NFSA confronts funding challenges
The National Film and Sound Archive Strategic Plan 2015-2018 sets some ambitious targets while making a strong case for additional government funding.
Released on Thursday, the document warns, “Unless we substantially increase revenue, from government as well as private sources, the organisation will run the risk of under-performing on a range of government expectations and will not be able to deliver to our constituencies what they are entitled to expect.”
In the next three years the institution aims to to boost sponsorship, fund raising and commercial activities to generate $2 million per year.
It is committed to provide a new range of curated public programs including theatrical screenings of up to 10 restored or remastered Australian films annually.
And it will continue to lobby the federal government to make it mandatory for producers of audiovisual works to offer digital copies to the Archive.
The release of the plan follows 10 months of workshops and consultations with more than 250 people and organisations.
NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein was widely criticised a year ago when he announced a restructuring entailing 28 job losses and reducing its touring program and the number of events at its Arc cinema in Canberra.
In June Loebenstein released a draft strategic plan. He said the final document retains all the key points but is more concise as it outlines objectives and the steps to achieve them.
Film Alert blogger and former Melbourne Film Festival director Geoff Gardner, who was a vocal critic of the NFSA’s lack of transparency a year ago, welcomed the strategic plan’s assertion that the federal government must play a part in providing additional resources.
Gardner tells IF, “The film and television industry, key individuals of influence, cinephiles and indeed the general public have to develop strategies to ensure this happens.
“I have said on countless occasions that the government, successive governments, have let the NFSA and its senior management down in some serious ways.”
The NFSA received $27.07 million from the federal government last financial year, falling to $25.9 million for each of the next two fiscal years.
Earlier this week producers Tony Buckley and Sue Milliken and Gardner sent a paper to Arts Minister George Brandis and NSW Premier Mike Baird seeking sufficient funds to digitize the Archive’s entire collection; the re-opening of the library; the appointment of a curator to search the world’s collections for missing Australian films; and the funds to establish a purpose-built facility in Sydney to enable full public access.
Currently the Archive remasters and/or restores four features a year, most recently Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (with the rights holder), the 1957 classic The Shiralee which starred Peter Finch, Bud Tingwell and Bill Kerr, and The Kid Stakes, a 1927 Australian silent comedy film written and directed by Tal Ordell, which will be screened next month accompanied with live music. There are a further six films in the queue, according to Loebenstein.
In pursuit of the goal of generating $2 million a year, the organisation has set up a fund raising committee and is looking to grow its membership.
The mandatory legal deposit of audiovisual material would extend the Archive’s arrangements with Screen Australia, Screen NSW and Screen Queensland; there are no such deals in SA or WA.
If the scheme is enacted by Parliament, Loebenstein stressed producers would only be required to offer a digital copy and the archive would decide whether or not each work should be added to its collection.
Among other goals are forming six partnerships, working with the three tiers of government, to support programs for regional, remote and rural audiences; developing a new education and continuous learning strategy; redeveloping its website nfsa.gov.au and making one million collection catalogue records accessible via the online collection search; and staging three annual online exhibitions from the collection.
In January the NFSA called for expressions of interest from qualified parties to develop and deliver a regular screening program at the Arc. The CEO said the tenders are being evaluated by an independent committee and he is yet to see its recommendations.