Plan To Axe Screen Funds Is “Disaster” For NSW TV And Film Industry, Says Australian Producers Body

Plans to axe several screen funding programs in Australia are “hard to comprehend” and will be a “disaster” for the country’s film and TV industry, the country’s producers body has warned.

The New South Wales government, which presides over Sydney and its surrounding areas, is planning to cut a number of existing programs, including the Made in NSW Fund.

The program funds domestic high-end TV and features and has been credited attracting overseas investment into local productions. The likes of local drama Mystery RoadMad Max 2: Furiosa, Mother and Son, Disney+’s The Artful Dodger and Thor: Love and Thunder have benefitted from the fund, which Screen Producers Australia says created “jobs and multiples of economic activity in in Sydney and regional areas of the state.”

Also impacted by the cuts are the Post Digital and Visual Effects and the Digital Games Development Rebate Program, both of which will see funding cut.

“This cut is a disaster for screen practitioners both here in NSW and beyond. It shows disappointing short-term thinking about the value of the screen industry”, said Screen Producers Australia (SPA) CEO Matthew Deaner.

Australia’s Labor government claims the cuts are necessary due to A$188M ($121M) being cut from the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade’s budget’s by the previous Coalition government just weeks before New South Wales state elections in March.

Deaner said: “To cut a fund that reportedly brings in A$20 for every dollar invested and creates thousands of jobs is hard to comprehend, especially when, after years of stagnation and setbacks, the sector had been so optimistic about its future prospects.” 

Deaner said the action would “see this state missing out on the new investment and job opportunities available” just as the Australian government gears up to bring in quotas that will ensure global streamers invest in local original content. Word on the size of the levy was expected ahead of its implementation in July 2024, but nothing has yet been formally announced.

Interest in Australian production has been skyrocketing in other English-speaking territories and investment has ramped up in other states such as Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. However, the industry has been rocked by impacts of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, with Sam Esmail’s big-budget TV series remake of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis for Apple TV+ among the highest-profile casualties of the writers action. Mortal Kombat 2 and Peacock’s Apples Never Fall shut down after the actors strike began.

“While other States are actively opening doors for screen industry growth, NSW is slamming them shut. NSW cannot afford to be complacent and send such a strongly negative signal to the world as it is doing with these cuts.”

“These government programs have been essential for NSW to be a credible and competitive destination for screen productions,” added Erin Madeley, CEO of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance trade union.

“Sydney and NSW have established infrastructure, a skilled workforce and stunning locations, but these alone are not enough to ensure there is a consistent stream of screen work in the state. That is why the Made in NSW program and the Post, Digital and Visual Effects Rebate have been so important in attracting high-quality domestic and offshore production to the state.

“The reality is NSW is competing on a global stage for screen productions and government funding and incentives can make a real difference when studios are deciding where to locate a production.”

SPA pointed to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures that show NSW’s screen industry generated more than A$3B in total income in 2021-22, and said it plans to consult with members before making “appropriate representations” to government. Most of Australia’s video production businesses are based in the state, along with more than half of its post houses.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Arts Minister John Graham has said the cuts are necessary to “reprioritise spending” on healthcare, education and the rising cost of living. The NSW budget will be handed down on September 19.

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