Screen Australia foreshadows tougher approach to funding theatrical films

28 January, 2020 by Don Groves

‘I Met a Girl.’

Screen Australia is taking a slightly tougher position in evaluating feature film projects this year, while the agency is seeing a spike in feature documentary and high-end TV drama pitches.

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There has been a slight drop in feature film funding applications, which could imply that fewer theatrical features will be funded, with some money diverted to docs, TV drama and online projects.

“We are still incredibly supportive of and committed to film but we are seeing some applications that are not strong enough,” Screen Australia head of content Sally Caplan tells IF.

“The scripts may be good but the pathway to audiences and the financing may not necessarily have been thought through. We are being a bit tougher.”

According to Caplan the intention is to fund the development of fewer feature projects, an approach that is a “bit stricter” than previously.

The agency is getting a lot more applications for feature docs, due in part to the success of Damon Gameau’s 2040, Richard Lowenstein’s Mystify: Michael Hutchence and Daniel Gordon’s The Australian Dream, which each grossed more than $1 million last year.

The jump in high-end drama applications is attributed in part to production companies that primarily focused on theatrical films and are now moving into TV drama.

While Caplan welcomes that trend she acknowledges: “That has put more pressure on our funding, so we are looking to fund the best content and sometimes that will be more in the drama space than in the film space. We still have to find a balance but we are looking for the best content.”

Screen Australia directly injected nearly $76 million into the screen sector in 2018/19, including more than $54 million in TV, film and documentary production funding.

The organisation will soon unveil a redesigned P&A fund which Caplan says will be more strategic and smarter than in the past, of necessity as the $1 million available won’t stretch far.


‘I Am Woman.’

In a contracting independent market, Screen Australia acknowledges that having to fork out $1 million – $2 million to release and market an Australian film is too much of a risk for many Oz distributors.

While the Producer Offset rules require that eligible feature projects at the outset must be intended to be released theatrically with a distributor attached, that does not apply to titles which subsequently are acquired by streaming services.

“Releasing films on the streaming platforms may be a better route to audiences than the traditional theatrical release where titles go out on 50 screens,” she says. “We expect a lot of films will premiere on the likes of Stan.”

The focus on Screen Australia’s online content stems in part from a desire to connect with younger audiences who are not watching broadcast TV and only go to the cinema to see the US blockbusters.

Caplan is bullish about this year’s slate of Screen Australia-supported features, docs, Indigenous productions and online projects.

Check back tomorrow for her comments on some of the 2020 titles including I Met a Girl, The Dry, I Am Woman, Never Too Late and 100% Wolf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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