- Australian screen industry is facing enormous challenges due to COVID 19 restrictions, as all production work was stopped, and film festivals were either cancelled or postponed.
- The industry, which significantly contributes to the economy and offers cultural benefits, requires lots of people on the sets in close proximity, thus maintaining social distancing and equipment sanitisation are major challenges.
- Federal Government has announced an additional AUD 400 million screen industry package to help the pandemic-stricken industry.
- Government has also released COVID-Safe guidelines for resuming production, with some screen productions resumed.
COVID 19 pandemic has not spared anyone, from usual offices to the glamorous world of cinema. The unprecedented crisis has impacted ordinary as well as popular ones.
Similar to several other industries, the movie industry is also going through a lot of uncertainty about its future. It is a challenging time for the global film industry. The COVID 19 spread has caused multiple cancellations/postponements, with movie production stopped and prominent film festivals either cancelled or postponed for later.
All professionals in the film industry - from movie stars to directors, technicians and others were out of work during the lockdown. However, some of the productions have resumed after the initial flattening of the curve by Australia. As the crisis is ongoing and is unlikely to disappear anytime soon, it is bringing much uncertainty about the future of the screen industry.
Contribution of Screen Industry to Australian Economy
Along with offering significant cultural benefits to the Australian audiences and taxpayers, the sector hugely contributes to the country's economy. The cultural value cannot be measured in numbers and dollars, as it manifests in a range of ways.
According to Screen Australia CEO, Graeme Mason, Australian film and TV's spectacular landscapes, distinct narratives, and popular and memorable characters are part of the country's cultural identity. The industry’s contribution to employment, GDP, tourism and other sectors has been impressive.
Economic Contribution: As per the government data, total contribution to GDP by the Australian screen industry in the year 2014/15 was AUD 3.072 billion, and it offered 25,304 full-time employment. Also, movie content attracted nearly 230,000 international tourists to the country every year, driving an estimated AUD 725 million in tourism expenditure.
Movie Industry's Challenges in Continuing Work During the Pandemic
The challenge is in adapting to the new norms. Unlike office jobs, the film industry doesn't have the choice of work from home. The crew members need to work together in film studios and location sets in close proximity. During the age of social distancing, we can only imagine the challenges that make-up, hair and costume departments will have. Moreover, all the equipment used in shooting are passed between the crew members, so proper sanitisation of the equipment is a must.
Resurgence of coronavirus cases in the country is a massive challenge for all industries, including the Australian screen industry. Victoria state has become the epicentre of corona cases in Australia, and it is right now under stage 3 stay at home restrictions. As of 19 July 2020, the total number of coronavirus cases in Victoria stood at 5,696 with 363 new cases since the last day’s report, according to the health and human services department of the Victorian state government.
Furthermore, New South Wales has temporarily closed its border with Victoria to contain the spread of the virus. The move shuts down all travel between the two most significant hubs of the Australian film and TV industry - Sydney and Melbourne.
AUD 400 Million Federal Boost for Australian Screen Industry
Morrison government has decided to extend the life of its location incentive program and boost the screen industry package by AUD 400 million. The incentive program boosted over the next three years and extended for four more years to 2026-27 is expected to add to a strong pipeline of international screen production activity, investment and employment. The government has stated that expanding the program will generate more production and post-production work for the coronavirus affected film industry.
The additional aid would attract an estimated foreign expenditure of AUD 3 billion while generating new employment opportunities of around 8k every year.
In May 2018, the federal government had come up with the Location Incentive Program valued at AUD 140 million to support the Australian screen industry jobs, with the program to be delivered over four years from 2019-20. The initiative was targeted towards attracting big-budget international productions to the country to increase the contribution of foreign expenditure as well as to create more jobs in the Australian cast and crew department.
Through the existing Location Incentive, the government has announced funding of AUD 123 million for 10 productions, estimated to generate spending of around AUD 1 billion and aid 8,500 local employment.
The recent aid followed the AUD 250 million package announced by the government on 25 June 2020 to support artists and companies to get back to the business during the COVID 19 crisis.
COVID-Safe Guidelines for Production
The guidelines developed by the Australian Screen Sector Task Force are aimed to provide support and assistance to individual workers as well as screen producers to resume production activities. The guidelines include advice on how to stay safe from COVID 19 infection while doing the production job.
Other support from the government includes:
Insurance: The government is closely working with the related ministry and the department to help navigate through the complexity of insurance for production projects.
Funding: Screen Australia, the government's key funding body for the screen production industry, has provided more than AUD 620,000 in funding to 11 feature films, 5 TV series and 2 online projects.
The screen industry across Australia and the world is trying hard to revive and start functioning again. Entertainment and movies are more needed during the home isolation times, and art always has its own expressions of any emotions. So, in future, we can see some great movies and art pieces on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
There is no investor left unperturbed with the ongoing trade conflicts between US-China and the devastating bushfire in Australia.
Are you wondering if the year 2020 might not have taken the right start? Dividend stocks could be the answer to that question.
As interest rates in Australia are already at record low levels, find out which dividend stocks are viewed as the most attractive investment opportunity in the current scenario in our report.