Total film and television drama production in Australia reached an all time high value of $678 million in 1998/99 according to the Australian Film Commission's National Production Survey (1998/99), which was released today.
This was $127 million more than last year with the increase coming entirely from foreign productions shot in Australia and co-productions between Australian and overseas companies. However, the value of Australian feature film and TV drama production fell by almost 30 per cent in 1998/99 from $381 to $278 million, with TV drama levels the lowest for four years.
The AFC's Chief Executive Kim Dalton said "The strong overall expansion of film and television production in Australia over the past year indicates a mature and complex industry which is closely engaged with the expanding global industry. However, Australian production is under pressure in the current environment and the AFC is working closely with the Government and the industry to ensure the on-going strength of our local production sector."
Key findings of the AFC's National Production Survey, which tracks the production of feature films and independent TV drama (mini-series, telemovies, series and serials which involve an independent production company) made in Australia each financial year, include:
45 feature films and 45 independent TV drama programs, worth a total of $678 million, were produced in Australia in 1998/99.
The number of Australian features remained steady (41 this year, 37 in 1997/98). Production value dropped from $163 to $119 million, although 1997/98 figures were significantly boosted by the big-budget Kennedy Miller production Babe: Pig in the City.
Around 90 per cent of Australian feature films were produced for under $6 million. Almost 40 per cent were made for less than $1 million - mostly 'self-funded' films which relied on private investment and cast and crew deferrals to shoot.
Foreign investment in Australian features jumped to a very high $108 million last year (66 per cent of total feature budgets), largely due to Universal's financing of Babe: Pig in the City. This year saw the contribution of foreign financing to local production drop back, although at $48 million (41 per cent of total budgets) it was still higher than 1996/97's result ($32 million). Government sources contributed 32 per cent of feature budgets this year, and private and industry investors 27 per cent.
The 15 foreign productions for 1998/99 consisted of four features worth $173 million (Birthday Girl, Komodo - the Living Terror, Mission: Impossible II and Pitch Black) and 11 TV drama programs worth $102 million, including Noah's Ark, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Flipper.
The six co-productions, worth $125 million, comprised the series Beastmaster, Farscape and See How They Run, the telemovie Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and series and telemovie versions of The Lost World.
The fall in Australian production was particularly marked in series and serials, with 23 Australian programs worth $154 million produced last year, but only 14 productions worth $108 million this year. Mini-series production dropped by 27 per cent to $38 million, with only two adult mini-series made during the year. The number of hours of Australian TV drama produced by the independent sector fell by 22 per cent.
After rising significantly last year, foreign investment in local TV drama fell to $33 million (20 per cent of total budgets).
The government contribution to Australian TV drama dropped from 26 per cent of total budgets to 22 per cent - significantly less than in 1995/96, when financing from this sector provided 36 per cent of TV drama budgets. Government sources put $35 million into 21 projects this year, compared to $67 million into 33 projects in 1995/96.
Australian production/distribution companies, commercial broadcasters and private investors also put less into local TV drama this year ($92 million compared to $111 million last year). However, the contraction was less marked than for government or foreign sources, with the result that the contribution from this sector increased from 50 per cent of total budgets last year, to 58 per cent this year.
National Production Survey is available on-line.