Producers hit with double whammy

By Simon de Bruyn

In two separate announcements, both the Australian Film Commission and Arena Films producer/director Robert Connolly, have each done their bit to shake up the established landscape for producers.

The AFC announced yesterday its long standing General Development Investment program, which has provided targeted support for Australian producers and production companies since 2000, would cease and be replaced by the Screen Business Venture Program.

Under the new program, new and established producers will be able to apply for a Business Support Strand of up to $70,000 and a Business Growth Strand of up to $180,000, with each strand divided into interest-free loan and grant components. Former investment manager with the FFC and project assessor for Screen West, Film Victoria and the NSWFTO, David Noakes, will manage the program.

This overhaul of the GDI coincided with the Centre of Screen Business announcing that it had published Connolly’s long mooted constructive critique of established production methods and his foreseeably controversial proposals for change. Some of these include a first dollar share for producers, hiring smaller and more experienced crews, matching cast fees to marketplace investment, and basing fees on experience – not on percentages.

In an exclusive first interview with Inside Film, Connolly explained that there were more efficient ways of making films in Australia than the current methods allowed, and one area to start was to rethink production budgets.

‘Currently the industry uses a failed business model for feature film production,’ he said. ‘We’ve incentivised an upward inflation of budgets because it’s the only way that producers of the film can make any money from them, as their fee is a percentage of the budget. Our budgets have been forced up by people who need the budgets high because all they ever get is a percentage fee.’

‘Our budgets are in a kind of "no man’s land", not big enough to compete with the studio films and not small enough to be profitable. Australia sits somewhere in the middle ground and our films are off the radar internationally speaking, and have no chance of recouping any money.’

The full paper can be found on the Centre for Screen Business website –