Guilds call on government to urgently protect the screen industry

Matthew Deaner at Screen Forever.

Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner. 

Amid production shutdowns and job losses, the Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG), Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG), the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) and Screen Producers Australia (SPA) have penned a joint letter to the Federal Government to seek urgent support for the screen industry.

Among the many productions to have halted or been postponed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are The Voice, Clickbait, Australia’s Got Talent, Australian Survivor, Holey Moley, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

The joint letter asks government:

• to recalibrate the support announced in the first round of Government stimulus to ensure it is available to sole traders. This will mean that the support is available to a large number of producers, writers, directors, cast and crew impacted by production shutdowns;

• to support and redeploy agency resources to meet costs associated with current delays and shutdowns of productions; to

• for business investment to enable retention of core staff and ensure sector employment on content development during a downturn in order to ensure the ‘pilot light’ is kept burning and industry is able to reactivate quickly.

SPA launched a survey yesterday that seeks to canvass the full extent of how the industry has been impacted in terms of both production slates and release schedules, the results of which it will also take to government.

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said: “Screen production is not a job that can be done from home. We are gathering data on the current impact of COVID-19 on the industry via a survey. While this will help to inform our strategy, there are a number of actions that the Government can take now to preserve the industry,” said Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia (SPA).

AWG president Shane Brennan, said it was imperative that the Federal Government acknowledged the importance of the screen industry by including them in any financial support initiatives currently being considered. “We employ thousands of skilled people in many different crafts and trades who will immediately feel the impact of a shutdown. Without a financial lifeline, many of them will be lost to our industry at a time when this country needs its storytellers more than ever before.”

ADG executive director Diana Burnett said: “As the community adheres to advice to stay at home, they will be turning to their screens to keep themselves entertained, informed and connected. But unless we put in place mechanisms to support the Australian screen industry, our screens will soon be devoid of new Australian content.”

MEAA CEO Paul Murphy added: “Government investment has leveraged great stories about Australian identity. It is not just the closure or suspension of current productions our industry now confronts. The clock will stop on development of future productions. We need urgent assistance to keep people employed and to ensure our industry is here and ready for recovery when this crisis ends.”