Screen Australia Reports Record Spending on Local Production


Screen Australia’s annual Drama Report shows a record high expenditure on local stories, with A$718 million ($510 million) spent on homegrown productions, up 7 percent on last year.

In the television segment, Australian TV drama production was down on last year’s record, with 423 hours of content produced with combined budgets of A$301 million ($214 million) and Australian spend of A$295 million ($209 million). The decline in hours is due to shorter-run series and miniseries. However, the average cost per hour to make miniseries reached A$1.6 billion ($1.14 billion), pointing to high-production-value content.

Foreign TV drama shoot activity accounted for A$4 million ($2.8 million) in Australian expenditure in 2017/18, below the five-year average of A$16 million ($11.4 million).

Ten children’s dramas entered production in 2017-18, generating 71 hours of content (below the five-year average of 109 hours), with a local spend of A$49 million ($35 million), below the five-year average of A$56 million ($40 million). This decline was due to a number of factors, among them low official co-production activity, a decrease in the number of animated productions (which tend to generate a greater volume of content than live-action titles do) and the influence of the children’s content quotas on commercial free-to-air broadcasters.

There were 38 Australian features that went into production, 11 fewer than last year. However, co-production feature expenditure reached a record of A$143 million ($102 million).

Total budgets and expenditure for Australian online drama more than tripled in 2017-18 to A$53 million ($38 million). There were seven fewer online drama titles compared to 2016-17; however, the higher volume of hours and significant increase in budgets came from the production of content with longer episodes and higher cost per hour.

Overall, A$814 million ($579 million) was spent on 133 screen productions in 2017-18, compared to A$1.3 billion ($924 million) on 166 titles in 2016-17. This drop was primarily due to reduced foreign film production spend.

Michael Brealey, COO of Screen Australia, said: “It’s fantastic to see record expenditure on Australian projects demonstrating the demand for local content remains high. We’ve seen some incredible film, television and online projects go into production during this period, providing industry jobs across the whole of Australia, from Storm Boy in South Australia, miniseries Doctor Doctor in New South Wales, Top End Wedding in the Northern Territory, official co-production The Whistleblower in Victoria, the third series of Rosehaven in Tasmania, the miniseries Tidelands in Queensland, and the 30-episode serial The Heights in Western Australia.

“Whilst overall the total expenditure figure this year was down, that was mainly due to no big-budget Hollywood movies starting to film during the year, and we know this has already improved. Dora the Explorer is shooting now, plus series Reef Break and feature Godzilla vs Kong are also confirmed, so adding in the federal government’s new $140 million location incentive to the mix, we anticipate foreign expenditure will significantly improve in 2018-19.

“We also just had a record investment round for Australian television drama, so we expect to see a lift in television drama production in the next financial year.”

Graeme Mason, CEO at Screen Australia, said: “The Drama Report is one of the ways we measure the health of the screen industry, giving us a good indication of the pipeline of content and expenditure. However, the end game for us here at Screen Australia is not only to help make content, but for those stories to reach an audience, and Aussie drama is delivering on that front.

“When you look at the titles made in 2017/18, we’ve had Ladies in Black take over $10 million at the local box office. Mystery Road was the most watched general drama series on ABC iview in history and secured international broadcast deals in the U.S. and U.K. Underbelly Files: Chopper on the Nine Network was a ratings hit attracting 1.5 million viewers in Australia, and Foxtel series Mr Inbetween has already been commissioned for a second series. For online, the first three episodes of comedy series Superwog trended number one on YouTube and have already been viewed over 5 million times. Quite simply, Australian audiences want local drama, and the global market is hungry for our stories.”