New research shows that Australian filmmakers are being much more outward looking than in the past: nearly half of the 28 Australian features that went into production during the 12 months up to June 30, and were made for more than $519,000 (A$500,000), were wholly or partly filmed abroad.
In all, 13 Australian features spent $66.5m (A$64m) on filming outside Australia. Only eight films used overseas locations in the previous year and the 2011/12 expenditure is more than the previous two years combined. It represents 17.7% of the $374.4m (A$360m) spent locally and abroad on the 28 films.
Of the international expenditure, $12.5m (A$12m) went towards four co-productions: The Railway Man with the UK; Lore with Germany; Mothers (formerly The Grandmothers) with France and Deception with Canada.
It can also be assumed that a significant slice was spent on The Great Gatsby given its US setting, but the actual sum is undisclosed.
Among the remaining eight films are Dead Europe (filmed in Greece, France and Hungary, as well as Australia), Kath & Kimderella (Italy); The Rocket (Laos), The Sapphires (Vietnam) and Save Your Legs! (India).
The extent of the international expenditure was between the lines in the latest annual drama report, which concentrates on expenditure in Australia on feature films and was issued today by Federal Government film agency Screen Australia.
In the year under examination a total of $350.4m (A$337m) was spent in Australia on 48 local and foreign films.
This was made up of $274.5m (A$264m) worth of expenditure on 24 wholly Australian films (the off-shore filming notwithstanding), $33.3m (A$32m) spent by four co-productions (listed above), $3.1m (A$3m) spent by three foreign films that used Australia as a location, and $39.5m (A$38m) worth of PDV (post, digital, visual effects) work contracted by the producers of 17 principally US films shot elsewhere.
The three foreign films were all from the Asian region being Nepalese film Destination Kathmandu, Indian film From Sydney With Love and Japanese film Hayabusa: The Long Journey Home.
The Avengers, Emperor, The Hunger Games, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Prometheus and Ted were among those that pushed Australia’s PDV revenue up to the highest in five years.
In contrast to the buoyant PDV activity, the research confirms that no high-budget US pictures have filmed in Australia for the two years before The Wolverine, which went into production after July 1 so is not included in these figures. This is principally because the strong Australian dollar has made the country uncompetitive: the government increased the tax rebate on PDV expenditure to 30%, but left the location rebate at 16.5%.
But one of the reasons that the $307.7m (A$296m) spent on wholly Australian films and co-productions was $58.2m (A$56m) up on the five-year average is because of the US finance provided to the big-budget Australian films The Great Gatsby and I, Frankenstein.
This is also the key reason that foreign investors provided 52% of the cost of the total 28-film Australian slate, up on the five-year average of 42%. Of the rest, 39% came from the government – 29% being via the 40% tax rebate in place for Australian films and 10% being via direct investment – six per cent from distributors and other industry investors, and three per cent from private investors.
Two of the 28 films – presumably The Great Gatsby and I, Frankenstein – were budgeted at more than $20.8m (A$20m) and five between $10.4m (A$20m) and $20.8m (A$20m). Eleven were made for less than $3.1m (A$3m).
The report always carries a list of the titles covered in the research but this year Screen Australia has taken the unusual step of including additional films in this list even though they are not included in the research because they are budgeted at less than $519,000 (A$500,000), the minimum level of expenditure for producers wishing to claim the tax rebate. It is understood that this has been done to disguise the titles of the 28 films because it is illegal to disclose taxation information relating to other people or companies.