Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy in 'Succession'. (Photo: HBO/Foxtel)

Happy new year! The IF team are back on deck. Here’s what happened while we were away.

Government announces second round of SCREEN funding

Independent cinemas across the country received an early Christmas present with the announcement of the second round of grants under the Federal Government’s $20 million Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods (SCREEN) Fund.

A total of $9 million will be available to cinemas that can demonstrate that their box office revenue for the period 1 July 2021 to 30 September 2021 was more than 30 per cent below their box office revenue for the corresponding period in 2019.

It comes after Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA) ran a 12 Days of Christmas campaign, urging the government to distribute the remainder of the SCREEN Fund before applications were to close on December 24.

Further funding grants for cinemas were initially resisted by Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cites and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, who reallocated $9 million from SCREEN to the COVID-19 Arts Sustainability Fund before announcing the additional support on December 23.

Independent Cinemas Australia president Scott Seddon said the decision would offer continued support for everyone employed in the cinema industry, from “the script writer through to the person who makes the popcorn”.

“I am confident that once we get through these couple of years, cinemas will continue to evolve as significant centres of Australian culture.”

New board appointments at NFSA

The Federal Government appointed Caroline Elliott and Lucinda Brogden to new roles on the board of the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), each for three year terms.

Elliott will chair the board after serving as a member since 2017, with Brogden to fill the vacancy arising from her promotion.

The former has held leadership roles across the senior financial and private sectors. She is currently the CEO of Propel Group Pty Ltd, a non-executive director of St Johns Ambulance Australia (VIC), and also holds directorships at dorsaVi Limited and Wiltrust Nominees Pty Ltd. as Trustee for the Edward Wilson Estate.

Brogden brings 25 years’ commercial experience to the position, including time at Macquarie Group and Ernst & Young, as well as more than ten years in organisational psychology. She is currently the chair and commissioner of the National Mental Health Commission, and chair of Mentally Healthy Workplace, governor and interim chair for Queenwood School for Girls, chair of Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, and director for Be Kind Sydney.

“Both Ms Elliott and Mrs Brogden have hands on experience in enhancing the capabilities of large and diverse organisations, and will each play an important role in overseeing the transformation and digitisation of the NFSA,” said Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher.

SWM CEO James Warburton.

Seven West Media acquires Prime

Seven West Media (SWM) completed the acquisition of Prime Media (PMT) on December 31, with SWM managing director and CEO James Warburton describing the merger as a “game changer” for both businesses.

A proposal for the combined business was announced on November 1, detailing a “leading wholly-owned commercial premium broadcast, video and news network across Australia, reaching more than 90 per cent of the Australian population every month”.

SWM previously tried to acquire Prime Media in 2019, only to have the bid blocked by shareholders.

Warburton said the company was pleased to have the opportunity to work more closely with Prime.

“After enjoying a very successful partnership for many years, our two businesses are becoming one,” he said.

“Prime is a great business and is the #1 TV network in regional Australia by a big margin. In the metro markets, Seven has been #1 for 13 of the past 15 years, including this year, while 7plus is the #1 commercial BVOD service nationally.

“Together, we are the country’s leading commercial premium broadcast, video and news network. I’d like to welcome the Prime team to Seven West Media and I look forward to working with them.”

Snook, Kidman, and Smit McPhee take top honours at Golden Globes

There was a strong Australasian showing at the 79th Golden Globes, with Sarah Snook, Nicole Kidman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Jane Campion among the winners announced at a private ceremony on Sunday.

With no telecast or livestream owing to the ongoing controversy surrounding Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the recipients of this year’s awards were revealed via updates on the Golden Globes website and social media pages.

Campion’s 1920s Netflix drama The Power of the Dog won three of its seven nominations, including  Best Picture – Drama, Best Motion Picture Director, and Best Supporting Actor Motion Picture for Smit-McPhee.

Kidman was awarded Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama for her portrayal of Lucille Ball in Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos to secure her sixth Golden Globe.

Like Smith McPhee, Snook went from a first-time nominee to a first-time winner, taking out the Best Supporting Actress – Televisionfor her role as Shiv Roy in HBO’s Succession. It was one of three awards for the series, which also won Best Drama.

‘The Plains’.

The Plains, Drifting Petals selected for Rotterdam

David Easteal’s The Plains and Clara Law’s Drifting Petals form the Australian contingent for the 51st International Film Festival of Rotterdam, having been selected for the Tiger and Big Screen competitions, respectively.

Esteal directs, writes, produces, edits, and stars in The Plains, which follows a man in his late 50s on his daily commute home at the end of the work in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

Filmed across 12 months almost exclusively in the evening commute on Victoria’s Monash Freeway, the film is only the second Australian film to be programmed in the Tiger Competition, which this year consists of 14 titles.

A wider scope of terrain is used in Drifting Petals, which spans Australia, Macau, and Hong Kong.

Inspired by the novels of W. G. Sebald and the meandering aesthetic of classical Chinese gardens, the films begins with a filmmaker and a piano student, who first meet in Australia. Two stories intertwine as the characters try to make sense of a past imbued with mystery in Macau, and an uncertain future in Hong Kong.

The project is the culmination of a five-year journey for Law and her creative partner Eddie Fong, with whom she wrote and produced.

The 51st International Film Festival of Rotterdam will take place from January 26 to February 6 as a virtual event via IFFR.com.

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