Screen Australia overhauls guidelines for drama development funding

03 May, 2018 by Don Groves

Nerida Moore.

Projects for any platform including TV, film and online will be able to apply for Screen Australia development funding from two new program strands under a planned overhaul of the agency’s drama development process.


The Generate Fund will be geared to lower budgeted projects with an emphasis on new and emerging talent or experienced talent wanting to take a creative risk.  Generally that will be for TV dramas costing up to $800,000 an hour, features budgeted at up to $2.5 million, online projects under $10,000 per minute and extended reality (such as VR) under $15,000 per minute.

While there will be no eligibility requirements for this fund, applications will need to be competitive against the criteria and in line with the aims of the fund, according to draft guidelines announced today.

The Premium Fund will be for higher budgeted projects from creatives who have had critical and/or commercial success and which have ambition and scale. These projects will need to demonstrate commercial viability and a clearly defined audience.

The total funding pool will be $3 million for 2018-19 which is roughly the same as the development funds available in the current financial year. The new guidelines will apply from July 1 after industry consultation.

The new funds will replace the Wildcard Pitch Fund, which has been available for those that don’t meet eligibility requirements, and Hot Shots Plus.

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: “The proposed development guidelines represent a seismic shift for early career creators – doing away with barriers based on eligibility credits, distribution platform, when funding is available and even administrative barriers in the application process itself.

“We expect experienced creators will also welcome the ability to apply for multiple phases of development on a single application, and the removal of funding caps.

“In proposing these changes we are seeking to ensure that our funding is accessible to the best projects on the platform and budget that best suits that story, with an emphasis on supporting talent who have a strong idea and a clear pathway to an audience. We expect the proposed changes will increase the diversity of screen stories being told and who is telling them.”

Screen Australia senior development manager Nerida Moore tells IF the new guidelines will make development funding more accessible by removing the previous barriers including the eligibility criterion and  making the funds platform neutral.

“Not everyone has the right to make a film but everyone has the right to try,” she said. “With our resources as an agency we often had to keep people out. Now it’s about keeping people in – the best people with the best projects.”

She expects there will be more opportunities for online and TV creators and there may be less support for features given the challenges facing independent films worldwide.

There is no notional 50/50 funding split between the two strands and Moore will monitor how the money is allocated throughout the financial year.

Both funds will have a simplified and faster application process, with development funds issued in full at contracting and with a standard delivery date of six months.

Upon delivery, applicants can automatically elect to apply for further funding aa a separate application will no longer be necessary.

o             Stage 1 will include short application materials (a one-page synopsis and sample of work for new or emerging practitioners) and a pitch to camera which will be assessed by internal and/or external assessors every two weeks. Projects that are declined at this stage can re-submit a revised application for the same concept.

o             Projects selected to proceed to Stage 2 will need to supply a longer story document and a development plan/pathway to audience statement. A Screen Australia internal committee will assess projects for funding, aiming for a four week turnaround.

o             In some cases, if the team, pitch and short materials are particularly strong, they may be funded at Stage 1.

o             Applicants to the Premium Fund may apply for multiple phases of development on a project in the one application.

Successful projects will continue to be facilitated by a Screen Australia development executive but with a more ‘hands off’ approach for the Premium fund.

There will be no changes to the development funding from the Indigenous and documentary departments which have distinct eligibility requirements.

Screen Australia is seeking industry feedback via email from today until May 31. Submissions should be made to .