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Australian games industry promised $20m at SPAA closing

Australia’s Arts Minister Simon Crean has promised $20.7m (A$20m) over three years for an Australian interactive games fund, urging the industry to help set up the fund so that it will be of most assistance.

Describing games as a natural extension of film, he said the global interactive sector was as big as movies and was forecast to be worth $93bn (A$90bn) by 2015. The fund will be administered by Screen Australia.

Crean made the announcement yesterday, the last day of the annual conference of the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA).

In other conference news, Kemi, a privately-financed film without a sales agent or distributor, set amid Sydney’s African immigrant and refugee community, won the prestigious DigiSPAA Award for a film made without direct government assistance.

“It is a brilliant cocktail of romantic, criminal and bizarre activities of the Ghanaian and Nigerian residents in the Sydney suburb of Blacktown,” said Antony I Ginnane, one of the judges of the initiative.

The film, which “stood out for its humour and narrative,” is told through the eyes of an unemployed Nigerian teenager who unknowingly wrecks havoc in her community through gossip.

The SPAA conference also acted as a platform for the presentation of the inaugural Natalie Miller Fellowship to Rachel Okine, general manger of Hopscotch Features for the past seven years. She intends to use the opportunity to attend the Harvard Business School’s Women’s Leadership Forum.

SPAA has been lobbying hard for additional local content regulation on Australian commercial television and more financial incentives for local production. While Crean made it clear in his wide-ranging speech that he had some sympathy for SPAA’s position, Cabinet as a whole still needed convincing.

Pressure is also being applied to Government to increase Australia’s 16.5% tax rebate for offshore films.

“We are not yet in a position to change the location offset, much as I would like to,” he said. There was no easy solution to the appreciation of the Australian dollar – which has gone up 60% in the past four to five years – and it was taking its toll on many industries.

Crean told delegates that earlier in the week on the set of Wolverine, director James Mangold had told him the crew was the best he had worked with and that Australia has a wonderful diversity of locations.

But without an additional one-off grant in addition to the rebate, Wolverine would not be filming in Australia because of costs. Crean later told the media that it was not out of the question that other films could get additional assistance if they proved their case.

While accepting that various issues still need to be resolved, Crean said the film and television production industry was in great shape. He also spoke of the importance of engaging with Asia, mentioning that official co-production arrangements are being negotiated with India, Malaysia and Korea.

“These co-production agreements are not just an opportunity for our industry to collaborate and provide jobs but it also enables Australia to understand the Asian markets better,”

Bait 3D, an official co-production with Singapore, “did not do too well here but it’s going gangbusters in China,” he added.  

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