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Story telling pays well

AS one of the biggest production companies in Perth, Storyteller Media Group holds the privileged position of being Government funding free since 1994.

Over the past ten years Storyteller has made $17 million worth of films, its productions have been broadcast in 80 different countries and it currently has $20 million worth of film productions in development.

Storyteller has also co-produced with five countries since June last year, churning out more than $2.5 million worth of documentaries.

Last year the company won the WA export award for entertainment.

Storyteller chief executive Mike Searle said the company was punching above its weight in global factual programming.

For the first time Storyteller is in the position to offer private investors a guaranteed minimum return of 60 per cent on top of the 100 per cent tax deduction on their investment.

The company recently signed an output deal with Granada Media International to supply another six episodes of its internationally successful Before It’s Too Late wildlife series. 

The deal will bring another $1.8 million worth of production into the state. 

While Storyteller often shoots overseas, Mr Searle said all post-production was done in WA and either Australian or Western Australian crews were used.

He said the co-productions with other countries were an enormous boost to exports and meant that WA had cemented itself in the international market.

“WA is the centre for factual programming in Australia and has a reputation internationally for quality, cost-effective programming.”

Mr Searle said he attributed Storyteller’s success to private investment.

“To be a successful factual programming producer you have to be entrepreneurial,” he said.

“Filmmaking is like no other industry on earth. It is very personal and emotional.

“It is not like making shoes or cars but it can be just as profitable.”

While he pays tribute to the support ScreenWest and Lotterywest has injected into the film and TV industry, he is not so forthcoming about the benefits of Film Finance Corporation funding.

In most cases Government-backed film and video projects receive 10 per cent of their funding from ScreenWest and 40 to 60 per cent from the FFC.

Among the many requirements to receive funding, preselling the project to an Australian distributor, broadcaster or pay TV channel is paramount. 

Mr Searle believes this requirement is hobbling the industry, causing too many producers to try and sell their product in the small Australian market.

He said the requirement of a local presale also skewed the projects towards an Australian audience, which made it difficult to later sell on a global market.

It is on the global market that WA production companies can begin signing up lucrative deals with international distributors and broadcasters.

Every April and October television executives from the world over flock to Cannes to buy new products at Mipcom and the MipTV international television market.

Mr Searle likened the cable, pay TV industry to a big vacuum cleaner in the sky that sucked up product and spat it out again.

“People are beginning to understand and realise that it is difficult to grow a company when hobbled by free money,” he said.

Mr Searle said new media were important to the industry future with DVDs and the Internet providing new avenues for sales.

Storyteller has successfully set up related websites to programs, has online e-books that viewers can download and developed a computer game from its series Animal X concept.

The company is also looking at setting up an investment fund that was spread across a number of productions.

“The industry is poised for growth…now is the time more than ever for private investors to get in.”

He said investors needed to look at the returns being offered, the company and its track record when looking to invest in the industry.

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