Director speaks out on the need for a “more specific and clearer” criteria.

Alex Proyas has called for Screen Australia to clarify the rules surrounding the 40% producer offset.

Speaking to ScreenDaily, he said the film body needed to be “more specific and clearer” than they currently are. He added: “There are no hard and fast rules about this process and I think there needs to be because everyone will continue to be confused about it.”

Proyas spoke out about the rebate after it was revealed that his sci-fi thriller Knowing did qualify for the offset, despite originally being turned down. The U-turn was revealed in Screen Australia’s 2009 box-office report.

He added that he wanted to continue making his films in Australia and, alongside Universal, is currently running the numbers on his next film Dracula Year Zero, set to star Australian actor Sam Worthington, with a view to shooting in the country.

“It is a particularly large scale film and there will be a lot of competition to take it to other places to be shot, and rightly so,” said Proyas, who is adamant that the producer offset makes Australia competitive on the world stage because it balances the vagaries of the exchange rate.

“I hope, when all the models have been run in the different territories, that we will have the chance to make it (Dracula) here in Australia.”

Despite Knowing eventually qualifying for the offset, Proyas said he “remains somewhat hazy” about the process.

 “We need to know at an earlier stage whether a film has a good chance of qualifying … because that dictates where a movie is shot and how big the budget is,” he said. “Otherwise you get in a situation that I’m currently in with the movie I’m about to make.”

He said, however, that there was a “desire and willingness” on Screen Australia’s part to provide more clarity and it and, alongside that, film-makers are also learning from each other.

At present, films looking to qualify for the offset have to pass a holistic “significant Australian content” test, which is applied on a case-by-case basis. It looks at the subject matter, locations, nationality and domiciles of key creatives and actors but also looks at what the production spend will contribute to the Australian industry.

As the self-identified “guy who makes fantasy”, Proyas has often had to argue that his films are Australian. From his point of view, if Australians are driving a project it is an Australian film.

“It was very clear Knowing was an Australian film. I did not originate the story, as is so often the case with movies, but I spearheaded it as producer, director and writer and the desire was always to make it in Australia.”

Director George Miller was joined by New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally and a troupe of dancers in motion capture suits to talk about the sequel Oscar-winning animation, Happy Feet, and the Australian industry coming out of the doldrums. Robin Williams and Elijah Wood are currently in Sydney laying down voice tracks.