Robert Connolly.

Arenamedia and a broad coalition of industry players today called on the Federal Government to create an Innovation Fund to support new and emerging talent and diverse creative voices.

Managed by Screen Australia, the fund would also explore innovative approaches to creating and distributing new work for Australian and global audiences.

“Diversity would be a key guiding principle of this fund, addressing areas of our national storytelling that have been neglected on our screens and remain under-represented,” Arenamedia says in its submission to the government’s options paper review, co-signed by 13 production companies and distributors plus filmmakers Jub Clerc and Daniel Nettheim.

While there is no dollar figure attached to the initiative, it would be funded by a combination of increased government support and other funds proposed by the options paper.

Crucially, the submission envisions the fund would be freed from market-based decision making that attempts to anticipate what is commercial, arguing: “In our view, the reduction of real investment in new and innovative approaches to screen content has trapped our industry in what many describe as an attitude where ‘everyone wants to be the first person to do something second.’

“Creative industries must be driven by bold and ambitious work aspiring to excellence, diverse representation with a high-risk appetite that prioritises innovation and that reaches for both niche and wide audiences locally and globally.”

The submission is authored by Arenamedia’s Robert Connolly, Liz Kearney, Louise Gough, Chloé Brugalé, Kate Laurie, Sari Braithwaite, Santilla Chingaipe, James Grandison, Robert Patterson and Tara Bilston.

The co-signatories include Felix Media, Scarlett Films, Stranger than Fiction Films, Carver Films, Maggie Miles’ Savage Films, Andrew V. Myer’s Fine Cut Films, Transmission Films, the Australian Independent Distributors Association, John Harvey’s Brown Cabs, Dragonet Films’ Karen Radzyner, Noise and Light’s Jonathan auf der Heide, Beth Frey’s Blackout Productions and Richard Harris’ Fractal Films.

In common with other stakeholders, the group advocates all existing platforms should be required to meet expenditure levels on local content as proposed in Model 3, or an equivalent investment based on a percentage of revenue.

The Producer Offset for content for all non-theatrical platforms should be raised to 30 per cent, with a 10 per cent uplift for screen content made for other platforms that finds a path to cinema release.

The Offset for feature films and documentaries should remain at 40 per cent because “any reduction would risk removing our stories from Australian cinemas completely.”

‘Paper Planes.’

The submission makes the case for increased funding for the ABC, SBS and Australian Children’s Television Foundation specifically to create children’s content and expand their capacity to support Australian stories driven by excellence, social and political relevance and diversity for the benefit of all Australians.

When Arenamedia’s Paper Planes was released in 2015, the commonly held view was that Australian children’s cinema could not compete against films by Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks, it says.

That film’s success – $8.8 million in ticket sales – showed there was an under-served audience for Australian stories and that parents were concerned at the overwhelming volume in cinemas of US-based content of less cultural relevance.

During auditions for Paper Planes, many young kids defaulted to an American accent as soon as they started performing.

The commercial networks’ children’s content quotas should be maintained and extended to streaming services and emerging screen platforms.

It urges that Australian screen practitioners and companies must retain a majority share of copyright, an equitable revenue stream and a meaningful level of creative control in work that receives the proposed increased level of support from the Australian taxpayer.

The submission concludes: “We see an exciting future for our screen industries, driven by an innovative and creative spirit and an exceptional talent pool of Australian screen practitioners.

“The future will require us to take bold risks, value new talent and diverse voices, and support important Australian stories that would otherwise not be told if left to commercial justifications alone.”

Submissions to the review close on July 3. Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has said the government “will move forward as quickly as we can once we have responses from the consultation process, we weigh up those and then get our design work done on what the scheme looks like.”

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