Freoflix a powerhouse

• Federal Opposition arts shadow Tony Burke and local MP Josh Wilson after the roundtable with local film-makers.

FREMANTLE film-makers produced more than 50 hours of content for Australian tellies in the last year.

It points to the port city being a powerhouse of WA’s film-making industry, but it could be even greater if producers could overcome the tyranny of distance, federal Opposition arts shadow Tony Burke heard last week.

Mr Burke attended a roundtable discussion with a dozen local film-makers who outlined the constraints facing the local industry and suggested ways to overcome them such as tax incentives and targeted funding.

Metamorflix director/producer Renée Kennedy says the inability to pitch ideas directly to potential customers hampers locals, which is exacerbated at this time of year when some eastern states turn to daylight saving.

“You get to work and you pick up the phone, but they are already thinking of lunch, so it’s hard to get their attention,” Ms Kennedy says.

She says it’s much easier to attract funding when you’re pitching an idea face-to-face, but for local producers that means an expensive flight and hotel accommodation has to be built into the cost. For eastern states producers, it might be little more than a quick jog down the street.

Despite the challenges, she wouldn’t swap Freo for her old home in Sydney, saying the opportunity to walk her kids to school and then to work was a major factor in basing her company in South Fremantle.

Ryan Hodgson from Factor 30 Films, which is based in Cottesloe, told the Herald recent cuts to Screen Australia and broadcasters such as the ABC had the most impact on remote film-makers.

“We have smaller capital, so it affects the financial capacity to prepare projects,” Mr Hodgson said, noting the substantial costs incurred before a single frame is produced.

Independent

But he was thrilled to get the chance to discuss the issue with Mr Burke, saying local federal Fremantle MP Josh Wilson who organised the gathering had been a strong supporter of film-makers.

“To have independent film-makers sit down and talk with the alternative government, here in WA, is an incredible opportunity,” Mr Hodgson said.

Mr Wilson says film and television is an essential medium for telling local stories and exploring issues, but budget cuts, global media giants and rapid technological change meant WA’s industry was under threat.

“We need better support for the Australian screen production sector through direct funding, appropriate tax offsets, local content quotas, and proper resourcing of the ABC and SBS,” he said.

“What’s more, there needs to be a proper focus on regional productions so we don’t see further concentration of the industry in Melbourne and Sydney.

“Such measures have been implemented in the UK, Canada, and the European Union, all of which recognise that streaming services like Netflix represent a new challenge that requires appropriate reform.”

The Chook heard on the grapevine that teaming Mr Burke up with Mr Wilson may also have been part of a plan to groom the former writer for a related portfolio should the Shorten government win the looming federal election.

by STEVE GRANT

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