China, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore offer significant opportunity to Australian screen producers while India, Indonesia, Japan and Thailand hold great potential.
That’s according to a new research report, Common Ground: Opportunities for Australian Screen Partnerships in Asia, commissioned by Screen Australia. The report identifies alternative sources of finance in the region such as Singapore’s IFS Capital which has cash-flowed the Producer Offset for Australian feature films, and predicts this avenue will expand.
However it identifies South Korea and Thailand as the countries with the highest rate of perceived difficulty in establishing business relationships at 47%, and Malaysia as the lowest with 34%. Among the barriers cited by local producers are limited financial resources, costs of travel, accommodation and services such as translators, and the need to focus on a relatively small slate of production.
Conducted in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia, the research is based on a survey of 51 Australian production companies that have had projects involving Asia in the past five years, plus interviews with 31 Australian producers, agencies and organisations and with 27 Asian producers, agencies and organisations.
Local and Asian region broadcasters and sales agents interviewed by Screen Australia indicated that Asian markets increasingly are opening up to international content. Australian documentary, lifestyle and children’s content were judged to have the greatest potential for sales or co-ventures.
Australia has co-production arrangements with 11 countries but only two in Asia: China for theatrical films and telemovies, and Singapore for feature film and television. The lack of a co-production treaty with Japan was seen as a major obstacle to engaging with the Japanese screen industry.
The study estimates the value of audio-visual exports to the Asian region at around $50 million per year for the past three years. That’s about a quarter of Australia’s total audio-visual exports for those years.
To facilitate closer ties, the report suggests the creation of a screen agency–hosted market for producers and broadcasters across the region which would showcase Australia’s screen production facilities and provide an outlet for the sharing of information and experience between Australian agencies and their regional counterparts.
It advocates local guilds and associations should provide opportunities for members who have worked in Asia to share their experiences and knowledge via platforms such as annual conferences, expand relationships with screen guilds or other organisations and enable their members to meet with screen practitioners from Asia via partnerships with cultural or industry organisations, for example partnerships with film festivals.
“To attempt a co-production in Asia, you need to be well capitalised. We calculate you need around $300–500k to properly develop, finance and bring a co-production to close, “ Mario Andreacchio, who produced and directed family film The Dragon Pearl, an Australia-China co-production, told the researchers.
“Since it’s expensive and time-consuming to put together a co-production, emotion and cost really drive you to want it to work. However, at the pointy end of the process pressure may be put on you to compromise your deal. Irrespective of the emotion or cost, you have to always be pragmatic and be able to walk away in your longer term best interests.”
Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said, “Now is the time for the Australian screen industries to strengthen ties, formalise co-production arrangements and develop sound knowledge of working with our partners in Asia. An overwhelming theme that emerged in the research was the importance of genuine collaboration that will underpin all success and the good news is that our counterparts across Asia consider Australians to be good at collaborating.
“Our attractiveness as a potential partner increases further once our professionalism and strong track record are considered. These attributes have been noticed and position Australian screen industry professionals well to build new partnerships in the Asian region.”
Next month Screen Australia will lead a delegation of 25 producers and commissioning editors to Beijing and Sichuan TV Festival to facilitate connections through its Enterprise Asia program. The program will involve exchanges with Chinese Government agencies, broadcasters and producers, networking events and targeted business matching opportunities.
To download the report visit www.screenaustralia.gov.au/about_us/pub_commonground.aspx