SPA calls for a shared strategic plan for the screen industry

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) may be submitting feedback to the Federal Government about its proposed models of streaming regulation this week, but it was far from the only focus for CEO Matthew Deaner as he opened the 37th Screen Forever conference this afternoon.

SPA has been among the chief proponents of a 20 per cent revenue contribution for the major streaming services. Deaner used his address at last year’s Screen Forever to call out “slow, protracted and largely ineffective proposals” from the former Liberal government to ensure global streamers commission Australian titles.

With Labor having since taken power and Art Minister Tony Burke introducing the National Cultural Policy earlier this year, Deaner said the last 12 months had “been a lot to process”, before noting the similar conversations that were happening in other territories, acknowledging in particular the passing of the C11 bill in Canada, which gives Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) broad authority to regulate streaming platforms.

However, he made it clear that more holistic thinking was needed in the journey toward macro reform.

“We really have had 10 years of wasted time on micro policy reform as well as the macro, and we will be paying for that in years ahead, so we need to keep focused on the detail,” he said.

“Last week we released our policy priorities which touch on some of our immediate focus. But I want to also touch on strategy. Federally there is no shared strategic plan for the industry or its supporting agencies. There is no export or IP strategy. There is no co-production strategy. There is no research strategy. There is no genre by genre strategy. There is no inter-agency strategy. There is no overarching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander strategy, or for that matter a
diversity strategy. There is no strategy.

“So where are the government and the supporting institutions wanting to take us?

“And therein may just be part of the problem. Some of our institutions and government-funded bodies were built years ago don’t fully make sense – some need reform – there is no logic to some of their functions, and there are gaps in others. There is often no joined-up thinking or partnering or real willingness to re-invent and work closely with stakeholders to do that.”

Deaner made special mention of Bus Stop Film CEO Tracey Corbin-Matchett, with whom he recently attended a reception at Admiralty House with the Governor General, alongside other partners of the organisation.

He said Corbin-Matchett’s advocacy to reduce the requirement on the film and TV industry to have to employ someone with a disability for 13 weeks or more before they are eligible to receive wage subsidy was an example of one of the “hundreds of these micro-policies that need addressing and working on”.

“Of course, the reason this is a struggle is often the nature of our industry given the shoot lengths,” he said.

“So, we have one hand tied behind our backs in terms of having a level playing field to being supported as an industry in supporting inclusion. This is big.

“And let’s remind ourselves about why that all matters, how important storytelling is. Because
at a very core level, we all have a need to be seen. We all have a need to be seen for who we are. Storytelling achieves this. Either by telling and constructing the story or seeing oneself reflected in a story.”

As part of his opening address, Deaner introduced Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who announced that her government had extended its partnership with SPA to keep Screen Forever on the Gold Coast for another three years.

It comes months after the city secured the AACTA Awards for the next three years in January, taking over from Sydney.

Palaszczuk said events like Screen Forever “bolstered the city’s reputation as the foremost screen hub of the Asia Pacific”.

“It’s a place where ideas are born, where deals are done, where cameras roll, and where we honour screen excellence,” he said

“And all of this leads to more jobs for Queenslanders.”

Taking place until Friday, Screen Forever consists of more than 140 speakers across nearly 50 sessions, which are shaped around themes Story and Vision, Shifting the Status Quo, and Markets, Trends & Finance.

Following the conference, and the SPA Awards on May 5, the SPA Connect Market will take place across May 9-10.

In outlining this year’s event, Deaner paid tribute to late Foxtel executive Brian Walsh, who was contributed to the conference, describing him as a “real true believer in Australian stories”.

“I knew Brian in my different roles in this industry and on a personal level – and our relationship evolved to one of great respect and a shared take on many things in life,” he said.

“While he couldn’t broadcast it – like quite a number of people working on the commissioning side have expressed quietly to me over the years – he was deeply supportive of the work that SPA does to ensure a solid framework exists for our industry to thrive from.”