Press release from Screen Australia

Screen Australia’s marketing programs: A message from the chief executive

I’ve said it in many forums since I took on the job of leading Screen Australia – it’s all about audience. Our marketing initiatives for 2009 reflect that vision. They’re based on a view of ‘marketing’ in its broadest sense, encompassing audience development and audience focus across project development and production, as well as the resources and skills involved in actually getting projects onto the screen and in front of audiences.

Earlier this year, we invited industry comment on our marketing and research activities as part of our ‘phase 2 review of operations’. Your submissions revealed broad endorsement of the programs then in place, with many useful suggestions for enhancement.

We’ve taken much of your input on board in formulating the new suite of marketing programs. They reflect our commitment to:

  • support the marketing of all Australian screen production, not just projects in which we invest
  • emphasise audience engagement at every stage, from inception through development, production and distribution, for projects where we do provide development or production investment; we expect funds to be set aside from our investment in features specifically for marketing activities – a new initiative we’ve dubbed the ‘quarantined marketing budget’ or QMB
  • provide information, skills development, and opportunities for sharing knowledge and expertise, to help producers and distributors to make better marketing decisions and enhance the ongoing viability of their businesses
  • support international connections through a travel grant program with an expanded range of eligible festival and markets, including project development workshops and digital media events. We’ll continue to help resource filmmakers to take the best advantage of the opportunity if they are selected into key international festivals. And we’ll maintain our highly regarded management of Australia’s presence at key international markets.

We’ve also taken the opportunity to focus our screen culture programs. This doesn’t mean we value them less; just that we’ve targeted them more clearly towards our ultimate aim of engaging audiences with Australian content. 

Thus our awards support program acknowledges the role of these events in raising the profile of Australian productions; our screenings support program reflects the contribution of film festivals, national screening and touring programs to the development and appreciation of Australian screen content; and our support for conferences, seminars and workshops is designed to provide Australian practitioners with networking and professional development opportunities under the new banner of our ‘Market Escalator’ program.

All of these initiatives, along with theatrical P&A support and a separate fund to encourage innovative approaches to distribution, make up a strong set of domestic marketing programs managed by our Marketing Department.

In some cases we’ve seen benefits in transferring program management to areas of the organisation with direct synergies. For example, our Innovation Development Manager will now administer funding for digital media–related events and activities, while support for screen publications will now be administered by our Strategy and Research Unit. More information about these programs will be available soon.

Our State and Industry Partnerships team is also working with the government screen agency and screen resource organisation (SRO) in each state on tripartite arrangements for supporting these organisations. The aim is to help streamline administration and reporting requirements and make the most of our combined resources, acknowledging the important role played generally by the SROs, particularly in providing services to entry-level practitioners.

We still have some responsibilities to actively promote documentaries commissioned under the former National Interest Program but our brief going forward is clearly about supporting and facilitating producers and distributors in marketing their own programs, rather than directly promoting the programs themselves.

The two-year Regional Digital Screen Network (RDSN) pilot program came to an end in June 2009 with each of the participating cinemas retaining the installed technology. They will now work independently with film distributors and cultural organisations such as the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), to bring a selection of Australian films and other special events to their region to meet the needs of their local audience.

The total budget for all our new and ongoing programs, including Screen Australia’s marketing programs, the screen resource organisations, digital media events and publications, is $8.4 million compared to $6.2 million last year. Although the breakdown across individual programs has not yet been finalised and funding will obviously remain competitive given the decrease in Screen Australia’s overall budget, this is an increase of more than $2 million.

It’s an exciting – and challenging – time for Screen Australia as we enter our second year with almost all our staff and new programs in place. As previously announced, Kathleen Drumm joins us as Head of Marketing on 1 September, the final member of our management team. Under her guidance I’m sure these marketing initiatives will continue to evolve and sharpen their focus even further. 

In the research area, which was included along with marketing in the phase 2 review process, the Board is developing a research plan that will guide the Strategy and Research Unit’s priorities over the next three years. One of these priorities – a very important one in the marketing context – is to understand more about our audiences.
I look forward to sharing the results of this work early in the new year.

Ruth Harley
16 July 2009

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