January 28, 2008

Aussie Filmmakers Gettin' Jiggy wit it!

Cha-ching! is the sound Aussie filmmakers now want to hear. Australian filmmakers have estimated in order to profit from Australian made films, a producer must return four times its original investment, in order to cover the costs of marketing, production, royalties and distribution.

The Federal Government last year introduced new tax benefits for Australian filmmakers, amid falling production and a lack of locally produced movie content.

The government has also directed the industry's peak bodies, namely The Australian Film Commission, Film Australia and the Film Finance Corporation Australia to amalgamate under one banner to be known as Screen Australia by July this year.

The moves are a welcome change for those producers focused on the business of filmmaking.

This has spurred a number of key industry participants to put in place their own competitive arrangements, notably the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPPA) and a superannuation group plan to set up a $50m special-purpose fund to cash flow the new production offset.

Likewise, International Film Group (IFG) will lend against the offset, bankrolled by the Royal Bank of Scotland and helmed by former Macquarie Bank exec Jennifer Hughes. We're keen to hear from anyone who has heard anything more on the Mullis FLIC entity.

Media Funds Management (MFM) is another outfit with a planned $100m film fund to finance a slate of projects led by James M Vernon. The board boasts Bruce Beresford and Kevin Jacobson as members of its board.

The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) has itself set up a Centre for Screen Business.

Australian films last year netted just 4% of the total national box office revenue, with leading movies including Happy Feet and Bra Boys making up a significant portion of the total box office.

The Australian Film Commission who released the figures, showing that locally produced films netted just $36 Million of the nearly $1 Billion total box office takings.

Happy Feet was the highest earning film, grossing $20.7 Million to add to its previous year's earnings.

The controversial documentary film Bra Boys also became the highest earning documentary film in Australian history.

Other films contributing to the total box office also included Romulus My Father, Rogue and Razzle Dazzle.

With U.S reports Gatorade having ponied up a third of the $10 million budget for soccer drama "Gracie," and Dove set to contribute to the $20 million budget of femme-skewing "The Women," it is hoped that Australian filmmakers will also begin to get saavy and harness the power of product placement and entertainment marketing as part of the new industry repetoire.

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