Recoupment levels fall at Screen Australia
Screen Australia recouped just $2.2 million from its investments in feature films, $2.5 million from TV sales and $500,000 from documentaries in 2014/2015.
The agency’s annual report revealed total income of $102 million and a deficit of $2.84 million, which was in line with the $3 million deficit previously approved by the Finance Minister.
After budget cuts which saw the head count reduced by 10 per cent, operating costs were cut by 10.9 per cent to $17.2 million.
Total recoupment of production investment for the financial year was $6.2 million, of which $900,000 was returned to producers under the legacy agencies’ producer revenue entitlement scheme and the revenue reversion policy.
Of the net recoupment, $1.8 million (35 per cent) came from Australia and $3.5 million from international sales. Investment in children’s programming recouped $800,000 while adult TV returned $1.7 million.
As the report notes, documentary funding has largely been provided as grants since 2010.
By contrast in the previous fiscal year, Screen Australia recouped $6.8 million including $2.1 million from features, $2.8 million from TV and $588,000 from documentaries.
In 2014/2015 the agency received $90.2 million from the federal government and $11.8 million from other sources. Operating expenditure totalled $104.8 million.
The rights to more than 1,200 titles reverted to the producers on July 1, enabling producers to exploit digital platforms, and all investments up to $500,000 are treated as grants, meaning recoupment levels will continue to fall.
However as chief operating officer Fiona Cameron points out to IF, "That doesn’t mean other parties/investors are not receiving returns; even when we are actively investing we often subjugate our position for the benefit of private investors. Our role is not primarily to act as an investment bank."
In 2014/15, Screen Australia invested $70.7 million in direct funding for 301 projects including more than $21 million to features. Some $2.2 million was spent in development support to 71 films, $19 million in production funding to 28 films, including 21 new projects, with budgets totalling $95.7 million and $220,000 to low-budget features through the Adelaide Film Festival’s Hive Production Fund. Also 10 films received distribution support through the P&A Plus Program:
Of the 35 new Australian films released theatrically in 2014/15, Screen Australia provided production or completion funding for 17.
The agency committed $21 million in production investment to television drama, including $14 million for 16 programs for adults (58 hours of broadcast television) with a total production value of $93.6 million.
Some $7 million was allocated to five children’s programs with a total production value of $31 million.
Through the multi-platform drama fund $3.7 million in production finance was committed to 16 projects, generating $8.33 million in production spend.
In the report CEO Graeme Mason said, “Australian content had impressive international reach in 2014/15 from Mad Max: Fury Road at the multiplexes, children’s series Mako Mermaids on Netflix, to YouTube channels with millions of subscribers. Our talent, nurtured in the local industry, are achieving incredible things behind and in front of the camera in Hollywood and elsewhere. Many are now making time to return and develop new projects on home ground.
“Viewers have high expectations for television drama and Australian series are consistently amongst the most popular content on television. Screen Australia is proud to support compelling productions such as The Secret River, Catching Milat, Redfern Now: Promise Me and Love Child.
“Australian series are making a mark internationally as well, with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries entertaining over 3.5 million broadcast viewers in France and adaptations of The Slap and Secret & Lies premiering on US television in 2014/15 – just two of a number of international format sales of Australian television drama in recent years.”
Highlighting its support for Indigenous filmmakers, he pointed to a feature documentary initiative in partnership with the Adelaide Film Festival, production house Kojo and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, and the indigenous producers initiative, which will support up to 10 emerging filmmakers to develop producing skills.