Screen Aus assessor appointed film’s EP

By Brendan Swift

Screen Australia allowed script assessor Scott Meek to executive produce a feature film after he recommended it receive more than $1 million in government funding.

It raises conflict of interest queries with Meek potentially set to receive a direct financial benefit – executive producer fees – after playing a key role in the government agency’s decision to back romantic-thriller Griff the Invisible.

However, Screen Australia told the Senate this week that Meek has "yet to be formally contracted” to the film and has not received any remuneration.

The $2.7 million Griff the Invisible recently completed filming in New South Wales and stars Ryan Kwanten and Maeve Dermody.

“Mr Meek only agreed to act as a mentor/executive producer to the project Griff the Invisible after the project had been recommended for financing and after requesting Screen Australia’s consent to act in this advisory capacity,” Screen Australia said in reply to a question on notice from Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham.

“On balance, Screen Australia agreed that Mr Meek’s contribution to script development would outweigh any conflict of interest perception.”

Meek is employed by Screen Australia as a feature film consultant three days a week and approved Griff the Invisible in a separate freelance role as part of the four-person low-budget Indivision feature film panel.

He has executive produced many respected TV programs including Bastard Boys and Curtin. Jan Chapman is serving as the other executive producer on Griff the Invisible.

Screen Australia said Meek had no attachment to the project when he and the panel assessed it in September and October 2008, or when the Screen Australia board approved its funding in November.

“At all times subsequent to this assessment and involvement with the project, Mr Meek declared his interest,” Screen Australia said.

Meek received $102,000 for ongoing creative evaluation consultancy services between July 1, 2008 and February 2009, according to documents previously tabled in the Senate.

Screen Australia employed 18 consultants (excluding assessors) during that period.

The highest paid was financial management company Technology One ($190,000). Jonathan Chissick received the second highest payment ($137,505) for ongoing marketing advice.

Screen Australia invested just over $1.07 million in Griff the Invisible. The other investors include Screen NSW, sales organisation Fortissimo Films, and post-house FSM.

The film is being produced by Nicole O’Donohue and directed by Leon Ford.