Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast has become the home of blockbuster movie shoots in Australia. Picture: Village Roadshow Studios.
Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast has become the home of blockbuster movie shoots in Australia. Picture: Village Roadshow Studios.

Queensland film industry held hostage by Federal MP

THE Queensland Government says the Federal Minister overseeing the rollout of the $140 million Location Incentive Grant doesn't understand the importance of the screen industry and the jobs it provides to the Gold Coast.

The long-awaited guidelines on how the Federal Government's $140 million, four-year top up to the location offset will be distributed were released last week.

They reveal Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield will call the shots when it comes to which big-budget movies the funds are used to lure to film in Australia.

A spokesman for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the grant guidelines showed the funds would do little to support the screen industry in Queensland.

"The annual $35 million cap will only fund two to three major productions nationwide, meaning there is no guarantee the Gold Coast or Queensland will benefit," he said.

"It's pretty clear from these guidelines that Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield doesn't understand the importance of the screen industry and the jobs it provides to the Gold Coast.

"Being a regional centre, films on the Gold Coast have a major economic and employment impact - far more so than in major capital cities - and the city runs the risk of being deprived of this investment under the Federal Government guidelines."

The Premier's spokesman said the guidelines' exclusion of streaming video on demand was 'shortsighted' and ignored evolving viewership trends.

"It's also unclear how future seasons of TV series will be assessed and prioritised," he said.

"These deficiencies mean Queensland may miss out on major new TV series, because funding options are unclear."

Bond University Director of Film & Television Dr Michael Sergi said the government had "unnecessarily increased the amount of red-tape" for applicants.

"Not only do international productions first have to submit an application form for the existing 16.5 per cent Location Offset, they then have to submit a second application form, which asks for pretty much the same information, to access the 13.5 per cent Location Incentive Grants," he said.

"Surely, they could have designed one form that serves both the Location Offset and the Location Incentive Grants, and cut red-tape, rather than creating more."

Village Roadshow Studios president Lynne Benzie and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop at Village Roadshow Studios in May following the $140 million funding announcement. AAP Image/Dan Peled.
Village Roadshow Studios president Lynne Benzie and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop at Village Roadshow Studios in May following the $140 million funding announcement. AAP Image/Dan Peled.

Village Roadshow Studios president Lynne Benzie welcomed the guidelines' release as "a fantastic starting point to continuing the success of the industry in Australia" but said some aspects required further explanation.

"An area of interest we would like to have some additional information around is how the funds will be distributed if multiple productions apply and meet the criteria," she said.

"Will it be managed as a first-in, first-served basis or at the discretion of governing film bodies?

"Again, this is a fantastic first step to incentivising productions to film in Australia and we look forward to continuing to work with both the state and federal governments to continue to grow the industry."

Announced in May, the top-up provides for $35 million of funding per year from July 1 2019 for eligible productions filmed in Australia from July 1 this year.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants the location offset for international film shoots permanently increased to 30 per cent. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wants the location offset for international film shoots permanently increased to 30 per cent. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled.

While the guidelines requirement eligible productions use at least one Australian post, digital or visual effects provider have been welcomed, some stakeholders fear the six to eight weeks it will take to process applications will be too long for international projects currently considering filming here to wait.

Senator Fifield's office failed to answer questions on how the guidelines would work and instead supplied a generic statement.

It said productions supported by the funds would be "a range of sizes and will film in a range of geographical locations".

The statement said productions are expected to be "highly technical, providing invaluable opportunities for training and upskilling of our industry, and opportunities for innovation and other benefits to the Australian economy".