Screen Producers Australia (SPA) CEO Matthew Deaner used his opening address at this year’s Screen Forever conference to highlight the need for the local industry to find independent success amid Australia’s current popularity as an international production destination.

Taking the podium to introduce the digital-only event, Deaner said while there was nothing wrong with “making hay while the sun was shining”, in-bound production doesn’t sustain the “creative root system” of the Australian industry, and the need to create local cultural content and develop homegrown talent.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything as an industry, it’s the importance of having our own house in order, so that we can have success independently of what happens in other markets and other countries,” he said.

“We therefore need the government’s focus to be on strengthening the local sector and showing it is robust in its own right.

“There’s been a lot of focus on inbound productions and the ‘sugar hit’ they bring to local employment and we understand that.

“In fact – would anyone disagree if I said – too much focus?

“In fact, is there anywhere left to be labelled as the Australian version of Hollywood?”

Deaner identified the need for a governing architecture that ensured the local sector could retain the assets and IP needed to build a sustainable business, noting there was “much work to do” in making sure there were appropriate outcomes for the industry from the Federal Government’s green paper and offset reforms.

“This sustainability provides the foundation for creative expansion and growth,” he said.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in this role, whatever the challenge, our sector will rise to it, and will, like a prospector panning for gold, sift and find the opportunities for success, wherever they may be.

“Importantly our governments must be open to constructive and stimulatory policy settings to help us make the most of what we hope to be a gold rush.

“Getting the settings right will lead to cascading benefits in terms of jobs, economic output, export opportunities and, most importantly, a rich return to Australians in terms of the quality and quantity of culturally relevant content.”

Deaner was joined by Screen Queensland CEO Kylie Munnich, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, and Wildbear Entertainment and SPA President Michael Tear to introduce the event, which runs until Thursday.

He began the session by commending the screen industry for being able to adapt to the challenges of the past year.

“Nothing I think captures the spirit of our Australian industry over the last 12 months better than the saying ‘the show must go on’,” he said.

“Throughout the lockdowns, shutdowns, cancellations, disappointments, anxieties, and the fears I have seen in many of your eyes – albeit often through pixelated screens – we have all kept going.

“The initial shock of suspended productions and the downing of tools gave way to this focussed resoluteness to adapt and adjust how we do what we do, to be safe and protect each other, whilst keeping thousands of people in work and delivering amazing stories and projects to our fellow Australians and indeed, the world.”

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