Scroz extends documentary review

30 July, 2014 by Don Groves

Screen Australia’s guidelines for funding documentaries will remain in place for the rest of this year after the agency decided to extend a review of its funding policy.

The reasons for the postponement have been questioned by the Australian Directors Guild and some documentary filmmakers who want the draft guidelines to be implemented.


"It is concerning," ADG executive director Kingston Anderson told IF today. "We have been discussing this for the last six months. We think the draft guidelines are a great step forward. We need to know why the process is being delayed."  

Yarra Bank Films' Dr Trevor Graham said, "The draft documentary guidelines composed by Screen Australia were a welcome attempt to address the decline in the one-off documentary in the Oz landscape that resulted from public broadcasters turning their back on them in favour of factual series.

"Screen Australia’s own research acknowledges this decline. And just as important the draft guidelines were an acknowledgement that there are increasingly new digital pathways to national and international audiences outside of the current TV-focused model.

"The draft guidelines were also Screen Australia asserting its charter requirements to promote cultural diversity and innovation. They have the support of ASTRA, the ADG and many smaller independent producers, including many who have been in the business for the long haul. But it's also clear from the review submissions that the big end of town weren’t happy, particularly SPA, SBS the ABC and larger production companies.

"Some characterised the draft guidelines as ‘radical’. Personally I think it was far from radical and was really Screen Australia tinkering on the margins to encourage the development of new audience pathways and address the decline of the single authored documentary and to promote greater screen diversity. They remain noble goals and I hope their postponed implementation will lead to further refinement, but not bypass the need for change."

Filmmaker Tom Zubrycki said, "It is disappointing that SA has not released new guidelines. I was generally pleased with the draft ones. Apart from the scrapping of PEP (the Producer Equity Program) it’s a step in the right direction as it shows Screen Australia wants to return to its core functions of supporting 'Stories that Matter… stories that recognize the principles of quality, diversity and innovation' (quote from SA’s discussion paper).

"The new program categories made sense and recognized the importance of story-telling in the context of an evolving media and distribution landscape. Re-defining marketplace attachment to include not just the major broadcasters, but also the smaller broadcasters, film festivals, online subscription service pre-sales and partnership with foundations (eg the Documentary Australia Foundation) is an important step in recognizing the changing nature of documentary funding."

However the extension was welcomed by filmmaker Simon Nasht, who said, "I don’t think there is a strong case for maintaining the status quo in the face of very significant changes in the way Australian’s access documentaries so, if we are to change, then we need to change soon. A longer period of consultation will hopefully also allow us to discuss the elephant in the room that Screen Australia seems terrified to address: direct investment in foreign owned productions.

"In the announcement of funding for the latest round of documentaries the major share of funding – yet again – is being invested in non-Australian companies. Screen Australia is the only national film agency in the world that believes its in the interests of the local industry to pass public funds to entities whose profits and IP go offshore. This policy decision was taken without reference or consultation with the local industry and is scandalous misuse of Australian taxpayer funds."

Anderson stressed one of the key points in the draft guidelines is the proposal to scrap the fixed percentages of funding for projects supported by the ABC and SBS. "I don't think that will change the amount of production for the ABC but there will be more scrutiny," he said.

Screen Australia said the extension will allow time for further consultation after industry submissions outlined a “number of issues and further matters for consideration.”

The amended draft guidelines will be issued in late August/early September with the aim of being finalised in early October for a January 1 2015 start, according to CEO Graeme Mason.

“It is important to ensure our funding levers help great stories to reach existing and new audiences which will in turn promote sector growth,” Mason said. “We don’t have the resources to fund every documentary so it is critical that we take the necessary time to further review our policy settings.”

The announcement coincided with the latest round of funding: a total investment of $3.4 million in nine documentary projects, which will trigger production worth $11 million.

Four projects will be supported under the National Documentary Program. Writer/director Paul Clarke and producer Martin Fabinyi will make Let There Be Rock: The Story of Alberts Sound, a two-parter from Beyond Screen Productions for the ABC.

Ka-Ching! The Rise and Rise of the Pokies will explore Australia’s passion for poker machines and ask if we are a nation of gamblers or if the machines are designed to addict. Written by Neil Lawrence, Andrea Lang and Jane Manning, it will be produced by Mitzi Goldman and directed by Jane Manning for the ABC.

Produced by Fremantle Media Australia for the ABC, the four-part Australia: Spaces Between Buildings, will examine how public spaces are designed, developed and repurposed. It’s written by Mark Davis, produced by Linda Gregoriou and directed by Bruce Permezel.

Joined Up Films’ The Expendables (working title) will celebrate the beginning of Australia’s engagement with Asia and feature descendants of South Vietnamese and Australian soldiers who fought together in a special task force. The three-part series is produced by Jacqueline Willinge, Daniel Brown and Anthony Willinge and directed by Mike Bluett for SBS.

Two projects will be supported through the General Documentary Program. Heiress Films’ Making Families Happy is a three-parter by producer Jennifer Cummins for the ABC, looking at a team of elite psychologists who set out to transform the lives of three dysfunctional families in eight weeks.

Cordell Jigsaw Productions’ The Angry Mile simultaneously follows the owners, the staff and the community surrounding two fast food shops in two Australian cities, written by Michael Cordell and produced by Rick McPhee and Toni Malone for SBS.

Three projects will be supported through the International Documentary Program. In Firing the Magic Bullet, two Australian scientists are faced with the challenge of taking their major discovery to market, which has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of cancer. The one-off documentary is a sequel from Rymer Childs Films, written and directed by Judy Rymer and produced by Judy Rymer and Lois Harris for SBS.

Written and directed by Jonnie Morris and produced by Kate Pappas, Razzle Dazzle: The Hidden Story of Camouflage uncovers a world of design, where cubism, cuttlefish and warships collide. The one-off documentary from Jonnie & Kate Films is for the ABC.

Screentime’s eight-part Outback ED follows the daily work lives of the nurses and doctors in the Emergency Department of an outback hospital, written by Simon Steel and Jennifer Collins and produced by Tony De La Pena for the ABC.

All documentary programs are now open for application, with a deadline of August 29 for Signature and Development and September 5 for the General, National and International Documentary programs. For more information see


4 x 60 mins
Fremantle Media Australia Pty Ltd
Executive Producers Cathie Scott, Anna Gregory
Producer Linda Gregoriou
Director Bruce Permezel
Writer Mark Davis
Broadcaster ABC
Sales Fremantle Media International / ABC Commercial
Synopsis A 4 x 1-hour series that explores one of Australia’s most valuable commodities – Public Space – how we design, develop and repurpose shared spaces to accommodate our expanding population.
THE EXPENDABLES (working title)
3 x 52 mins
Joined Up Films Pty Ltd
Producers Jacqueline Willinge, Daniel Brown, Anthony Willinge
Director Mike Bluett
Broadcaster SBS
Sales SBS
Synopsis The Vietnam War through the eyes of the Australians and the South Vietnamese who fought it together.
57 mins
Ka-Ching! Ka-Ching! Pty Ltd
Executive Producer Neil Lawrence
Producer Mitzi Goldman
Director Jane Manning
Writers Neil Lawrence, Andrea Lang, Jane Manning
Broadcaster ABC
Sales Looking Glass Pictures Pty Ltd
Synopsis Exploring Australia’s passion for the pokies. Are we a nation of gamblers or are these machines designed to addict?
2 x 57 mins
Beyond Screen Production Pty Ltd
Executive Producers Ron Saunders, Paul Clarke, Mikael Borglund
Producer Martin Fabinyi
Writer/Director Paul Clarke
Broadcaster ABC
Sales Beyond Entertainment
Synopsis Alberts is Australia’s Motown and, like Motown, they developed their own sound, their music spoke for a generation, they sold millions of records and were incredibly influential.


3 x 52 mins
Cordell Jigsaw Productions Pty Ltd
Executive Producers Nick Murray, Michael Cordell
Producers Rick McPhee, Toni Malone
Writer Michael Cordell
Broadcaster SBS
Sales Cordell Jigsaw Distribution Pty Ltd
Synopsis The Angry Mile reveals who we are, what we talk about and how we say it as we simultaneously follow the lives of the owners, the staff and the community that surrounds two fast food shops in two Australian cities.
3 x 57 mins
Heiress Films Pty Ltd
Producer Jennifer Cummins
Broadcaster ABC
Sales ABC Commercial
Synopsis Can a team of elite psychologists transform the lives of three dysfunctional families in just eight weeks?


56 mins
Rymer Childs Films Pty Ltd
Producers Judy Rymer, Lois Harris
Writer/Director Judy Rymer
Broadcasters SBS and BBC Scotland
Sales Off the Fence
Synopsis Two Australian scientists embark on a David and Goliath struggle to commercialise their discovery which has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of cancer.
8 x 25 mins
Screentime Pty Ltd
Executive Producers Jennifer Collins, Simon Steel
Producer Tony De La Pena
Writers Simon Steel, Jennifer Collins
Broadcaster ABC
Sales Banijay International
Synopsis Following the daily work lives of the nurses and doctors in the Emergency Department of an outback hospital.
57 mins
Jonnie & Kate Films Pty Ltd
Executive Producers Lucy Maclaren, Joe Connor, Ken Connor
Producer Kate Pappas
Writer/Director Jonnie Morris
Broadcaster ABC
Synopsis Razzle Dazzle: The Hidden Story of Camouflage uncovers a world of design, where cubism, cuttlefish and warships collide.