Screen industry “needs help” to compete globally
Talented and experienced screen crew are leaving Australia in search of work because of limited opportunities due to the lack of competitiveness of our industry.
After going without work for a year, Arthur Spink, a special effects designer and workshop supervisor who has worked on blockbusters like Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean, is packing up to move to the United Kingdom.
He says urgent measures need to be taken to make the Australian industry globally competitive.
MEAA is calling on the Turnbull Government to lock in an increase to the major international film incentive (known as the location offset) in the May Federal Budget. The offset is currently 16.5%, but a bipartisan Parliamentary inquiry last year recommended it be increased to 30%, so Australia can compete on a level playing field with other countries.
“I want to stay in Australia and continue to believe our industry is as good as any in the world, but a lot of us haven’t worked for nearly a year, so we have to go,” says Arthur.
“There is no doubt that we are missing out on work because the studios can’t make a strong enough business case to film in Australia.
“Unless there is something done to make us more competitive, I really fear for the future of the industry. If the location offset were raised to 30%, I’m certain the jobs would return here and I’d be back in a flash.
“I just hope this message is getting through to the politicians and we see some action in the Budget in May.”
The director of MEAA’s Entertainment, Crew & Sport section, Erin Madeley, says at least two large-scale international films have applied for ‘top-ups’ to the incentive and have been turned down – forcing them to go elsewhere.
While there was some good news recently when it was confirmed the Vietnam War film Danger Close would be filmed in Queensland this year, this only came after intervention by the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who flew to Hollywood to secure the production.
“Australia is a desirable location for the world screen industry because it’s safe, and because of our talented actors and crew and great locations, but in an increasingly competitive marketplace, screen producers need to weigh that up against the bottom line,” Madeley says. “With our incentive so low, we just can’t compete, leaving our industry out in the cold.
“For instance, both the UK and New Zealand have a 25% offset; in some states of the US it is up to 40%, while in Ireland it is 32%.
“Governments have been providing ad hoc top-ups to the location offset since 2011 but that’s a lengthy and uncertain process for producers.
“When top-ups are granted it’s a great short-term boost, but because it’s here today, gone tomorrow, we’re missing out on the long-term investment a permanent increase would attract. We’re actually getting less bang for our buck because of the lack of certainty.
“What is needed is a permanent increase to 30%, which would put Australia on par with our main competitors.”