Cautious welcome for Archive consultation process

23 June, 2014 by Don Groves

The organiser of a petition which called on the National Film and Sound Archive to be more transparent in its restructure has welcomed the Archive’s “feedback” sessions in capital cities next month.

But Geoff Gardner has criticised the decision to make redundant 28 staff members before a new three-year strategic plan is completed and the limiting of each information session to 90 minutes, from 9am-10.30am in most cities.

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“Allocating a mere 90 minutes to this presentation is very foolish,” said Gardner, a former Melbourne Film Festival director who blogs at Film Alert.

“Putting any sort of time limit on the discussions sends the wrong signal and makes you wonder if this process is to be handled in the same way as the previous Business Review where it was claimed consultations with key parties had taken place which simply had not occurred.”

Indicating the depth of industry unrest over the Archive’s future, the petition has been signed by more than 140 directors, producers, writers, actors, academics and journalists, following an announcement in April by NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein of a restructuring entailing job losses and reducing its touring program and the number of events at its Arc cinema in Canberra.

Last week the Archive has released a draft strategic plan in which it says it must live within its means to ensure the NFSA’s long-term sustainability and relevance in an increasingly challenging environment.

“If not addressed the NFSA’s financial position will become increasingly unsustainable, and the organisation will run the risk of underperforming on a range of expectations and not being able to deliver to our audiences what they are entitled to expect,” it says.

“Looking at these budgetary factors it is evident that unless we are able to generate and/or secure an increase in revenue or successfully bid for new policy funding we will be forced to rationalise our programs even further in order to make the sufficient savings to be able to invest. Our new strategic directions seek to address this unpalatable prospect.

“If large scale digitisation is not addressed, the majority of the national audiovisual collection will be rendered inaccessible in a digital environment. At the current pace of in-house digitisation (as of June 2013), and based on the collection size established in the revaluation in 2012/13 (2,064, 000 items) the timeframes for comprehensive digitisation range from 67 years (for audio) to 93 years (moving image) to more than 260 years (documents and artefacts). However many of those analogue formats would have deteriorated beyond usability at this point.

“We need to ‘sharpen the focus’ on our range of audience engagement programs to mitigate the risk of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace for cultural goods and services. This involves reviewing the place of our programs in the various markets making increased use of contemporary technology, and establishing partnerships (cultural and commercial) to meet needs and expectations in effective and affordable ways.”

The Archive is investing in additional capabilities and capacity in the collection branch and in consolidating the dispersed collection databases.

A range of new “audience engagement programs“ will be established in capital cities, regional centres and remote communities, through partnerships with public and private sector entities.

All existing commercial functions (footage licensing, sales, loans, shop) will be folded into a centralised business affairs section.

The schedule for the consultations is:

Sydney: Tuesday 1 July
Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS)
Building 130/The Entertainment Quarter,
Moore Park NSW.

Melbourne: Friday 4 July
Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Federation Square/Flinders St, Melbourne VIC.

Canberra:
Monday 7 July
NFSA Theatrette – McCoy Circuit, Acton ACT.

Brisbane: Tuesday 15 July
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley QLD

Adelaide: Friday 18 July
South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC)
226 Fullarton Rd, Glenside SA.

Perth: Tuesday 29 July
ScreenWest, Gordon Stephenson House,
Level 2 140 William Street, Perth WA

9.00AM–10.30AM
(Except Perth 10.30AM–12.00PM)

The consultation will conclude in September and strategic plan will be released before the end of 2014. A separate consultation process around the new business model for screening loans and nontheatrical lending collection will begin shortly.

The Archive also encourages people to email comments to plan@nfsa.gov.au, or write to the NFSA at GPO Box 2002, Canberra ACT 2601.

Gardner concludes, “The draft strategic plan for the NFSA now starts to open the way for dialogue. Although we can’t predict whether the results of such dialogue will correspond with what our tiny but aggrieved section of the screen community hopes might happen to one of our greatest cultural institutions, we now have no option other than to give it a go.

"While I hope this process goes well I hope the NFSA management and board don’t see these outings as both the beginning and end of the argument. If that happens then a lot of key people….will lose faith in what’s happening.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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