Report warns of resource gap for emerging filmmakers

The closure of state-based screen resource centres after Screen Australia cut off their funding will deprive many emerging filmmakers of a vital bridge between tertiary education and entering the workforce.

That’s according to a new report, Emerging Visions: Career Pathways in the Australian Screen Production Industry, commissioned by Paddington-based Metro Screen, which lost its annual $250,000 grant from the agency.

Metro Screen is closing its doors on December 23 with the loss of 15 core staff and 60 contractors. Hobart-based Wide Angle Tasmania will close next June and QPIX shuttered last year.

Launching the report on Wednesday night, Metro Screen president Kath Shelper tells IF she hopes there will be a broad-based campaign to restore funding for emerging practitioners, similar to that mounted by arts organisations, from the smallest to the largest, after the Australia Council’s funding was cut.

The ADG and Screen Producers Australia had reps on the working party which commissioned the study.

“In our industry there has been very little backlash to Screen Australia’s cuts," Shelper said. “Screen Australia does not see funding the emerging sector as its responsibility.”

The report notes federal government support to the screen industry including the producer offset jumped by 90 per cent since 2006/07, while funds for emerging screen practitioners will have shrunk by around 80 per cent by 2016/17.

Each year the feds spend $250 million on screen education, including $24 million for AFTRS. Goalpost Pictures’ Rosemary Blight told the researchers, “I think there’s an issue with isolating yourself in an academic environment, and then coming out the end and standing there going ‘what am I going to do?’ I’m just concerned about what types of people are coming out and whether they are prepared for it.”

Overall federal support for screen production in 2014/15 across Screen Australia, the producer offset and the location and PDV offsets totalled $419 million.

In 2013 the state resource centres received nearly $6 million in funding (including $1.47 million from Screen Australia). That year they supported 316 productions including 90 films selected for festivals and skills development for 3,300 participants.

The report projects there will be just $2 million in federal support for emerging practitioners in 2016/17.

The study found 36 per cent of producers surveyed believed that emerging practitioners are ‘over-qualified and under-skilled,’ while 24 per cent disagreed.

The report concludes, “An industry-wide strategy encompassing the education sector, production sector and funding bodies is required, including a focus on the interface between formal study and professional practice.

“”How can we make this happen? What structures could be utilised or established? If Screen Australia isn’t responsible for taking the lead, who is?”

A not-for-profit organisation, Metro Screen was established in 1981 to support and nurture emerging screen practitioners in production, courses, networking opportunities and access to facilities.

Its assets will be auctioned online to pay off debts and CEO Christina Alvarez intends to take a break and then “see what is ahead.”

The organisation is talking to its landlord, the City of Sydney, about potential uses of its space.