[press release from TM Publicity]

The NSW Film and Television Office (FTO) has proposed a bold new direction for its development programs, focussing on early concept development, rather than traditional draft-by-draft funding.

This significant overhaul is designed to deliver stronger projects and healthier businesses to the NSW screen industry, said FTO Chief Executive Tania Chambers, who announced the proposed new development programs today.

The intention of the redesign is to position the FTO’s development funding early, the most effective place in the development process; to use the FTO’s development funds to leverage additional funds from other sources for NSW companies; and to stimulate and support NSW companies to embrace new platforms and 360 degree exploitation of their content.

“The FTO and the NSW screen industry have identified that the screen financing landscape has changed dramatically both internationally and within Australia. At the same time, new platforms and audience viewing patterns mean that old notions of program development need challenging,” said Tania Chambers.

As a result, the FTO is proposing three new development funding programs:

The Early Research & Development Fund will allocate most of the FTO’s project development funding (around 70%) to early concept development, with the objective of enhancing story engagement, interactivity and leveraging.

Speaking at the National Screenwriters Conference in Adelaide, the FTO’s recently appointed Director of Creative and Enterprise Development, Megan Simpson Huberman, said:

“The costs of early development have until now been mostly carried by the producer or writer alone. Yet this is, in many ways, the key stage of development, where the architecture of the idea and its relevance to an audience are determined. If we can support NSW producers and writers with funding and feedback at this stage, from pitch, outline, or concept to treatment or draft, it is hoped that their ideas can be strengthened and be more competitive in seeking additional funding partners.

“Early stage development is also an opportunity for companies to be supported to research or test new ideas, or commission business plans. Through this strategy, we see both the FTO and NSW as the place where ideas begin.”

The Advanced Development and Marketing Fund (around 30% of FTO’s project development funding) will provide selective funding for the later development stages of projects. This may be as draft funding for projects previously supported by the FTO, or to assist producers with projects in advanced development to cover non-draft expenses – such as funds for international travel to markets and financing meetings and pitching materials.

"Both the Early Research & Development Fund and the Advanced Marketing and Development Fund will be open to all genres and platforms, and the FTO will provide funds to consider 360 degree use of IP from the earliest stage of development.”

“Both development funds will be exceptionally flexible, open to individuals or teams, with no eligibility barriers, and flexible application requirements. Applications will not be required to have marketplace attachment, as one intention of the funding is to creatively strengthen projects to make them more competitive in the marketplace,"

“FTO’s goal is to partner with NSW companies and practitioners to discover great ideas, rather than support the skilled execution of less distinctive ideas. Our assessment criteria will reflect this goal.

“These changes also present the opportunity for the FTO to partner with NSW companies and practitioners to help them capture the maximum development funds available through other avenues, such as the new Federal funding regime” Ms Chambers said.

The FTO’s development strategy will also include the Slingshot Program, a suite of professional development opportunities with funding attached to enable NSW companies to offer training and support to NSW practitioners. Slingshot encompasses:

The NSW Production Attachments Scheme;
· The Emerging Film Fund Producer Extension Scheme;
· Targeted funded attachments and mentorships for cross skilling in areas of digital media, creative development, directing, writing and producing;
· The continuation of the highly successful FTO DFX traineeship program;
· The Festival Travel scheme which will offer support to NSW filmmakers whose work is highlighted in an overseas festival to attend and take advantage of the career opportunity.

The FTO is inviting feedback on the proposals and will be meeting with industry representatives to discuss the proposals until the end of March 2009.

The FTO plans to implement the new development programs from mid-April.

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