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Film scheme draws applause

THE FORMATION of a screen industry precinct, a new training and incentive scheme and a substantial incentive package are three major proposals of the Premier’s newly launched Screen Industry Taskforce Report.

ScreenWest CEO Debra Allenson said if supported, WA would be at the forefront of Australia’s “second wave” of screen industry development, being brought about by the uptake of digital technology.

“This will not only mean new jobs and business opportunities but will also establish WA as a competitive producer and not just a consumer of content,” Ms Allenson said.

“In an environment awash with imported films, TV fare and now all forms of online content, this is an important issue for WA.”

The report recommended an investment of $18.85 million over five years to augment current funding by the State Government, with the aim of increasing development support for local productions and industry businesses, plus attract productions from interstate and overseas.

Conservative estimates by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicate this new investment could generate about $270 million into the economy over five years, rising to $700 million over 10 years.

The investment will support the expansion of a screen industry partnership fund, which will establish commercial structures that generate production and revenue for the industry, and an increase to funding to ScreenWest to expand its existing development program.

It also proposed the establishment of a screen industry training and education scheme to create more job-ready personnel. A key aspect of this plan will be the establishment of a screen academy, a joint initiative between tertiary institutions.

A capital investment in a multi-use digital production facility and studio is proposed as the first step for establishing a screen industry precinct, which will act as an operational hub for the industry.

In addition to supporting key production areas including animation, special effects, and lower cost drama and factual programming, a key feature will be the delivery of training within a professional industry context.

A feasibility study has indicated a base cost of $12 million for the core facility, but the level of government support has not been determined in detail.

Town of Vincent Mayor John Hyde said he would like the precinct to be situated in Leederville or East Perth.

“The arts are littered with grand plans in bottom drawers gathering dust – we need swift action and financial commitment,” Mayor Hyde said.

Public comment is being requested on the report during this month, after which the government will make its final decision on the recommendations.

Perth-born feature filmmaker James Bogle said the report was a clear step in the right direction.

“From the perspective of a filmmaker, the report is a good signal to the rest of the world as it shows a bit of endeavour and commitment to the future,” Mr Bogle said.

“The WA film industry is viewed as being the frontier for children’s television and documentaries, but I’d like to see more feature films and dramas being produced.”

Mr Bogle said the screen precinct concept was excellent, and would hopefully stem the migration of talented local screen professionals and graduates to the eastern states. He said it would provide a good, solid context to ‘new economy’ mediums.

“There is a lot of fantastic, emerging talent here but typically, these people head east after making two or three short films because there are few opportunities to grow in WA,” he said.

“I’m a case in point: I left WA after winning the Young Film Festival in 1991 and went east.

“I would have liked to have made my film – based on Tim Winton’s novel In the Winter Dark – in WA but it was not to be.”

Mr Bogle recently returned to WA to make a feature film based on Brett Darcy’s novel The Book of Lonely.

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