States ponder responses to Film Vic initiative
Film Victoria’s switch from equity investment to non-recoupable funding of film and TV productions has prompted other state screen agencies to review their funding policies to remain competitive with the Vics.
Screen Queensland, which is in the midst of renewing its terms of trade, and ScreenWest both confirmed they are closely examining the Film Victoria initiative, which assigns the agency’s equity interest to producers.
The South Australian Film Corp., which introduced a producer equity scheme soon after Richard Harris’ arrival as CEO in 2007, is reviewing aspects of its scheme.
At Screen NSW, any adjustment of its funding policies would need to be signed off by a new film and TV industry advisory committee to be appointed by the Minister for the Arts, which replaced the board. Screen NSW recently increased the non-recoupable sum available per project from $70,000 to $100,000. CEO Maureen Barron is on leave and unavailable for comment.
Announcing the funding arrangements that began on July 1, Film Victoria CEO Jenni Tosi said an external review found there was no “real rationale” for the agency to make equity investments.
Projects which are primarily but not entirely filmed and post-produced in Victoria will also be eligible for non-recoupable investment, a move which may attract more production from other States.
Film Victoria has the advantage of being the best-resourced of all the state agencies, meaning it can support financially more projects than Screen NSW and Screen Queensland.
“The response from producers has been overwhelmingly positive,” Tosi tells IF. “We've received a number of emails all congratulating Film Victoria on taking the lead in assigning Film Vïctoria's rights to the producers, along with the improvements to our other programs and our simplified business processes.”
Asked to comment on Film Vic’s new funding regime, ScreenWest CEO Ian Booth says, “The WA State Government is considering the local implications of adopting such a scheme.”
Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira says, “We have to consider Film Victoria’s new model and how we compete with it. Ours is a small industry and people do move to where the jobs are.”
Vieira says her agency is engaging with the local industry while it reviews its terms of trade and she aims to finalise the new guidelines in September. “Whatever we do has to meet the industry’s needs and help build sustainable businesses,” she adds.
In South Australia, the producer equity scheme has succeeded in boosting the level of local production and co-productions such as The Babadook (Kristian Moliere was the SA producer) and Wolf Creek 2 (Helen Leake), according to Harris.
The SAFC imposes a cap of $300,000 on non-recoupable investment per film but Harris says “we will have to review that to make sure ours works as a competitive difference in the marketplace.” There is room to move because the SAFC will invest up to $400,000 per project.
The SAFC retains a token 1% share in the copyright and after a project has fully recouped its investment the agency splits profits 50/50 with the producer.
Tosi says, "Film Victoria's move to assign its investment to the producer (so that they have an increased equity share) is accompanied by fewer reporting requirements and a more simple contracting process with FV. We recently introduced an online application form for production investment and are rolling this feature out across all of our programs over the next six months. This will vastly reduce the amount of time producers spend filling in forms and other paperwork. Needless to say, this initiative has been welcomed with much appreciation.
"FV assigning its investment to producers means we no longer take a profit position as such, with FV’s share apportioned to the producer. We see this as a move that will encourage producers to respond to opportunities in the marketplace during the financing stage, and enable them to make choices which can increase their share. At the returns stage, their potential to prosper and grow should improve and they can become more self-reliant and better able to cover business expenses such as early stage project development, travel, professional development, and staffing needs. In effect, they can reinvest their earnings into business growth. That has to be a positive outcome.
"FV has undergone an organisational restructure over the past 18 months, which has been entirely focused on providing more efficient and effective services to the Victorian industry, thereby allowing us to maximise the funds available to be directed to industry programs. The restructure was developed with a forward-looking approach, taking into account where we anticipated improvements in our programs could be made, and the staffing requirements with those changes in place. As a result, we are comfortable that the core size and mix of skills within the organisation as it now sits is about right, certainly for the next two-three years."