12.8 million For Hugh, Nothing For You
The news this week for film industry types is that Hugh Jackman is going to bring his next Wolverine production back to Sydney. Because the degree of my jadedness – my ad-jade-ment if you will – is at such proportions, I thought I’d just not comment on it until Pleiades brought this little thing to my attention:
You’d have thought that riches to rags story had taught Australian politicians that dumb subsidies don’t work and may have actually damaged the local film industry more than it helped.
Last week the Australian federal government announced $13 million in support for production of Wolverine. The prime minister’s office gushed:
“To attract The Wolverine to Australia, the Gillard government granted the producers a one-off payment of $12.8 million which will result in over $80 million of investment in Australia and create more than 2000 jobs.
“The payment effectively provided The Wolverine a one-off investment package equivalent to an increase in the existing location offset to 30 per cent.
“Without this effective tax offset incentive, the producers of The Wolverine would not have chosen Australia as the location.”
“That’s just the nature of this government,” thundered Pleiades. “It’s all about bribing people. It’s corruption and bribery that’s marked this government.”
I’m inclined to believe it’s true. What’s truly spectacular about this account is that 12.8million can buy you a lot of things in the film industry: development, advertising support, distribution support, publicity. Instead, Julia Gillard’s government has chosen to hand this over to a Hollywood production on the grounds that it’s going to be shot in Australia. Heck, there are any number of good film scripts out there to be made for a flat 12.8million. When you consider that the annual budget at AFTRS used to be 9million p.a. (I think it might even be less now), you think “wow, they really don’t care about the front end of the industry, they only care about the rear end.”
They could have done a lot more things with that money that actually helped.
All this is to say that it is incredibly dubious as to what merit there is in throwing this money at Hugh Jackman’s production which is already funded out of the Hollywood machine. Now, I’m not taking anything away from Hugh Jackman who is able to do so, but you have to seriously question the ALP government where they really stand with regards to the rest of the Australian film industry. It’s nice that some of the crew and special effects houses and post-production houses will get some business coming through, but when it’s done, it’s going to be the breadline for most of those people again. The ALP government can’t be buying temporary jobs like that, they should be trying to re-establish the industry as a industry instead of this public-money-consuming sheltered workshop – assuming they’re serious.
Which, they’re not. So why am I bothering with this today? Oh yes, I got asked what I thought.
More On The Sheltered Workshop Thing
Hugh Jackman is returning to Australia to make The Wolverine, his sixth outing as the Marvel character, thanks to a $12.8 million federal government subsidy.
And while billed as a “one-off”, the local film industry has its fingers crossed that the near-doubling of the standard assistance for a big-budget foreign production is a sign of things to come in next month’s budget.
The Wolverine is set in Japan but will be shot at Fox Studios in Sydney between July and December. Hugh Jackman will star and produce. “It’s so great to bring these big movies down there, to keep people working,” Jackman told the Today program from London, where he is filming Les Miserables for Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). “I just have to say thanks to Prime Minister Gillard, she was instrumental with this.”
Yikes. Sounds awful already. Set in Japan but shot in Sydney sounds a bit like the Last Samurai which was set in Japan but shot in NZ. Nothing wrong with that, just that it looked really weird in many parts. I’m resigned to there being an alternative universe where there is a Japan that is totally on another planet with totally weird things going on. Even so… let that slide for now.
The patent myth – and outright wishful thinking on the part of SPAA – is that this is going to lead to there being more direct input from the Federal government to lure productions to Australia so that they hire Australian crew and talent. The other patent myth is that once this Wolverine Production starts or finishes in Australia that it’s going to open the flood gates for more productions to come back through the Fox lot that is mostly sitting dormant right now, thanks to the high Aussie Dollar. When you choose to look at the funding through these two rose tinted glasses, then sure, this $12.8million seems like chump change. But as with the generous amount of government money dropped on Baz Luhrman’s ‘Australia’ , there’s nothing that strengthens the industry, nothing that gives it an ongoing mechanism for growth, nothing that allows for the Australian industry itself to grow unless you define the Australian Film Industry as a service industry for Hollywood in which case why are we doing this?
Haven’t we been here before with Baz Luhrman’s number?
The point is, it’s not even good policy to be throwing money at a Hollywood production, just so it comes here to shoot. If they don’t come of their own accord, it’s proof positive that our service part of the film industry isn’t competitive enough. We’re either going to be competitive on the world market on our own merits or not. The producers hoping the government’s going to make a habit of funding these things are uncompetitive swill, sucking on the government teat wanting more. I’m sorry but years and years of public funding has reduced our film industry to these kinds of producers getting the loudest voices.
On a personal note, I struggled greatly to convince the production for Kamui Gaiden to come here when their main objection was cost – and that was when the Australian Dollar was only 70yen. Had somebody handed even 5million on a platter, it probably would have happened here or NZ instead of Okinawa; but nobody was there to do it because it was during the time the FFC was being rolled into Screen Australia, just before the GFC hit. (And really, it was probably the natural course of things that it didn’t happen that way, which was not only my loss but arguably Australia’s film industry’s lost opportunity.) Still, that was the last straw for me.
It goes back to the problem that the people who want the industry don’t know what they’re getting; the people in the industry don’t know what market they’re operating in; and the world really doesn’t like in-between-ers, which is exactly what our film industry is.