"MISSION NOT IMPOSSIBLE: We could be Tinseltown"
from The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, Australia
By Michael Idato
May 5, 1999

Comparison Table


Los Angeles





Make-up Van






Supporting actor



City Shoot



(*)=US usually requires hiring the stage's manager and crew, plus costs for lighting 

Hollywood is running scared that Sydney will steal its mantle as the film capital of the world. And in the face of escalating production costs in the home town of the film industry, their fears are well founded.

Now complaints about similar job losses are coming from workers in a quintessentially American industry: Hollywood's film and television studios. 
[FTAC Note: It appears to be an almost chauvanistic and deceptive mis-representation that Mr. Idato has used with the comparison table in that it does not indicate on what currency the figures represent, or if they are similar currencies at all, especially in light of a clear reference below. Further, based on known industry contemporary costs here in L.A., from Professionals in the business whom represent the better part of film history and the industry since it began, the figures for L.A. average costs for the items mentioned here are grossly inflated, in some cases by over 100%, for an average feature or production. :ed.]

America is fighting back as the Australian film industry bids internationally for a share of America's billion-dollar offshore production market, but it has its work cut out, according to Australian film industry leaders.

They cite the problem of LA's soaring production costs as the biggest hurdle to making movie there. 

Hollywood is demanding tax concessions in the US to try to coax productions back to Tinseltown, but the real threat is America's entrenched union culture and antiquated labour laws which force producers to hire huge crews to shoot films.

The cost of production crews in the US is often double what it is in Australia, because of employment agreements with powerful unions. And while tax concessions would bring some relief, they would not address the real long-term problem. ' "Outside the obvious advantage of the exchange rates, the thorn in Hollywood's side is the extraordinary cost of a cast and crew," ' said one film insider.

"In Australia,a film like the Mission: Impossible sequel has a shooting crew of about 160 people. In the US, it would be double or more than double that figure."

Still, about 1,500 people showed up for a "Bring Hollywood Home" demonstration on April
18 in Burbank, organized by the Film and Television Action Committee, a group of Hollywood workers fighting what their chairman, Jack De Govia, called Canada's raiding of American industry.

Most industry sources cited the Teamsters as an example of a US union with enormous influence.

In Australia, productions use runners or assistants to pick up and drop off personnel. In the US, the Teamsters require a fleet of cars and drivers to standby, all day, every day, for that purpose.

American films worth half-a-billion dollars have been made in Australia in the past few years, and the stampede out of Hollywood shows no sign of abating.

Directors are attracted to a market where they are making big-budget films such as Mission: Impossible ($126 million), The Thin Red Line ($55 million), and the next Star Wars film
($150 million plus).

"A camera that costs $US3000 per week to rent in the US may cost only NZ$2000 here. Add to that the exchange rate savings and that camera in New Zealand only costs $US1000 to rent, a third of the price. Following me?" ' Jackson said. ' "It basically means that the $130 million will buy three movies that have the screen value of closer to $350 million." 

The issue of offshore production is a bone of contention between the US and rival markets such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

"Are we concerned? Yes. Are we paying attention? Yes. Are we going to do something about it? Absolutely." said California Film Commission head Pattie Archuletta.

Austrade, under its Ausfilm banner, is gunning for some $200 million worth of film and TV projects. All Australian State film commissions and 21 private film companies - including Fox Studios Australia and Kodak Australia - are represented under Ausfilm.

The Queensland and South Australian governments offer tax incentives, while NSW offers payroll tax concessions. 

"Per film, that can add up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars in savings," said Vivien Skinner, film adviser to Premier Bob Carr. .

Those offshore tax breaks have inspired a new coalition of California and US Federal politicians to lobby for similar incentives to be applied in the US.

"Australia has got its act together," , said LA-based Ausfilm commissioner David Pratt. "It's taken a while, but in the last five years under Ausfilm we have made a concerted effort to market Australia as a production centre." 

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