Homegrown drama production hits a record as foreign films dry up
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Homegrown drama production hits a record as foreign films dry up

While Hollywood movies shooting in Australia fell away sharply, there was record spending on home-grown film and television drama production last financial year.

Screen Australia's annual drama survey shows spending on local production reached $718 million - up 7 per cent on the previous year.

Contributing to the increase were such films as Ladies in Black, a "retelling" of Storm Boy and the Northern Territory comedy Top End Wedding, a range of new television series including Mystery Road, Pine Gap, Mr Inbetween and Dead Lucky and extra spending on online shows.

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But without big-budget foreign films to follow-up Thor: Ragnarok, Alien: Covenant, Aquaman and the last Pirates of the Caribbean instalment, there was a 37 per cent fall in total drama production - down from $1.3 billion to $814 million.

Screen Australia's chief operating officer, Michael Brealey, believes strong international competition, the continued use of the Queensland studios for Aquaman and commitments for the Commonwealth Games limited foreign movies shooting in that state during the year.

But he believes the start of shooting for Hollywood's Dora the Explorer Movie and confirmation of two new projects - the monster movie Godzilla vs Kong and the TV series Reef Break - show foreign production is already returning.

A new Storm Boy started shooting last financial year.

A new Storm Boy started shooting last financial year. Credit:Screen Australia

With the federal government topping up what is called the "location incentive" to attract production, more foreign films and TV shows are expected to land, which would be welcome news for Fox Studios Sydney and Docklands Studios in Melbourne.

"Fox in Sydney is extremely competitive," Brealey said. "Docklands is competitive ... So I think you will see other states get a piece of that action."

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On home-grown drama, Brealey said production remained "really strong" with broadcasters and streaming services seeing value for their audiences in commissioning local shows.

"Australian drama, in a very, very competitive internationalised marketplace, is a great way to differentiate your brand," he said. "It's expensive to make but it's distinctly Australian."

For the first time in a decade, a new serial began production: 30 episodes of the ABC's The Heights.

In total, 38 Australian feature films started shooting during the year - 11 fewer than the previous financial year.

But five international co-productions - At Last, Legend of Sun and Moon and The Whistleblower with China, Slam with France and Animals with Ireland - meant that film spending was up 12 per cent to $321 million.

Miranda Tapsell in the comedy Top End Wedding.

Miranda Tapsell in the comedy Top End Wedding. Credit:Screen Australia

Other films to start shooting included Rachel Griffiths’ Melbourne Cup drama Ride Like a Girl, Kriv Stenders’ Vietnam war drama Danger Close and Rachel Ward’s comic drama Palm Beach.

"There are a lot of good titles coming through," Brealey said.

NSW had the largest share of total spending on drama production with 37 per cent, followed by Victoria with 30 per cent and Queensland with 17 per cent.