Screen NSW is assisting producers on multiple fronts

15 May, 2020 by Don Groves

Grainne Brunsdon.

Head of Screen NSW Grainne Brunsdon today listed numerous ways in which the agency is helping producers to get back to business through and after the pandemic.


Illustrating the NSW screen industry’s plight, she said its survey, which had more than 600 responses, revealed screen businesses estimated that, collectively, they would lose more than $50 million through September.

Less than 3 per cent of businesses reported there had been no change to their situation while multiple freelancers said they expected their income to each drop by $40,000 in that period.

“It’s a scene of devastation,” she told Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner in a webinar, indicating she would report the survey’s findings to the NSW government.

The agency is preparing its budget which will run from July 1 until the end of December. The government will set out its 2021 allocation in the October budget.

Acknowledging the budgetary pressures faced by governments amid the struggling state and national economy, she said: “I hope we can slide under the radar.”

Brunsdon noted there been an upsurge in interest from the major studios, streaming platforms and international producers in filming in NSW, encouraged by US horror movie Children of the Corn.

The remake of the Stephen King classic directed by Kurt Wimmer and produced by Ford v Ferrari’s Lucas Foster is six weeks into a Sydney shoot, with cast and crew in isolation.

Screen NSW helped the producers get their filming protocols reviewed by SafeWork NSW and the agency is happy to facilitate similar approvals for NSW producers.

Deaner said SPA has brought in occupational health and safety experts to give their input into the industry-wide back-to-work protocols being developed with Screen Australia, the guilds, state agencies and the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

That document should be finalised soon and will likely need to be updated progressively, Deaner said, adding: “We are going to have to be adaptive over the next 6-12 months.”

On the subject of securing the Federal Government’s agreement to underwrite the COVID-19 risk of disrupting future productions, Brunsdon said the state agencies and Screen Australia are working on that issue.

“The market needs to put a price on insuring that risk” before that can happen, she said.

Screen NSW is also liaising with the Department of Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs to help secure permission to bring back from overseas actors and other personnel.

Brunsdon paid tribute to the former Arts Minister Don Harwin, whose portfolio now sits under Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and said Harwin’s staff have remained in place.

Members of the NSW Film and Television Industry Advisory Committee met with those staffers this week to update them on the state of the sector.

Recognising the urgent need for more studio space in Sydney, Brunsdon said the agency is looking for potential facilities, possibly in Western Sydney, observing: “Ideally we would have a replica of the Fox Studios.”

Last month Create NSW announced a series of initiatives to boost the sector, including a new $700,000 slate development fund and providing $1.5 million over the coming months through existing early and advanced development funding, production finance, PDV rebate and screen industry and audience development.

The early development fund has been inundated with applications and the new slate fund, which will allocate up to $100,000 to each producer to develop a slate of three or more projects, is getting a lot of interest.