exhibition - the entire value chain - bringing together industry associations, unions and government agencies and administered by the Department of Communications, Information Technology

and the Arts.

The key elements of the review include, but will not be limited to:

■ Reviewing the industry

The review will focus on possible structural reform of the industry and investigate new ways in which the industry can ensure its future viability, including appropriate levels and sources of funding for development, production, distribution and exhibition.

■ Encouraging private investment

Labor understands the importance of encouraging private sector investment in Australian films, as well as attracting overseas investment, to provide funding for the development and production of film and television series in Australia.

Labor is committed to maintaining existing concessional tax arrangements and will explore new incentives and initiatives to encourage support from the private sector, as well as investigate any administrative issues that could be providing a disincentive to investors in film and television production.

■ Developing Australian feature film and television

Like other industries, research and development is a key to future success. In the film industry the development phase is crucial. One of the big problems that the industry has faced is that it lags well behind its international competitors in terms of the amount of money that it spends on development.

In addition to establishing the Low Budget Feature Fund, a Federal Labor Government will explore further development opportunities for Australian film and television drama projects.

Labor will also explore opportunities to improve business training in: career planning, small enterprise development, alliances and partnering, market dynamics and entrepreneurship for artists.

■ Taking advantage of the emerging digital environment

The Australian film and television industry has to date been focused on conventional forms of production. At the same time, Australia is world leader in the area of digital post production and has enormous potential in interactive digital content.

Labor’s $10 million funding commitment to the development of interactive digital content strategy will support the film and television industry to make the most of its traditional strengths, as it seeks to leverage the opportunities that new media presents.

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Labor will also review the most effective means of: supporting the creation of content for the new digital media platforms; encouraging the development of programs for screen production professionals to extend their expertise across the wider range of production; and delivering platforms now available through digital convergence.

Labor has already committed to legislating to ensure that the Australia United States Free Trade Agreement definition of ‘interactive audio and/or video services’ includes but is not limited to future media already identified.

Labor will work with the industry to examine further options for effective government regulation of local content on future media mechanisms and to determine how the industry is placed to produce content in the future.

■ Reviewing performers’ and directors’ rights

Labor is committed to reviewing existing copyright legislation for both performers and directors. Labor will ensure that rights for performers are comprehensive and genuinely in the interest of performers, and that directors’ rights recognise the creative contribution that directors make in the production process.

Labor’s Creative Opportunity: Australian Stories - Investing in Australian film and television is fully costed and funded

$ million 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08

FFC feature film and television drama production strategy 50 - - -

AFC Low Budget Feature Fund 10 - - -

Interactive digital content strategy 10 - - -

Develop a Blueprint for Growth - review of industry - - - -

Total 70 - - -

Printed and authorised by Tim Gartrell, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600