Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Ella Donald, Tutor in Communications and Arts, The University of Queensland

On March 18, Queensland Annastacia Palaszczuk triumphantly announced that Dora had been saved. News that the Dora the Explorer live action film would be made there followed a week-long campaign by the state government and Screen Queensland calling on the federal government to increase its support for it.

Dora the Explorer is the latest international blockbuster-in-the-making to come to Queensland’s film studios, transforming the state into a Hollywood backlot of sorts. International productions are encouraged to make films in Australia through federal government rebates on production costs, administered through Screen Australia.

In the case of Dora, the government had been asked to “urgently increase” its standard tax offset from 16.5% to 30%. It refused, with treasurer Scott Morrison saying that Queensland was “well placed to provide the necessary top-up grant”. The state government reportedly chipped in the extra cash for Dora to come to Queensland, but will not say how much. Screen Queensland has previously come under scrutiny for transparency around incentives given to the Pirates of the Caribbean film in 2015.

Read more: Why is the Australian government funding Hollywood films at the expense of our stories?

While the “saving” of Dora is great for the film’s production workers, it raises questions about the dependence of Queensland - and Australia’s screen industry - on international movies. This week, 215 screen industry representatives, including Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Anthony Lapaglia signed an open letter calling for “competitive tax incentives”, although did not specify a figure.

“Our voices [are] in danger of being drowned out by a deluge of overseas content,” the letter said, “And if our nation’s stories aren’t told, they die. And when they die, future generations won’t know who we are and what makes us us.”

The letter also called for the extension of Australian content rules, which already apply to local broadcasters, to new distributors such as Netflix and Amazon.

Read more: With the rise of subscription and online TV, we need to rethink local content rules

There is no question that the offset on production costs should be raised. Most jurisdictions, including the US state of Atlanta, a popular location for filming everything from the latest Avengers to Baby Driver, set theirs at 30%.

But what can be done about homegrown talent and stories in tandem with this? International productions predominately use overseas talent in major roles, from direction to writing to acting to cinematography and costume design. Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira told the Courier Mail that there will be up to 40 local actors used as extras in Dora, with no quotas for speaking roles announced.

In the past year, local TV series Harrow, Safe Harbour, Grace Beside Me, and The Family Law have been filmed in Queensland, and Australia’s first Netflix Original Series Tidelands (produced by Brisbane-based company Hoodlum) commenced production this week. Screen Queensland also supported creatives to attend industry events. While these may be encouraging signs for the local industry, it remains to be seen whether this is an ongoing commitment that will persist once Hollywood comes back to town.

Queensland has saved a Hollywood blockbuster, but the local film industry is still missing out Australian drama Grace Beside Me was recently filmed in Queensland. IMDB

In my opinion there are a number of logical options to help the local film industry, including more transparency around incentives, and more screen agency funds reserved specifically for local productions.

Read more: Australia must act now to preserve its culture in the face of global tech giants

While it will be harder to impose quotas on newer, overseas platforms like Netflix, the argument is clear. If these companies want to participate in the Australian market, where they’re already subject to other forms of regulation like classification, they should play by the same rules as conventional broadcasters.

Australian films also need more help with promotion in a market dominated by powerful, international producers. While marketing grants already exist in Australia at a national level, they are mostly ineffective: local films continue to drown at the box office. They could also be paired with marketing firms that could look beyond conventional advertising methods.

Finally, Australia should consider quotas for local creatives on international productions. While this is not the practice overseas, Australia’s film industry is much smaller. These quotas could include speaking parts for actors and major technical roles (eg. directing, writing, cinematography, costume design). This would allow Australian creatives to gain experience on a major film, an essential career advancement.

Dora the Explorer will be the latest in a series of Hollywood productions that has transformed Queensland’s film industry. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was filmed at a variety of locations around the state as well as Village Roadshow Studios on the Gold Coast between February and July 2015. The same studios were occupied for most of last year by Aquaman, and 2016 by back-to-back productions of Kong: Skull Island and most notably Thor: Ragnarok.

Palaszczuk is right to be enthusiastic about Hollywood. When a film such as Aquaman comes to the Gold Coast it equates to thousands of nights at hotels and bookings at other facilities. And that’s before Screen Queensland’s logo appears in the end credits. These films provide thousands of jobs for those in behind the scenes roles, as well as work for everything from catering, transport, and IT companies. They also mean more investment in costly facilities and equipment that couldn’t be afforded otherwise. These can then be used on local productions.

Queensland has saved a Hollywood blockbuster, but the local film industry is still missing out Actors Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in Brisbane for the filming of Thor: Ragnaraok. DAN PELED

However Hollywood can be a fickle beast. The attractiveness of a location for a film shoot depends on more than offsets, including the strength of the Australian dollar, the type of locations required, the clout of other jurisdictions, and the willingness of A-list talent to travel to a far-off country for a number of months.

Queensland was previously a production hotspot in the early 2000s, when Village Roadshow’s studios were home to blockbusters such as Peter Pan, Nim’s Island, Scooby-Doo, and Fool’s Gold. Smaller towns like Bowen played a role in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. However the global financial crisis saw a dry spell largely persist until the mid-2010s, when Angelina Jolie’s WWII epic, Unbroken, along with San Andreas, restarted the trend.

In between, Queensland struggled to find a place in a local industry, where the biggest hits were filmed in New South Wales and Victoria. Of the top ten highest grossing Australian films ever, only Luhrmann’s Australia had portions shot in Queensland.

While the saving of Dora ensures the burgeoning blockbuster boom in Queensland will continue for now, we need an equal commitment to local and international productions that creates a sustainable industry. One where Australian films and TV shows can be seen everywhere from the shopping centre multiplex, to the arthouse, to an iPad.

Authors: Ella Donald, Tutor in Communications and Arts, The University of Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/queensland-has-saved-a-hollywood-blockbuster-but-the-local-film-industry-is-still-missing-out-94027

Writers Wanted

Ammonite: the remarkable real science of Mary Anning and her fossils


Patch Tuesday Commentary from Chris Goettl, Senior Director of Product Management, Security at Ivanti:


The Conversation


Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Business News

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co

Avoid These Mistakes When Changing up Your Executive Career

Switching up industries is a valid move at any stage in your career, even if you’re an executive. Doing so at this stage can be a lot more intimidating, however, and it can be quite difficult know...

News Co - avatar News Co

4 Costly Mistake To Avoid When Subdividing Your Property

As a property developer or landowner, the first step in developing your land is subdividing it. You subdivide the property into several lots that you either rent, sell or award to shareholders. ...

News Co - avatar News Co

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion