NSW government reverses screen funding cuts after mounting pressure

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Key points

  • The NSW government has restored incentives to the film and television industry worth an estimated $60 million a year.
  • The Media and Entertainment and Arts Alliance kicked off a campaign last week supporting their reinstatement.
  • The sector warned the cutbacks threatened 85 film and television projects and almost 30,000 jobs across the state.

The NSW government has responded to mounting pressure from the film sector, reversing cuts and restoring funding to develop new screen projects.

Arts minister John Graham told industry representatives on Tuesday the government had found funding – from elsewhere within the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade – to continue financial incentives deemed by the screen sector as critical to its survival.

More than 170 members of the MEAA endorsed a campaign to reverse screen funding cuts.Credit: Steven Siewert

Submissions to the two affected programs, Made in NSW and Post, Digital and Visual Effects Rebate will reopen, and continue on existing terms, effective immediately.

The screen industry had launched a campaign against cuts, announced prior to last week’s NSW budget, to major programs designed to attract film and television production and digital and visual effects work.

The state’s film and television sector had warned the cutbacks, worth an estimated $60 million, threatened 85 film and television projects and almost 30,000 jobs across the state.

Alastair McKinnon, the managing director of leading film and television maker Matchbox Pictures, welcomed the restoration of certainty and stability to the sector.

He said he understood that the two affected programs were back to operating “business as usual”.

“We’ve had no negative impacts. It’s very much a happy ending.”

In a letter circulated to industry representatives, Graham said the government had inherited the cuts from the previous government, and its response had been complicated by an unexpected and increased call on funding since then.

Arts minister John Graham has flagged the need to recast support of the screen sector. Credit: Rhett Wyman

“We are not revising the financial year 23/24 budget process,” he said. “What we are doing is replenishing funds to the level we had expected to account for the increased demand, while we work through the business case for future screen funding.

“What we are giving is commitment and certainty for the sector to continue planning and production in NSW.”

Longer term, Graham said the government was looking to recast screen support and work with industry to frame a new three-year strategy.

The state’s film and television industry has grown 60 per cent in the last five years and was poised to grow even larger when local quotas for streaming services were introduced by the federal government.

In many ways, this situation has served to reinforce the need for a strong and coherent arts, culture, and creative industries policy for the state, Graham said.

“Today’s commitment to refresh these programs will ensure that they can continue to provide certainty for the sector, for their existing terms, while we work through a business case to address future support for the film industry.”

MEAA chief executive Erin Madeley said the decision to restore funding showed the government recognised the cultural and economic value of the screen sector in NSW. More than 1000 people wrote to their local MPs to call for the reinstatement of funding.

“This is a huge step by the government in restoring reputation of the industry in NSW,” she said.

The affected programs formed part of a network of state and federal incentives and rebates utilised by international studios and local producers to create a pipeline of film investment to the state worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Speaking to the Herald last week, distinguished filmmaker George Miller had described the cuts to film and television funding in the NSW budget as retrograde, misguided and naive.

Twenty-seven film production houses responsible for such shows as Mother and Son and Colin from Accounts also wrote to the NSW premier and treasurer, warning children’s content would be disproportionately affected.

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