Australian screen industry unites to condemn government budget cuts

05 January, 2016 by Brian Karlovsky

The Australian screen Industry Group has blasted the Federal Government for cutting Screen Australia's budget by more than $50 million in just 18 months.  

ASIG, which consists of all the guilds, unions and associations that represent more than 10,000 Australian filmmakers, has issued a statement outlining its concerns over the cuts and their impact on the industry. 


"The Australian Screen Industry Group… are angered by the recent cut to Screen Australia by the Turnbull Government," according to a statement. 

"We are particularly alarmed at the use of funds to supplement the tax offset for overseas productions. 

"This is a worrying precedent and continues to provide the local and international screen community with uncertainty about the government's approach to the screen industry. 

"The ASIG calls on the Turnbull Government to outline an effective and innovative policy for the screen industry rather than making policy on the run."

The impact of the December MYEFO budget cut on Screen Australia will mean a reduction of 10.3 million over four years or a three per cent cut.

The total reductions to Screen Australia’s budgets since the 2014-15 Budget amount to $51.5 million.  

Of this, $37.6 million came in the 2014-15 Budget, $3.6 million in the 2015-16 Budget, and $10.3 million in the 2015-16 MYEFO.

Australian Directors Guild president Samantha Lang said: “If the Turnbull Government is serious about its innovation agenda it should wholly support the key creative industries in this country,” she said.

“We must have a coherent and forward thinking arts policy rather than an ad hoc approach”, she said.

Lang refers to the use of money from the Screen Australia budget to top up the location offset for several international productions shooting in Australia. 

Australian Cinematographers Society president, Ron Johanson, said the society strongly believed that a government of any persuastion must remove its head from the sand and support Screen Australia 110 per cent, "and not ignore the great and future potential of the Australian Film and Television industry. 

"Recent international accolades for Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dressmaker, along with many others are surely proof enough that our home grown industry talent, on both sides of the camera, is worthy of federal support," he said.

"Surely as a responsible government you do not wish to lose home grown productions and talent, to an overseas film and television industry.” Ron Johanson OAM ACS President of the Australian Cinematographers Society."

According to a statement, ASIG has been working over the past several months, since the call from the prime minister for an innovation agenda, on a comprehensive screen policy that looks to secure the future for the Australian screen industry. 

"We call on the current Turnbull government to honour their pledge to support innovation and invest in our most valuable resource – talented filmmakers." 

Australian Writers' Guild president, Jan Sardi, said recent decisions from the federal goverment were "budget balancing gone mad".

“While recent successes at the Australian box office shows we can match it with Hollywood when it comes to bums on seats, the mega-dollar budgets, marketing campaigns and major stars Hollywood employs to infiltrate every corner of the globe always means the odds are heavily stacked against Australian writers, producers and directors to tell the kind of stories that are meaningful to us as a nation," he said.

"The Turnbull government’s decision to make tens of millions of dollars available to US franchises effectively, while cutting  support for our own storytellers is budget balancing gone mad."

Screen Producers Australia chief executive Matthew Deaner said: "For the third time in 18 months there has been a funding cut to Screen Australia. 

"This efficiency dividend comes after almost $4 million was cut over the forward estimates earlier this year, on top of $38 million the year before. 

In the five years to 2018-19 this will total more than $50 million in combined cuts across budgets. This hacking at the base of Screen Australia through isolated cuts is damaging to the industry."

Paul Murphy Director of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance was also shocked by the cuts.

“Taking money out of Screen Australia will directly impact on domestic production," he said. 

"While we welcome any government support for foreign productions that create jobs for Australian-based performers and crew, it should not be at the expense of the local industry. 

"Financial incentives for foreign productions need to be treated as part of a holistic approach rather than as one-offs which transfer funding from one area to another, with a review of the location offset critical to attract major motion pictures to be produced in Australia and provide jobs in our creative industries."

The Australian Screen Industry Group members include: Australian Directors Guild (ADG), Australian Writers Guild (AWG), the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS), Australian Production Designers Guild (APDG), Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC), Australian Screen Editors (ASE), Australian Screen Sound Guild (ASSG), Women in Film and Television (WIFT) Visual Effects Society (VES), Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Screen Producers Australia (SPA).