Six Aussie teams to participate in Attagurl feature film lab

Deanne Weir.

The 12 successful applicants for Attagurl, the narrative feature film development lab to support female and non-binary filmmakers from around the world, will be announced next week – and Deanne Weir is excited.

Six majority female and/or non-binary creative teams from Australia and six from other territories will participate in the 10-month incubator program (formerly known as Attagirl), created by For Film’s Sake (FFS) executive director Sophie Mathisen.

“There are very impressive teams from around the world and some great Australian projects,” FFS chair Weir said on Monday in a webinar with Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner.

The first of three workshops will be held in Toronto from September 10-19, focusing on story and structure. The second next January will look at ways to identify and reach the target audience, including digital distribution and the future of exhibition.

The third, affiliated with the Sydney Film Festival in June, will examine financing including philanthropy, purpose-driven partnership and public pitches.

Intended to be an annual event, Attagurl is supported by Screen Australia, state agencies, the British and Swedish Film Institutes, Telefilm Canada and the New Zealand Film Commission.

“We will share the learnings from the lab as we explore new pathways to reach audiences and to finance films,” she said. “We want to see a lot more predominantly female-driven projects released into the world on a much stronger trajectory to audiences.”

In a wide ranging discussion with Deaner, the Hoodlum Entertainment chair voiced her concern if the Producer Offset for features is wound back to 30 per cent as a result of the options paper review; outlined her approach to investing in films; and explained why it was a difficult decision to send I Am Woman straight to Stan.

Reducing the offset would be damaging to the Australian film production sector, particularly as it’s getting harder to finance films, she said. She is not opposed to setting a cap on budgets at a reasonable level for films that qualify for the offset.

‘I Am Woman.’

While acknowledging the budget pressures facing the Federal Government, she said it was incongruous for the government to incentivise offshore production with the seven-year, $400 million extension of the Location Incentive Program while penalising the local industry which has to wait for the regulatory reforms to be enacted after the options paper review.

“The production companies are sitting at the bottom of the heap with the freelancers sitting below them,” she said.

Her investment vehicle has backed three films with female-centred stories: Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, Tony Tilse’s Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears and Unjoo Moon’s I Am Woman.

Goalpost Pictures’ Rosemary Blight, the producer of the Helen Reddy biopic, faced a tough call in opting to bypass cinemas in favour of the Stan premiere.

“It’s a film that deserves a really large audience but you are not going to get that in cinemas for the next few months,” Weir said.

In evaluating projects to invest in, she makes decisions that are based 60 per cent based on the anticipated financial returns and 40 per cent on a mix of cultural impact and talent development.

‘Five Bedrooms’ cast.

Asked by Deaner what she had learned from her first round of film investments, she said: “We need to continue to ensure we are giving private investors the incentive to come in and put them at the top of the waterfall. The risk is higher than it was due to the disrupted theatrical landscape, so you have to think carefully about budget levels and international opportunities. The strategy is still evolving.”

Weir has long advocated ways of bringing content creators closer to the investment market, including giving a toolkit to producers to help them make informed pitches to investors.

Wearing her Hoodlum hat, she thanked Screen Australia and Screen Queensland for their support in helping the producers to complete filming of the ABC’s Harrow 3 and Network 10’s Five Bedrooms season 2 after the production shutdown.

She has watched the producers’ cut of the latter. Biased though she may be, she declares: “It’s fantastic.”