New South Wales' film and television funding has been slashed in the latest state budget, endangering a recent resurgence in local production.
The $5 million addition to the Screen NSW Production Investment Fund in each of the past two years will no longer continue in 2011-12, according to the budget documents.
The $20 million film and television industry attraction fund (run separately by the NSW department of trade and investment) has also been scrapped, although it is understood the previous Labor government had already committed the entire allocation. Future major film projects being lured to NSW may still tap into a new $77.2 million state investment attraction scheme.
"The NSW government has moved to simplify and condense the vast array of programs set up by the former government," a spokesman for the department of trade and investment said in an email to IF. "The sheer number of programs led to confusion for industry as to which fund they could access, which program was applicable to them and what assistance the government could offer them."
The film and TV cuts were delivered as part of $8 billion in total savings the newly-installed NSW Coalition government aims to deliver over the next four years.
Screen NSW's total production investment almost tripled over the past three financial years from $3.5 million to $9.6 million (although its actual budgeted allocation was slightly lower), invested across 48 projects.
Without the ongoing $5 million production funding, Screen NSW's production investment in 2011-12 will fall to $3.7 million, according to the budget documents.
This still represents a small increase on last year's underlying core funding, as does other funding directed towards the agency's other major activities: script and project development ($1.3 million), screen organisations and training ($660,000) and regional initiatives ($400,000).
Screen Producers Association of Australia executive director Geoff Brown said the budget cut would give other states an advantage over NSW.
"It's an unfortunate outcome: one that will hit NSW very hard," he said.
SPAA now plans to lobby the Coalition to introduce new production incentives, highlighting the economic benefits that the sector can bring to the broader state economy.
Several major screen projects are currently underway in NSW including Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby and Alex Proyas' Paradise Lost. Both are filming at Fox Studios Australia, which is full for the first time since X-Men Origins: Wolverine was shot in 2008.
A spokesman for the NSW department of trade and investment said the Coalition government was committed to the industry, as shown by its recent efforts to secure Paradise Lost, which is expected to generate $88 million in production expenditure and create 1300 jobs in NSW.
The deputy premier and minister for trade and investment, Andrew Stoner, personally lobbied the production team behind Paradise Lost, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, to bring the production to NSW.
The department of trade and investment declined to reveal how much of the previous $20 million film and tv attraction fund was spent due to commercial-in-confidence reasons. (Its lack of transparency contrasts with Screen Australia's decision to publish aggregate financial data about the Producer Offset – any breaches of personal information regarding the Offset can result in lengthy jail terms as the underlying legislation forms part of the tax act.)
Nonetheless, it is understood that the previous Labor government committed the entire $20 million fund to productions either filmed in NSW or that had post-production work completed in the state including Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Prometheus, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Home, Underbelly Razor and Crownies.
Other major TV projects recently based in NSW include Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, Dance Academy, Wild Boys, and SBS's factual hit Go Back to Where You Came From.
Source: Screen NSW. (Note that production investment does not include the $20 million fund.)