WA Government injects $16 million into new screen fund

Simon Baker as Sando with Samsom Coulter (Pikelet) and Ben Spence (Loonie) in Breath.

The Western Australian Government has pumped $16 million worth of funding into the state's screen industry as part of new regional film fund.

The fund will aim to attract signficant levels of production from Australia and internationally.

The funding comes from the state government's Royalties for Regions scheme, a $1 billion program that underpins the government's commitment to developing Western Australia's regional areas into vibrant communities that are desirable places to live, work and invest. 

The Western Australian Regional Film Fund will provide strategic finance that will stimulate regional screen industry activity and will be available to Australian and international film or television productions. 

Productions must meet several quality criteria including minimum production spend in the regions and State, and likely audience reach. 

Applications will be considered on a case by case basis that meet agreed thresholds of marketplace support and local spend in the regions.

The Fund’s decisions will be made by an assessment panel and formally endorsed by the ScreenWest Board.

ScreenWest chief executive, Ian Booth said the fund would give the state a competitive advantage over other states in attracting productions to film in Western Australia. 

"The fund will attract key national and international players to make content in the regions whilst utilising local crews and creating great opportunities for local talent," he said.

“We will build on the strengths of regional WA, its extraordinary landscapes, experiences, stories and creative communities.”

The fund will provide finance to support national and international feature films, high-end television series and documentaries that shoot in the regions of Western Australia. 

Breaking Bad producer Mark Johnson is in Western Australian for the Simon Baker's directorial debut. 

Special consideration will be given to projects that deliver exceptional regional outcomes such as very high profile West Australian stories (such as the adaption of a best-selling/critically acclaimed WA novel, a greatly significant local historical event or identity). 

Special consideration will also be given tohigh value returnable television drama series that can confirm an extended production period in a regional area, an international production with a strong likelihood of reaching a large global audience.

It is hoped the new fund will build on the momentum created by the Western Australian Government’s Royalties for Regions program which has assisted films such as Breath, Red Dog – True Blue, Jasper Jones, Drift and Red Dog.

Booth said ScreenWest would administer the fund, in partnership with the regions, and would market the great locations of Western Australia nationally and overseas to encourage film, TV and documentary producers to bring their projects here," he said. 

"In turn, we will be promoting local infrastructure capabilities, services and co-production opportunities.

"The fund is an extension of the success stories we’ve already seen between regional development commissions and the screen industry.  

Booth also pointed Mark Johnson and Jamie Hilton, who produced Simon Baker’s feature film Breath, based on the Tim Winton novel, collaborated closely with the Great Southern Development Commission in Denmark, creating more than 250 local jobs, as a successful example.

“Producers Vincent Sheehan and David Jowsey and director Rachel Perkins recently finished shooting coming-of-age mystery Jasper Jones, based on the novel by Fremantle writer Craig Silvey, in Pemberton in the South West, with the support of the South West Development Commission," he said.

“Producer Nelson Woss and director Kriv Stenders’ Red Dog – True Blue worked alongside the Pilbara Development Commission.”

Aaron McGrath and Levi Miller in Jasper Jones.

The fund will be operational as of 1 July, 2016.

Hilton applauded the government for recognising the economic and cultural impact of the arts in regional areas. 

"Films employ hundreds of people, many locally, and inject millions of dollars directly to local businesses," he said. 

"The town of Denmark seems to know we're doing before we decide, it's great to see the whole community get involved, everyone has a story. I'm sure Pemberton with Jasper Jones and Karratha with Blue Dog were much the same and that this funding will ensure may more regional communities have similar experiences.  

Baker said the opportunity to realise Tim Winton's iconic novel in its own rugged and pristine environment had been a filmmakers dream. 

"We are grateful for the community's support and embrace of our cast and crew, it has helped our production immensely," he said.

Breath executive producer, Tom Williams, said it was rare to bring such a powerful story to life in its natural environment.

"The crew is fantastically talented, the landscapes and locations are breathtaking, and we count ourselves very lucky to have the support of ScreenWest."  

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