Support is growing among producers, state agencies and sales agents for a proposal to create a scheme to share information on local films’ global revenues modelled on the Sundance Transparency Project.
The scheme would enable Australian filmmakers to compare their work to similar films, identify all potential revenue streams and the distribution costs involved, and gauge how B.O. grosses co-relate to VOD and other online platforms.
However some advocates say commercial confidentiality and the reluctance of producers to share data on under-performing films may be stumbling blocks.
“The proposal has merits and Screen Producers Australia is supportive in principle, but obviously the supply of any commercially sensitive data is clearly a matter for individual businesses to consider," SPA CEO Matthew Deaner tells IF.
Screen industry consultant Julie Marlow said, “I think in principle it's a great idea, but we'd have to factor in the variables particular to our industry – working with government money, time frames, average fees, cash flowing, etc, to provide an accurate picture.
“It would be interesting to have information about the average time it takes elsewhere to get into production from the start of development to start of shooting (very slow here). And we'd have to have the will to share. There's a tendency to guard information at a formal level, but that's understandable when there's such intense competition for funds, but there is a lot of informal exchange.
“Screen Australia's resource division provides a valuable service to filmmakers but we can never have the whole picture when there's confidentiality around the offset imposed – perfectly understandably – by the ATO.
“Where it will be extremely useful is to gain some intelligence about who's paying for what. I do think that we tend to overestimate what overseas sales agents and distributors are prepared to put up, and more information will help to present realistic finance plans. Any information about the value of the VOD market to filmmakers would be great, because it seems a bit of a mess at the moment. “
Richard Guardian of LA-based Guardian Entertainment said, “I agree that the information is valuable, information that I, as a sales agent, would love to have (beyond the titles I represent, Australian or otherwise).
“However, as something like this can only be voluntary, I would suspect that producers of films that perform poorly may not always share their information, and those whose films are successful may have their reasons for not always wanting to make all information about their results public. Bottom line, though, I’d love to see as many producers as possible agree to share the information.”
Last week Film Victoria CEO Jenni Tosi endorsed the idea of a program for sharing of information, in which privacy could be respected where required.
Today ScreenWest CEO Ian Booth expressed his support, stating, "There are definite benefits in all parties learning more about the changing industry landscape and the realities of today’s marketplace. ScreenWest is usually a minority funder and it will take all parties to be involved to make it work.”
As IF reported, the proposal was floated by David Court, founding head of the AFTRS Centre for Screen Business, and producer Andrea Buck, a recent AFTRS Masters graduate.
In the US nearly 100 films, all budgeted below $US7 million and released from 2012 onwards, have submitted data to the Transparency Project website, a non-profit unit which launched in January.
Trish Lake, producer of Richard Todd’s Frackman and Michael Rowe’s Rest Home, an Australian-Canadian co-production, has said she will share revenue figures on both films with screen agencies and the industry.
Lake acknowledges, “It can be painful when you are dealing with films that fail at the box-office and the last thing you want to do is revisit the reasons and share your mistakes. But with the ‘disrupting tools’ emerging such as VOD and crowd-sourcing and Screen Australia now considering VOD to trigger the 40% offset under the alternate content category, all bets are on the table.
“This information pool is vital for producers to know how to structure their finance plans. I would be willing to participate in this study but it may be harder for new producers to part with this sort of information.”