BOOSTED by The Great Gatsby and I, Frankenstein, the value of Australian film and TV drama production jumped 25 per cent last financial year.
According to Screen Australia's annual drama report, a sharp decline in foreign production was more than matched by an increase in big-budget films shot by Australian directors with Hollywood backing.
Drama production rose from $497 million in the previous financial year to $623 million, including 28 films worth $296 million. While a healthy output, it was below the record of $739 million in 2009-10.
On the basis they were driven by local creative teams, the report counts as Australian Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, shot in and around Sydney starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan, and Stuart Beattie's I, Frankenstein, shot in Melbourne with Yvonne Strahovski, Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy.
Other smaller-scale films produced during the year included The Sapphires, Kath & Kimderella, Mental and the British co-production The Railway Man, starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.
''It's been a strong year for feature production with a bigger slate overall, boosted by high-budget Australian titles,'' the chief executive of Screen Australia, Ruth Harley, said. She described the health of the sector as ''pretty robust''.
Luhrmann praised the country's producer offset, a 40 per cent tax rebate, for allowing him to shoot a movie here that was set in 1920s New York: ''To work with Australia's skilled film technicians and facilities and to bring large-scale projects like The Great Gatsby to Australia, we can't have our head in the sand about the fact that the country is a long way away.''
While the quality of recent Australian adult TV drama has been impressive, spending fell 13 per cent to $279 million. As hours also dipped, by 6 per cent, there was a shift from series and serials towards mini-series and telemovies.
The report counts House Husbands, Offspring and Puberty Blues as mini-series alongside Howzat! Kerry Packer's War, Underbelly: Badness and the coming British co-production Mrs Biggs - The Untold Story behind the Great Train Robbery.
There has also been a mini boom in telemovies - from five to 10 - including Underground: The Julian Assange Story, Beaconsfield and the Jack Irish films.
While Australia has often been a popular location for foreign movies, the high value of the dollar meant that only three started shooting last financial year.
And instead of huge Hollywood movies, they were lower-budget productions from Japan (Hayabusa, the Long Journey Home), India (From Sydney with Love) and Nepal (Destination Kathmandu).
But incentives brought Hollywood studios to Australia for post-production and digital effects work worth $38 million on such big movies as The Avengers, Ted, Prometheus, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and The Hunger Games.
NSW remained the dominant state for drama with production worth $315 million compared with $212 million in Victoria, $65 million in Queensland and $16 million in South Australia.