The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) hopes its proposed $60 million Producer Distributor Film Fund (PDFF) will lead to a revival of the local film industry and greater involvement by distributors.
SPAA president Antony I. Ginnane said distributors such as David Williams, Graham Burke and Alan Finney had successfully backed many local productions in the late-1970s and early-1980s with significant investment.
“I think what the PDFF will do, will in fact … fire up the passion and enthusiasm of distributors in this country – to re-engage with the industry,” he said. "You can’t blame a distributor for having somewhat of a non-smiley face about our collective output when you have films performing as disappointingly as a good number of our films have performed over the last while: success breeds success.”
Ginnane was speaking at an industry briefing this week in Sydney alongside Systems Knowledge Concepts’ David Court, SPAA feature film councillor Brian Rosen and executive director Geoff Brown, to rally support for the loan fund and reveal greater detail about its financial modelling.
The PDFF is aimed at producing more mid-budget films in the $7 – $30 million budget range, potentially doubling the Australian share of the $1 billion local box office to about 10 per cent, while creating about 900 jobs. The fund, which was backed by the Coalition before the last election, would run for three years and provide matching loans to distributors (rather than an equity position) to encourage the production of more commercial films.
“It will break the commercial-cultural bifurcation which has bedevilled a proper analysis of our industry for 40 years,” Ginnane said.
SPAA executive director Geoff Brown said the major distributors had received the proposed fund positively but had not given a “cast iron commitment” that they would fund more mid-budget films.
“It is as challenging for them as it is for the producers but we got reasonably good feedback from the majors – they can see the advantage of this; they can see the potential,” Brown said.
Screen Australia has previously rejected the PDFF on the grounds that distributors are unlikely to increase their financial risk while forgoing their preferential recoupment position under a typical financing arrangement. It is instead lobbying for its own increase in funding.
However, Ginnane said an increase in Screen Australia funding would likely be deployed through the current evaluation schemes it runs and lead to the same low rates of return being delivered through its subordinated equity position in films.
David Court, who conducted the financial modelling, said distributors accessing the PDFF would provide a genuine market signal that the film was commercial.
“It’s about enabling ambition – that’s its purpose – and I suppose it harks back a little bit to the 70s,” he said, referring to films that helped revive the local industry such as Picnic at Hanging Rock.