Screen Australia flags a new regime for producers

17 December, 2013 by Don Groves

Screen Australia's Enterprise Program has demonstrably been a major success in helping businesses become more sustainable in the past five years- so will the agency allocate more funds to the program for the next five years?

That was one of many questions from the audience at a forum hosted by Screen Australia’s CEO Graeme Mason and COO Fiona Cameron in Sydney on Monday afternoon.

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Mason sidestepped that question but expressed a willingness to consider all options and to work closely with the industry to devise an optimum model for the Enterprise Program.

On a broader level, Mason told producers: “We want to work with you in different ways.” Restating elements of his speech at the Screen Forever conference, he said the agency would have to turn down 90% of the pitches for funding due to the volume of applications.

But he stressed “no” would not always mean “drop dead,” and the agency would look at other ways to help producers. As an example, Scroz would assist producers to exploit their libraries by doing digital distribution deals, an area where he noted very little money is being made currently. Digital revenues “should be your pension fund,” he told a nearly full house at the Verona cinema.

Mason noted Screen Australia’s 2010 business survey found 2,000 companies or individuals who described themselves as producers. He contrasted that with the UK’s 1,100 production companies and said the Australian figure “is simply not viable.”

The CEO and Cameron are conducting forums around Australia to outline possible scenarios for the program and to get industry feedback. Submissions are invited until January 31. Draft guidelines will be released in the first quarter and the next round of funding will begin in the new financial year.

Mason described the program as a ‘total game changer.’ He asked attendees to consider a number of options including whether the program should cease to fund companies that have already been supported; should it focus on helping companies run by people aged 40 or younger, and encourage more creative risk-taking?; or try to find gaps in the market which were not being served?

He also questioned whether the geographical mix should be altered, observing that no South Australian company has benefited  from the program, partly because there had been few applications from that State. 

Cameron pointed out that just 4% of the agency’s $80 million in annual production funding is spent on the Enterprise Program; this year the program allocated $3 million.

The 16 companies funded in the past two years collectively posted revenues of $109 million and profits of $10.4 million, illustrating the initiative’s success in making companies more sustainable.

Screen Australia is hosting a webinar on Wednesday. For details go to http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/enterpriseconsult

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Eric

    Don,
    “A major success”? That has to be a joke.
    Only “sustainable” in the way that Holden would be sustainable if we added a line to the Commonwealth budget to pour taxpayers funds in to subsidise it.
    “Sustainable” only in the way that the dole is commercial revenue.

  • Don Groves

    With respect, Eric, by almost any yardstick the Enterprise Program is a significant success. It’s helped almost all the recipients to broaden and boost their slates, increase revenues and profits and to mentor and develop talent. All for $3 mill a year. How is all that not an affirmation of the Enterprise Program?Got to Scroz’s website or read my editor Emily’s summation of Fiona’s presentation at Screen Forever (Enterprise Program deemed a success) for more detail.

  • Oscar Scherl

    Definitely a success, (unless you are associated with the Lehman Bros), hopefully SA will broaden its remit as indicated by Graeme and Fiona at the Sydney forum.

    Interesting comment by Graeme, presumably meant for SPA and the many ‘film schools’ creating endless streams of so called ‘Producers’/2000 of TOM, Dick and Whomever ‘Producers’, its a joke. Imagine if the ACS allowed every one holding a video camera to be part of the ACS, just to collect fees? SPA get your act together, it may well help to improve private investors views of our industry.
    Don’t however agree with Graeme’s view of private investment being difficult to achieve, SA is required to seek private investment via the SA 2008 Act and SA should, no must, make an effort to involve private investment, Its a matter of financial structuring.

    One more matter, I totally object to Box Office revenue constantly being mentioned, it is totally misleading and has very little to do with profit, if such quotes were used in a official prospectus or in a company statement, surely they would be having to explain to ASIC, I wonder how may box office figures were quoted in the SA Australia Profit statistics?

    Nevertheless the Enterprise concept is hopefully here to stay and prosper. Martin

  • Jessica

    How can anything be labelled “affirmative action” when the ground rules for applying dictate that one must already be part of the previously funded club? If one falls out of the club … because one takes a sideways step in one’s career for family or other career reasons – there is no support and no way back in.

    There are too few “qualifying” festivals etc that don’t reflect the success of commercial or genre films (vs art house films).

    Have you never noticed that those that get funding are all ex-funding agency employees ?

    Clearly they “know” something about the application process / criteria that isn’t made readily available to other producers. In fact other producers are told to “go ask the funded producers to see what they put in their applications”. That’s a bit like asking someone to reveal their winning lottery ticket numbers. It isn’t going to happen. And nor should it. Why aren’t our tax dollars which pay these agencies good enough to get solid and guidance ? or more bluntly – why isn’t there a little more transparency in the process ?