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A feature film may be eligible to receive either the 30 per cent or 40 per cent Producer Offset.

To be eligible for the 40 per cent Producer Offset it must be determined that the feature film is being produced, or has been produced, for commercial exhibition to the public in cinemas.

The assessment of whether a project is a feature film that has been produced for commercial exhibition to the public in cinemas is outlined in section 3.1.3 of the Producer Offset Guidelines.


'Documentary' is defined in section 376-25 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997  (ITAA). This definition applies to projects that commenced principal photography on or after 1 July 2012.

For projects commencing before this date, we will utilise the test outlined by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in the Lush House case (EME Productions No 1 Pty Ltd v Screen Australia).

For certification as a documentary, you must be able to satisfy us that the project is a creative treatment of actuality that is not an infotainment or lifestyle program, or a magazine-style program.

In making this decision, we have regard to:

  • the extent and purpose of any contrived situation featured in the film
  • the extent to which the film explores an idea or a theme
  • the extent to which the film has an overall narrative structure, and
  • any other relevant matters.

Magazine and infotainment programs

A magazine-style program is not a documentary. It is a film that:

  • presents factual information
  • has two or more discrete parts, each dealing with a different subject or a different aspect of the same subject, and
  • does not contain an over-arching narrative structure or thesis.

An infotainment or lifestyle program is also not a documentary, and is defined in Schedule 6 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 as a program ‘...the sole or dominant purpose of which is to present factual information in an entertaining way, where there is a heavy emphasis on entertainment value’.


What are series and seasons of series?

Each season of a series is treated as a different ‘film’ for the purposes of the Producer Offset, is the subject of a separate application, and must separately meet the expenditure thresholds. However, once a documentary series (as made up by all of its seasons) totals 65 commercial hours, the series ceases to be eligible for certification (sections 376-55(2)(b) and 376-170(4)(c) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997). Note that the 65-commercial-hour cap now does not apply to drama series.

The following criteria apply to series and seasons thereof:

  • the series/season must contain at least two episodes
  • the episodes must be at least a commercial half hour in length (commercial quarter hour for animated series), and
  • the series (but not each season) must have a ‘new creative concept’.

Note that the 65 commercial hour cap applies to the entire documentary series whether or not any seasons or episodes in the series were made without the Producer Offset’s support, prior to the Producer Offset’s commencement, and/or by different companies and individuals.

New creative concept

Sometimes, a new series emerges from an existing series (e.g. as a re-boot or spin-off). The ITAA contemplates this and, where the applicant can demonstrate that the new project has a ‘new creative concept’, it will be treated as a season of a new series, and the 65-commercial-hour cap ‘re-sets’.

In assessing whether there is a new creative concept we must have regard to the degree of difference in the following factors, in comparison to other series that have previously been produced:

  • the title (although a mere change of name is not a new creative concept)
  • the principal characters, the setting, production locations and the persons involved in the making of the series, and
  • any other matters that we consider to be relevant (drawn from section 376-70(2) of the ITAA).

Where one company takes over the making of a series from another company – even if the companies have completely different personnel and management – but the series is still clearly identifiable as a continuation of the same series, it is unlikely to have a new creative concept.  (The Administrative Appeals Tribunal judgement in Beyond Productions Pty Ltd and Screen Australia [2011] AATA 39 provides a useful guide at paragraph 71.)