Screen Australia explains its investment process following criticism – Part 2

18 October, 2011 by Brendan Swift

This article is continued from here.

Filmmakers can then elect to take their project to a second stage where it is evaluated by a production investment committee.


“We do not insist on project’s withdrawing or tell them ‘no’,” Dabner says. “We always empower the producer to make the decision about what they do next after our meetings. We are frank and honest with them about how we think it might travel through the process but we also say there are no guarantees.”

This panel, chaired by chief executive Ruth Harley, is comprised of Dabner, Treole, head of production investment Ross Matthews, head of development Martha Coleman and head of marketing Kathleen Drumm.

Dabner says the last couple of funding rounds included about 20 assessments of which about half went to the production investment committee. A rejection at this stage bars the project from further applications over the next 12 months.

Do many projects fall at the production investment committee stage? “That would be a failure of advocacy on our behalf,” Treole says.

The Screen Australia board is the final hurdle.

“By the time it gets to the board the agency as an organisation is behind the project together,” Dabner says. “You want that as a filmmaker – you want to know that you are absolutely embraced by everybody as much as possible.”

There have been industry murmurings that the board has taken a more active role in evaluation and it did not win any industry favours when it abruptly cut its maximum single project investment cap in 2009, endangering several projects which were expecting more substantial funding.

However, Ross Matthews says the board is three years old now and is concentrating on strategy and issues such as the convergence review.

“They consider the recommendations and, if we made a foolish recommendation, I might expect them to turn [it] over but they’re at the point now where they’re pretty trusting of management and it’s very rare that we have anything turned down.

“It may be that we’re so keen on this bunch of projects and we’re really having a tough time deciding that we can’t do them all, then we may bring the board in and seek their view on it but we really do try and make sure that everything is in position.”

Matthews points out that the agency very often wants to do all of the projects it has in front of it by the time the production investment committee is involved. “Very often it comes down to the ugly business of how much money we’ve got left.”

For filmmakers, the ugly business of rejection carries no less sting. Just don't ask Lynda La Plante.

Contact this reporter at or on Twitter at @bcswift.