Australian TV drama up, feature films, PDV down

24 October, 2013 by Don Groves

Spending on Australian TV drama hit a record peak while feature film output dropped and post, digital and visual effects (PDV) work on foreign projects plummeted in 2012/2013.

That snapshot of a screen industry in flux comes from Screen Australia’s annual drama report released today. The headline figures:


$752 million in total production expenditure, up 9% on the prior year

27 Australian features spending $250 million (last year 32, worth $297 million, boosted by The Great Gatsby and I, Frankenstein)

56 Australian TV dramas, $372 million (45; spend not available)

14 foreign projects, $130 million ($98 million, due mostly to The Wolverine)

Producer offset total value $140 million

Screen Australia CEO Dr Ruth Harley, who hands over to Graeme Mason next month, is not perturbed by the drop in the volume of local features.

“It’s always cyclical,” she tells IF. “The feature film slate is very solid. If you look at the films budgeted between $2 million and $20 million the numbers are stable.”

The agency only counts films costing $500,000 or below if and when they get a theatrical release or have a festival screening.

Harley maintains the fact that Screen Australia exhausted most of its 2012/2013 feature production investment budget at the end of last December had no impact on the overall level of production.

Australian TV drama accounted for 50% of total spending, with Australian feature films at 33% and foreign projects, primarily features, at 17%

Despite the increase of the PDV offset to 30% and the lowering of the expenditure threshold to $500,000 in July 2011, there was a huge drop in foreign PDV. Seven foreign features began PDV work in Australia without shooting here, accounting for almost $9 million in local expenditure, down on $87 million in 2011/12.

Harley blamed the continuing woes in the PDV sector on the high Australian dollar, opining that unless it falls to below 90 cents against the US dollar she is not optimistic of a recovery.

Foreign investors provided the largest share of finance to this year’s features slate, contributing $91 million (30%) to 15 titles.

The Producer offset accounted for 30% and the Australian film/TV industry (mainly distributors) contributed $79 million to 23 Australian features.

Direct government investment accounted for 12% of total finance for the slate, providing $35 million to 21 features, similar to last year with $37 million for 25 films.

The majority of funding came from Screen Australia with $24 million invested in 17 of the features that went into production during the year. The state agencies contributed $9 million to 20 features, almost a third of that from the SAFC.

There were no co-productions in the feature slate for the first time in 14 years.

The Australian TV drama slate comprised 656 hours (56 titles), accounting for $372 million. Total spending jumped by 27% to the highest level on record and the hours were up by 19% on last year.

Adult TV drama comprised 40 titles (502 hours) with total budgets of $314 million and spending in Australia of $306 million.

The children’s drama slate amounted to 154 hours with total budgets of $92 million and Australian spending of $67 million, more than double last year, while hours jumped by 95%.

Harley noted all Australian broadcasters increased their investment in Australian drama. The standout was the ABC which financed 30 titles worth $75 million, the largest investment of any single broadcaster. Its slate included Serangoon Road, The Gods of Wheat Street and returning seasons of Redfern Now and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

The Australian film/TV industry provided the majority of finance for the Australian TV drama slate (67%), investing $273 million in 56 titles. The Producer offset contributed 13% with $51 million in 44 titles, the highest levels to date.

Direct government sources injected $38 million into 33 programs, up on last year’s $31 million and above the five-year average. Screen Australia invested $27 million in 20 titles, an increase from $22 million in 19 titles last year. The state agencies gave $9 million to 28 titles, the majority from Film Victoria and Screen NSW. The Australian Children’s Television Foundation supported six titles.

The report can be downloaded from