2020 outlook: Documentary sector urges more funding for one-hours, feature docs
Flickchicks’ ‘Bowled Over’ for SBS’s ‘Untold Australia.’
The Australian International Documentary (AID) group is urging Screen Australia to increase funding of single one-hours and feature documentaries.
This could be achieved by the agency reducing funding to broadcasters for format-based productions and by allocating a set percentage of its annual documentary spend ($16.26 million in 2018/19) on singles.
In response, Screen Australia reports it has 29 feature docs in various states of production which are yet to be released, compared with 27 TV docs, eight online and two VR.
The group, which represents a broad church of factual producers, directors, writers and editors, supports the majority of Screen Australia’s proposed changes to docs funding guidelines.
The AID welcomed the increase of up to $500,000 for development, the funds allocated to the Producer Program, reducing the cap for Commissioned Programs from $1 million to $750.000 and opening up funding to all major platforms.
However the group continues to argue that projects budgeted below $500,000, which have already received funding through the Producer Fund, should still be able to apply to the new Completion Fund where their creative merit will be assessed.
The new guidelines are expected to be released next month and will come into force on July 1.
Noting that cinema-on-demand is emerging as an alternative distribution platform, the AID advocates that feature projects that take that route should qualify for the Producer Offset as long as the distribution plan matches the traditional distribution guarantee from the distributor.
In common with other industry bodies, the group is calling for government regulation to compel streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Stan to get involved in Australian-originated projects from the beginning, not just at acquisition.
The collective, whose founding members include Tom Zubrycki, Sally Ingleton, Ruth Cullen, Pat Fiske, Mark Gould, Simon Nasht, Catherine Scott, Anna Broinowski and Trevor Graham, applauded the SBS/Documentary Australia Foundation initiative to launch single-documentary strand Australia Uncovered in 2021.
That will be the umbrella for up to eight docs ranging from one hours to feature-length, with filmmakers encouraged to be “creative in their approach to style, form and construct.”
“We would welcome a similar initiative from the ABC to broaden the diversity of storytelling styles and social impact opportunities for documentaries,” it adds.