Screen Australia flags a new regime for producers

17 December, 2013 by Don Groves

Screen Australia's Enterprise Program has demonstrably been a major success in helping businesses become more sustainable in the past five years- so will the agency allocate more funds to the program for the next five years?

That was one of many questions from the audience at a forum hosted by Screen Australia’s CEO Graeme Mason and COO Fiona Cameron in Sydney on Monday afternoon.

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Mason sidestepped that question but expressed a willingness to consider all options and to work closely with the industry to devise an optimum model for the Enterprise Program.

On a broader level, Mason told producers: “We want to work with you in different ways.” Restating elements of his speech at the Screen Forever conference, he said the agency would have to turn down 90% of the pitches for funding due to the volume of applications.

But he stressed “no” would not always mean “drop dead,” and the agency would look at other ways to help producers. As an example, Scroz would assist producers to exploit their libraries by doing digital distribution deals, an area where he noted very little money is being made currently. Digital revenues “should be your pension fund,” he told a nearly full house at the Verona cinema.

Mason noted Screen Australia’s 2010 business survey found 2,000 companies or individuals who described themselves as producers. He contrasted that with the UK’s 1,100 production companies and said the Australian figure “is simply not viable.”

The CEO and Cameron are conducting forums around Australia to outline possible scenarios for the program and to get industry feedback. Submissions are invited until January 31. Draft guidelines will be released in the first quarter and the next round of funding will begin in the new financial year.

Mason described the program as a ‘total game changer.’ He asked attendees to consider a number of options including whether the program should cease to fund companies that have already been supported; should it focus on helping companies run by people aged 40 or younger, and encourage more creative risk-taking?; or try to find gaps in the market which were not being served?

He also questioned whether the geographical mix should be altered, observing that no South Australian company has benefited  from the program, partly because there had been few applications from that State. 

Cameron pointed out that just 4% of the agency’s $80 million in annual production funding is spent on the Enterprise Program; this year the program allocated $3 million.

The 16 companies funded in the past two years collectively posted revenues of $109 million and profits of $10.4 million, illustrating the initiative’s success in making companies more sustainable.

Screen Australia is hosting a webinar on Wednesday. For details go to http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/enterpriseconsult

 

 

 

 

 

 

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