Screen Aus lobbies govt for extra $30m, rejects SPAA fund

16 February, 2011 by Brendan Swift

Screen Australia has rejected SPAA’s proposed Commercial Film Fund and instead lobbied the government for an extra $30 million in direct funding in an attempt to bolster the number of local mid-budget films.

While both organisations have expressed concern about low levels of mid-budget feature film production, the government agency remains sceptical that the Screen Producers Association of Australia’s market-door, film debt-facility would be backed by distributors.


“In analysing the financing arrangements of recently funded titles, Screen Australia is cautious about some of the assumptions modelled by SPAA's Commercial Film Fund and the extent to which distributors will support a fund that proposes an increase in financial risk while simultaneously forgoing their preferential recoupment position,” a Screen Australia spokeswoman said via email.

SPAA’s Commercial Film Fund – also called the Producer Distributor Film Fund – won the support of the Opposition Party last August, which pledged to launch the temporary $60 million fund if it won the election. The fund would provide matching loans of up to $10 million to film distributors of eligible Australian films with production budgets between $7 million and $30 million at an estimated net cost to government of $31 million.

SPAA president Antony I. Ginnane said the industry body believed its proposed fund was viable and it would continue to engage with the Labor government on the issue.

“We feel whatever experience Screen Australia has cannot be matched by the experience that distributors have on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis,” he said.

Ginnane said several distributors would back local screen productions they have in development if the required funding was in place.

Under the SPAA plan, the fund and the distributor would recoup their advances side-by-side. SPAA has previously predicted the fund would deliver up to 1100 full-time jobs and trigger production of up to 18 films worth $270 million, before being wound up after five years.

However, Screen Australia has instead requested its own funding boost so that it can raise its current feature film investment cap from $2.5 million.

Screen Australia slashed that cap in mid-2009 without warning, threatening the production of films such as Tomorrow, When the War Began and The Tree, which were led to believe they would receive higher funding allocations.

The national screen agency received $93.64 million from the Government in 2009-10. It provided $29.26 million in production investment across 16 feature films, according to its annual report.

The government is expected to release its review of the independent screen production sector tomorrow.