Screen Australia’s feature development funding program is open to projects of all genres, and to animation as well as live action drama. The program supports the development of strong stories and storytelling to enable a consistent flow into the marketplace of high quality, diverse and audience-engaging screenplays.
Access to Screen Australia’s development funds is highly competitive so it is in your interest to apply for funds only when you are thoroughly prepared and can submit the strongest application to us for consideration. Two consecutive unsuccessful applications will make the project ineligible for this program.
Applications are evaluated on merit, based on the criteria set out in these guidelines.
Browse the guidelines below,
or download as a PDF at right
The program is open to applications for funding covering:
a first or subsequent draft feature screenplay, including, where appropriate, fees for writer, producer, director, development executive/script editor, digital media consultant, legal and/or department head;
casting, pre-visualisation work, financing or pitching costs, or other materials that enhance the likelihood of production; travel, production budgeting and scheduling expenses. Please note: the stage of project development will be looked at closely in such cases as these funds are not intended to provide gap financing in pre-production nor to duplicate funding provided in programs through Screen Australia’s marketing department.
Draft funding: Applications can be for any amount up to $50,000 per tranche, and may be made at any time.
Late-stage development funding: Where there is no writing component for late-stage development, funding will be capped at $20,000. A strong emphasis will be placed on the script’s readiness to move into production.
Matched development funding up to $50,000 may be available if a project has an offer of cash development funding from a genuine arm’s length marketplace entity. See Matched Development Funding.
From time to time we may invite applicants to attach a script consultant or mentor to a project. In such a case Screen Australia may cover the cost of the consultant or mentor.
Fees for option renewal
Option renewal can be part of any application, with the full cost of renewal included in the budget. However, it should be noted that Screen Australia does not fund option fees retrospectively so applicants should plan ahead and allow for the eight-week turnaround of their application. A cap of $5,000 applies per option renewal. Screen Australia can also support the purchase of an initial option through the Matched Initial Option Funding program.
Recipients of Enterprise Program funding should refer to the Enterprise Program guidelines regarding their eligibility for this program.
Applications must be from a producer on behalf of a team involving at least a writer or writer/director.
The producer must have an ‘eligible producing credit’, or have a producer or executive producer with two such credits (as producer or executive producer) working with them (see definitions below). This is in recognition of the complexity of international film financing and the need for market knowledge and financing skills on the producing team, as well as the ability to creatively develop the project.
Where an executive producer is attached in order to satisfy eligibility requirements, strong consideration will be given to the nature of their involvement and their creative intentions.
In recognition of their level of experience and/or success, the following may apply for one tranche of development funding without an eligible producer or executive producer attached:
- a writer or writer/director with an ‘eligible writing credit’;
- a director with an ‘eligible directing credit’ in conjunction with a writer.
In these cases, the application must include plans to attach a producer, and subsequent applications must be made with an eligible producer on board.
An eligible producer who also has an ‘eligible writing credit’ may apply without a writer.
Outstanding projects that emerge through Screen Australia’s Talent Escalator programs may be given special consideration. This provides the opportunity for practitioners to access single-draft development funds notwithstanding that usual eligibility requirements may not be satisfied.
If a project has previously been assessed and declined for funding under this program or the Australian Film Commission’s feature development programs, a statement must be provided setting out the major changes made since the previous submission. Screen Australia will take this statement into account when considering whether or not to accept the application and assess it again for funding. Note that after two unsuccessful submissions, no further applications for that project will be accepted.
An ‘eligible producing credit’ is a credit on:
a feature film that has been released on a minimum of five commercial screens in one territory,
a primetime broadcast drama miniseries or telemovie.
An ‘eligible writing credit’ or ‘eligible directing credit’ is a ‘written by’ or ‘directed by’ credit on:
a feature that has been selected for Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance or Toronto or has received an Academy Award® nomination, or has been a significant commercial success, or
two released features (on at least five commercial screens in one territory) or
two primetime broadcast miniseries/telemovies, or
six broadcast hours of primetime series (not serials).
Documentary projects, including theatrical or feature-length documentaries, are not eligible under this program (see Documentary Development).
Projects that have been submitted to Screen Australia for a Letter of Interest (LOI) or for Production Investment (PI) will not concurrently be considered for development funding.
Applicants must also meet the general eligibility requirements set out in Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade.
Screen Australia expects the option or rights to be held by the applicant be they a producer, writer, writer/director or director, or by them in conjunction with other key creatives.
Where the applicant is a less experienced producer who has attached an experienced producer or EP, the option or rights may remain with the less experienced producer, or with them in conjunction with other key creatives.
Any commitment from Screen Australia will be subject to review of all rights agreements to ensure that they comply with industry standards.
Applicants must establish clear chain of title to all works in development as a pre-condition of development funding.
If a project is based on an underlying work, evidence of the option agreement and length of option must be supplied. Screen Australia expects the accumulated periods of the option and its subsequent extensions to be at least three and a half years. Screen Australia advises producers to have an option to acquire where possible sequel, prequel, remake, TV spin-off rights and all ancillary rights as these rights will be required at financing stage.
For projects based on an underlying work, or where more than one party holds the rights or option, you may be required to provide a solicitor’s opinion letter on chain of title if your application is successful.
Applications must be made on the relevant Screen Australia application form and include all supporting material listed in the checklist on that form.
Except as noted below, all applications, including applications for the development of screenplays based on underlying works, require an industry-standard script of 85-120 pages.
An applicant may submit a treatment of up to 20 pages (under 10 pages preferred) rather than a script, where the writer:
has an ‘eligible writing credit’; or
can evidence strongly related professional writing expertise OR recent (last 18 months) draft funding via a screen agency.
Scripts and treatments must be presented in industry standard format, 12 point Courier font. (See the Screen Australia publications Suggested Script Layout and What is a Synopsis? An Outline? A Treatment?.)
You must submit a full application even if the project has previously received draft funding under this program. See Further funding, below.
Applications will be assessed by Screen Australia executives and/or industry specialists/peers as required.
Industry specialists currently used as script assessors by the Development Department are: Ranald Allan, Karin Altmann, Emily Anderton, Michael Brindley, Charlie Carman, Katherine Castles, Sally Chesher, Andy Cox, Matthew Dabner, Samantha Dinning, Louise Gough, Justine Hart, Helen Jacey, Sam Jennings, Emma Jensen, Gerald Lillywhite, Nathalie Peter-Contesse, Tim Richards, Joan Sauers, Lucy Scher, Katherine Slattery, Steve Vidler. The name of the assessors used for a particular project will remain confidential.
If you are concerned about any of these people assessing your project because of a perceived conflict of interest, please let us know when you submit your application. A Conflict of Interest Policy applies both to industry specialists engaged as consultants, whether on a project basis or longer-term, and to all staff involved in assessment or investment decisions. Where a conflict of interest is confirmed, Screen Australia will take this into account when allocating projects to assessors.
Screen Australia will advise applicants in writing of the success or otherwise of their application. Where an application is declined, the applicant will be advised of the reason. We aim to make the application process as transparent as possible, but given the volume of applications we receive, we no longer have the resources to provide extensive feedback on each project.
When assessing applications for this program, Screen Australia will take the following criteria into account:
The strength of the concept and underlying premise;
The strength and distinctiveness of the story and the quality of the writing;
The development notes or late stage plan, and the degree to which they articulate the issues to be faced in the next stage and outline the strategies to address them;
The team’s understanding of the market for their project and the ability of the producer to secure appropriate market attachments and raise the necessary financing;
The viability of the project in terms of its intended budget relative to the potential audience.
The combined track record of the team members and the likelihood that their skills and experience will advance the project overall as well as their ability to deliver on the proposed next phase.
Terms of funding
Funding through this program is provided as a limited recourse loan.
Where Screen Australia provides development funds and subsequently invests in the production, its investment in the development phase will be added to the production financing amount and the total investment will be recouped in accordance with the terms of trade for production financing.
Where the project goes into production without Screen Australia production funding, development funding provided by Screen Australia is not repayable unless the producer wishes to acquire any copyright interest held by Screen Australia.
Funding recipients must deliver the negotiated delivery materials for which the funding was provided.
Applicants should be ready to commence work on the project should their application be successful and be able to deliver all negotiated delivery materials within three months.
Projects funded under this program may reapply for further development investment once they have fulfilled their delivery requirements. Further development investment will be considered in light of the advancement of the screenplay, the development notes, momentum, marketplace attachment, producer’s strategy, and the overall viability of the project. Applicants will be required to supply script development notes from the writer and, where appropriate, script editor articulating the plan for the next stage.
Eligible writers, directors or writer/directors who have received one tranche of funding for a project must attach an eligible producer in subsequent applications for further funding for that project.
[Page updated 4.30pm 26 June 2014]
[Revised 10.30pm 26 June 2014; correction of error in credit requirements for producers]