Australia is the first choice when shooting abroad for 60% of Los Angeles-based film and television producers that have worked there, according to a new survey released this week.

"Australia is seen as more competitive than Canada because of the exchange rate and the climate," the survey states, "and more favourable than New Zealand because of crew depth, lower wage costs and better production infrastructure." Canada, however, boasts proximity to the US as its strong point.

Runaway production now makes up one third of the overall $331m (A$600m) spend on drama in Australia. This is what prompted the Australian Film Commission (AFC) - whose core business is to develop local production, not to attract foreign features - to commission the research.

Local spending has risen only 6% in five years compared to a hike of 139% for foreign projects.

"If the growth rates of the two sectors remain too out of kilter, it may weaken the local industry and make servicing the needs of foreign production difficult," said AFC chief executive Kim Dalton, who expects natural constraints such as studio space to check growth.

Most of the 18 LA producers interviewed perceived below-the-line costs as being cheaper in Australia. Half listed the exchange rate as a factor in their decision to use Australia -- the Australian dollar has fallen 33% against the US greenback in five years - and almost half mentioned tax incentives.