Two big-budget foreign-financed animated films, Guardians of Ga’Hoole and Happy Feet 2, both involving Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures, boosted the total spend on Australian films in the financial year ending June 30 to a record $325m (A$358m).
The way that Screen Australia calculates the figures in its annual national drama production survey – with the total budget counted in the year the film went into production – makes it a little misleading, however, because expenditure may spread over two or even three years.
Nevertheless it was good news for Australian films with 32 going into production, including three co-productions, in Australia. In the last ten years the annual figure has been between $57m (A$63m) and $212m (A$233m).
All 32 films had budgets of less than $9.1m (A$10m) except the two mentioned and the official UK/Australian co-production The Boys Are Back. Fifteen of the 32 cost less than $2.7m (A$3m).
The bad news in the suvey was that the amount spent on foreign films plummeted compared to the last two years. There have been years where the total expenditure on all films was much higher than in 2008/09 but in the period under review there were no big-budget US films using Australia as a location – the previous year contained X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Nim’s Island.
The six foreign films that started filming in Australia in 2008/2009 were all Indian and spent a tiny $1.8m (A$2m), or less than one-fifth of their total budgets.
With The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader currently filming in Queensland, the foreign film figures for the current year won’t look so grim although the strength of the Australian dollar is having a negative effect on the level of US enthusiasm for Australia.
Since 2005/06 the number of films using Australia just for post, digital and visual effects work has also been examined. Less than half the number of films availed themselves of Australian expertise compared to each of the last three years but they spent a record $17.3m ($19m), principally because of the extensive work done on Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.
Despite the expenditure numbers jumping around compared to recent years, the number of films in all three categories – Australian, co-production and foreign – was exactly the annual average of the last five years.
The other two co-productions besides The Boys Are Back among the 32 Australian films, were the official Australian/Germany title At World’s End and the unofficial Australian/US title Beauty and the Beast.