South Australian Film Corporation (Motions)

In Parliament, Motions

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.B. Martin:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that 2022 marks the 50th year of the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC);

2. Recognises the significant social, cultural and economic contributions the SAFC has made to the State of South Australia; and

3. Congratulates all those who have contributed to the fantastic array of films, television series and games that have been produced by the SAFC since 1972.

(Continued from 19 October 2022.)

The Hon. T.T. NGO (17:02): When I visited the South Australian Film Corporation with the Hon. Reggie Martin MLC some weeks ago, it was my first visit to the site. The set-up was incredibly impressive, and I had no idea of the huge impact the South Australian Film Corporation is making not only in Australia but around the world.

Like others have done before me, I want to applaud Don Dunstan’s vision for establishing the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) through an act of parliament in 1972. In doing so, he paved the way for many South Australian and Australian stories to be passed on to others through film and television.

In 1994, the SAFC’s role underwent a fundamental shift. The state’s screen industry started to emerge as an independent force. With this positive progression, the SAFC evolved from being a production company to one that would play a supporting role, operating behind the scenes so that the real stars could shine, and becoming the state government’s central agency for delivering assistance to independent industry.

There were other changes along the way. In the early 1980s, SAFC relocated from its original home in Norwood to a disused factory in Hendon—the Hendon Studios. Then, in 2011, outgrowing the Hendon Studios, the SAFC moved again, this time to a new, custom-built studio: Adelaide Studios at Glenside.

Today, the South Australian Film Corporation collaborates with many government departments and agencies and over the years has produced a vast range of documentaries, films and productions for television. The Adelaide Studios are not only a creative centre for screen businesses and the whole screen industry; they are also an important contributor to South Australia’s economy. For every dollar spent, the return is eight times greater. The annual government support is approximately $5.5 million, with the corporation creating around 2,300 jobs and supporting around 500 small businesses. Demand for Adelaide Studios is high. In 2021-22, tenancy was 100 per cent occupancy, and the production facility was utilised for 49 calendar weeks.

South Australians working in the film industry are looked after by the South Australian Film Corporation. SAFC encourages productions to employ South Australians through the provision of developing funding. This financial assistance offers incentives for work undertaken in South Australia. In the first three years of the rebate, expenditure on post-production and visual effects in South Australia increased by more than 70 per cent. More recently, a video games development rebate was also launched to support the development of the growing video games.

How financial assistance works is a financial contribution from SAFC then helps that production to seek further private funding. Due to the highly respected reputation of SAFC, their small contribution is a green light that gives great confidence to private investors who invest in a production.

In 2020, Screen Australia released its annual drama report, revealing a record-breaking high of $146 million spent in South Australia on drama production in 2019-20. This represents a record 15 per cent share of the national total drama spend.

International actor and Australian-born Cate Blanchett has filmed in Adelaide three times. Recently, Cate, along with our Premier, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas MP, and arts minister, the Hon. Andrea Michaels MP, attended the gala reception to celebrate SAFC’s 50th anniversary. At the anniversary event, Cate Blanchett spoke very highly of the corporation and commended the many ways that SAFC has contributed to the film industry. I am told Cate was in Adelaide in preparation for her next film project called The New Boy, which was attracted to South Australia by the SAFC. Cate Blanchett’s first-ever film was also made in Adelaide, supported by the SAFC, which I did not know.

Several directors within the film and television industry also hold the SAFC in high esteem for its one-stop shop set-up and its state-of-the-art facilities that enable the whole team crew to be on site for film production in an easy-to-get-around city. Simon McQuoid, the director of Mortal Kombat, described South Australia as a massive state with a lot of options and variations for filming on location.

He acknowledged places such as Port Adelaide, our suburban coastline, the Flinders Ranges and Coober Pedy, and he stated South Australia ‘is a place with no visual fatigue, due to the enormous and varied options of locations’. Mount Crawford, between Mount Pleasant and Williamstown, was the perfect location to create the 14th century village for the filming of Mortal Kombat.

The many glowing compliments and reflections about South Australia’s Film Corporation and its contribution to this creative and multilayered industry is something we should all feel proud of. All of this is due to the hard work, passion, commitment and creative talents from many people: past and present employees of the SAFC; successive state governments, premiers and ministers; departmental leaders and teams; and an entire industry of talented individuals, businesses and partner agencies.

Today, the SAFC is run by CEO Kate Croser and her team, including Beth Neate, Charne Magor and Petra Starke. I would like to acknowledge the commitment that this small team has to the screen sector, and the incredible depth of knowledge, national and international networks, and industry expertise that resides within the SAFC. It is because of this team working collaboratively with the entire ecosystem that South Australia continues to punch above its weight.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:11): I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the Liberal Party to speak to the motion to acknowledge 50 years of achievements of the South Australian Film Corporation.

The SA Film Corp is Australia’s longest running state screen agency and provides production and development funding for screen productions. It is a privilege to highlight the screen sector’s impact in South Australia. We should all be very proud that South Australia’s screen industries today include world-class film, television, post-production, digital and visual effects, and game development.

In a marketing brochure produced by SAFC recently, it was stated that ‘screen production’ is a specialised form of advanced manufacturing. Let’s put this in some context. Research has found that 67 per cent of spending on screen production goes to businesses and suppliers in other sectors such as construction, travel, transport, hospitality, retail and professional services. The industry has many multiplier effects.

We are blessed in South Australia to have talented, wonderfully diverse people working in this industry. They are highly skilled and have won many, many awards. My esteemed colleague, the shadow minister for the arts, the Hon. John Gardner, has informed me that we have significantly grown our share of the national screen industry over the last four years, to the point that we now represent more than double our population share of the industry. We hope that the momentum that was built by the former Liberal government will be maintained by the new Labor government, so that we can get even bigger and better.

Honourable members, I am sure we all agree that we live in the most beautiful place in the world. South Australia has the most unique and captivating cinematic landscapes. The SA Film Corp does a fantastic job in showcasing our most precious landscapes to the world, and they have a wonderful history of doing so. The first film produced by the SA Film Corp was Sunday Too Far Away in 1975, starring the legendary Jack Thompson, and it was a smash hit winning awards and turning a great profit. Other big hits have included much-loved Australian classics such as Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Storm Boy (1976), Blue Fin (1979) and Breaker Morant (1980).

Other states then copied many of the aspects of the SA Film Corporation’s work and in time the nature of that work changed too. In the 1990s the SA Film Corp stopped making movies and TV shows in its own right and instead took on the role for government of providing assistance to the industry. It moved from Norwood to Hendon Studios before eventually, in 2011, moving to its current home in Glenside.

The global screen industry, including games, is valued at over $US580 billion. There is a huge opportunity for South Australia to attract a growing share of this investment to our state. By supporting the industry we will be able to create highly-skilled, specialised and global jobs for South Australians, jobs that range from creative to administrative, technical to trades. There are plenty of opportunities that we need to harness.

Screen production in South Australia attracts more than 90 per cent of its finance from sources outside the state, including the international market, federal government and private equity funds. We must create a supportive environment to attract our fair share of investment. I am very proud to have been the Assistant Minister to the Premier during the term of the Marshall Liberal government. It was under the Marshall Liberal government that South Australia achieved a screen production boom, with recent years delivering record levels of production in film, TV, visual effects and game development in our state.

In 2019-20, the South Australian screen sector contributed $187 million into the state’s economy, and supported 2,297 full-time equivalent South Australian jobs. We must acknowledge that this is an industry that has more than doubled in the last six years, from $77.2 million and 754 FTEs in 2013-14, to the current wonderful results that we have achieved.

It was a four-year period when the SA film Corporation had an incredible run of productions released, including Mortal Kombat which was easily the largest ever film made in South Australia by a long margin. Mortal Kombat was a great showcase, particularly of the South Australian talent on display in a wide range of areas related to the screen industry, including post-production and digital and visual effects. It is not all about the actors.

But this was not the only excellent release supported by the SA Film Corp between 2018 and 2022. I would also like to pay tribute to everyone included in the production of other phenomenal projects as well. They include: Hotel Mumbai (2018); Storm Boy (2019); I am Mother (2019); Escape from Pretoria in 2020; 2067—a film made in 2020; Gold (2022); and The Stranger (2022). There were also TV series including Settlers (2020), Firebite (2021), First Day Season 2 (2022) and The Tourist (2022).

It has been a very prosperous period for our film industry, and the new government has a significant task ahead to maintain the pace for our state. One project particularly close to the heart of our shadow minister for education and the arts, the Hon. John Gardner, that he has mentioned to me is the children’s TV show Beep and Mort.Beep and Mort began life as a stage production of Windmill Theatre. It is a delightful children’s story of inclusion.

An arriving alien in a spaceship, called Beep, lands unexpectedly in the town of Mollyvale, where he meets a friendly character called Mort. Mort helps Beep to settle into Mollyvale, and they have a series of fun adventures. It is like welcoming all the multicultural communities into South Australia, and we all enjoy the diversity and enjoy those adventures together.

In a sign of the confidence that has developed in recent years in South Australia’s screen industry, Windmill Theatre has recently started a new company called Windmill Pictures. During the time of the Marshall Liberal government they sought assistance from the government, including the SA Film Corp, to develop Beep and Mort from a stage show to a TV series. I am very pleased to say that this show was supported and was, indeed, picked up by the ABC. The first series of 20 episodes is now screening on ABC TV and streaming on ABC Kids. The Hon. John Gardner tells me that his kids absolutely adore it and love it, and I believe many tens of thousands around Australia feel the same way.

Congratulations for producing and creating this particular series entirely in South Australia with a majority South Australian cast and crew. This has been the first new TV show for children made here in South Australia for a long time and demonstrates the growth and confidence that was delivered by the former Marshall Liberal government to this important sector. Producing high-quality productions builds confidence in our industry and encourages non-government investment in our industry.

The development of content supported by the SA Film Corporation has built many careers and inspired countless others. South Australian skilled and creative workers, passionate about telling South Australian stories, are good for all of us. They collectively inspire us and help our economy. We must jointly recognise the significant social, cultural and economic contributions that SAFC makes to South Australia.

I thank the Hon. Reggie Martin MLC for moving this motion. On behalf of the Liberal Party, we convey our sincere congratulations to the South Australian Film Corporation on this milestone 50th anniversary. May SAFC enjoy much success into the future. I commend the motion.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:21): I rise to speak in support of this motion. I, too, thank the mover for allowing the Legislative Council to express our congratulations on 50 years of the South Australian Film Corporation. When introducing the bill that created the South Australian Film Corporation back in 1972, then Premier Don Dunstan saw it as a chance to ‘rejuvenate the sluggish pulse of the local film industry’ and also to ‘create an awareness in the community of the value of films’.

What an impact this organisation has had recognising the value of our creative industry. From early productions like Storm Boy and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which are icons in the film world, to recent hits like Thor and Mortal Kombat, the South Australian Film Corporation has helped transform and form the South Australian film industry. Back in 1972, when Don Dunstan recognised what supporting a creative industry could bring, the South Australian film industry was almost non-existent. There were a few films that had not performed too well, some TV commercials being made here and, really, that was largely it.

In 2019-20, the South Australian screen sector contributed $187 million into our state’s economy. What a difference that 50 years of support has made. Those iconic films that have been produced with the support of the South Australian Film Corporation have stood the test of time. We watched them as kids, and we will show them to the next generation. Some I will never watch again, such as Wolf Creek and Snowtown, but they will stay with me, and I am glad to have had that experience of having watched them just the once.

They are innovative, challenging and enjoyed by viewers in South Australia and beyond. These films make a name for our state. Imagine if the South Australian creative industries more broadly also received this sort of support. Artists create when they are supported and the value of their work is recognised and nurtured. The arts in South Australia more broadly have been hit particularly hard, hit by COVID, hit by lack of funding and hit by the lingering notion that an artist is meant to be somehow better if they are broke and hungry.

The South Australian Film Corporation shows what happens when we support artists and we support artists to create, the value that they bring, and we would be remiss to allow other creative industries to stagnate when the passion, skill and talent is clearly here in South Australia. We must support our arts. We must ensure our artists have a living wage and, indeed, do away with the concept that we should have any starving artists.

The South Australian Film Corporation’s First Nations Screen Strategy continues the tradition of storytelling and is working to amplify First Nations voices through our screens and diversity on-screen, reflecting those within our community. Truth telling is vital in shaping our community’s cultural identity and in strengthening our community.

We must also recognise that the support given to other screen mediums—video games, virtual reality and web series—and providing support to those creating work in these new and evolving mediums is just as important to ensure that South Australia remains at the forefront of this creative industry.

We have just heard from the Hon. Jing Lee, and no doubt others, about the success of the children’s program Beep and Mort. I do not have young children in my life that make me watch such things at the moment, but I am very familiar with the work of Windmill over many generations, and the role children’s theatre plays in our state that is recognised not just across Australia but across the globe. This is where I just want to reflect on how important the eco-story of the arts is here to tell our stories.

One of the iconic movies that I will watch time and again that I quite enjoy is The Club, about a football club. It is a Williamson icon about masculinity. Most recently I have watched at the theatre the Tessa Leong feminist reworking of The Club, with an all-female cast, barely touching the original script, but reflecting on the Me Too generation and the status of not just football but of our society. It was an incredibly powerful production to see in the Adelaide Festival Theatre in recent years.

I am in no doubt that the talent of South Australia on our film screens and through the Film Corporation is in no small part due to the talent of artists right across the board. Whether it is acting, whether it is set and design, lighting and costume, writing and production and sound, these are all part of the eco-story, and at all levels they need to be supported so that we can have the outstanding success that continues and the job opportunities that continue of good living wage jobs for the arts. It is what I think we aspire to in South Australia, what we take pride in having a heritage of.

I commend again former Premier Don Dunstan but also the ongoing support of various premiers for the arts in this state that I would hope is not just bipartisan but cross-party. Whether it is guilty pleasures like Gymnastics Academy—because I love gymnastics and I wanted to be an elite gymnast at one point, but I got way too tall and way too old for that, but I still love it. I take great pride that we make that here in South Australia. We have the celebration of our music heritage as well in a film that I want to see sometime soon and did not get to see during the SA-made schedule of the recent Adelaide Film Festival showings, but I am sure I will get a chance soon—The Angels: Kickin’ Down the Door.

I certainly congratulate the South Australian Film Corporation for 50 years, but I hope there are at least 50 more years to come. I certainly for one see the importance of our stories being told on screens and elsewhere and supporting those to tell our stories to do so with the ability to live not in poverty. With that, I commend the motion.

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (17:28): I will wrap up the debate. I thank the Hon. Tung Ngo, the Hon. Jing Lee and the Hon. Tammy Franks for their contributions and support for this motion. The SA Film Corporation has served our state and our nation for 50 years, and it is only getting stronger. We are fortunate to have such a fine institution in South Australia, and its contribution to our culture and economy is significant. While most South Australians would understand the role it has played in our culture, many would not be aware of its economic impact.

From a relatively modest annual budget thousands of jobs are supported by the SA Film Corporation across film, TV and, in more recent times, the gaming sector. All of the office accommodations at the Adelaide Studios are oversubscribed, with a long list of other organisations and companies waiting to be based at their Adelaide Studios, and the reasons are many: state-of-the-art equipment and stages and world-class production and editing suites, but most importantly it is the people. Led by Kate Croser as CEO and Julie Cooper as chair, the talent available in the Adelaide Studios is immense.

The thing that struck me was the fact that, when companies come here to use the facilities, they are so impressed that they make sure they come back for their next production, and this is testament to the fact that we have here in South Australia the perfect conditions for a screen industry, and continued investment and resourcing will only see it thrive and continue to produce great products and great economic returns. I congratulate all who have been involved with the SA Film Corporation over the past 50 years, and I wish it continued success for many more years to come. I commend the motion to the house.

Motion carried.