Features
development

Screen Australia’s feature development funding program is open to projects of all genres, and to animation as well as live-action. Screen Australia is looking for striking and engaging storytelling that will connect with audiences. 

Screen Australia generally requires the commitment of an experienced producer as part of the team, and that the application should come from the producer. This is in recognition of the producer’s key role in providing creative guidance, financing and the overall strategy for the project. Writers, writer/directors and writer–director teams may apply for funding without a producer if they meet the eligibility criteria outlined below.

Less experienced producers must also have an experienced producer or executive producer committed to the project. In such cases the application may still be made by the less experienced producer and the rights may remain with them, or with them in conjunction with other key creatives.

Where an international 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.

Less experienced producers who do not wish to work with proven producing partners may access Screen Australia development support through its Talent Escalator programs.

Screen Australia invests in the development of projects which will enable a consistent flow into the marketplace of high-quality, diverse, audience-engaging screenplays. Applications will be evaluated on creative merit, the team, and the potential for the project to reach an audience appropriate to its cost. The screenwriting craft and development plan are looked at closely.

Access to Screen Australia’s development funds is increasingly 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. Bear in mind that two consecutive unsuccessful applications will make the project ineligible for this program.

Projects that have been submitted to Screen Australia for a Letter of Interest (LOI) or for finance will not concurrently be considered for Development funding.

If your application is successful, Screen Australia generally expects a draft to be delivered within three months of your first drawdown.

Browse the guidelines below,
or download as a PDF at right

 

Available funding

Applications can be for any amount up to $50,000 per tranche, and may be made at any time.

In some circumstances Screen Australia may accept and pre-approve an application for multiple (up to three) tranches from producers with a proven, significant track record. Such an applicant will need to have had two films in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance or Toronto OR have produced two films that were an outstanding commercial success OR one film that has received  an Academy Award®. In such a case the applicant will not need to re-apply from tranche to tranche; however, a positive assessment of progress is required before the subsequent tranche of funding is triggered. 

Matched Development funding: Projects that come with an offer of cash development funding from a genuine arm’s length marketplace entity will receive matched funding up to $50,000, subject to a risk assessment by Screen Australia. (For the purposes of these guidelines, a marketplace entity is defined as an entity whose core business is the financing, sales, distribution, exhibition or broadcast of feature films.) All the requirements set out below relating to eligibility, and to rights and options, apply equally to matched funding.

Late-stage funding: Where there is no writing component for late-stage development, funding will be capped at $20,000.

Funding is for

  • Where relevant:
    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,
  • Fees for option renewal (the full cost of renewal may be included in the budget; note, however, that we do not fund option fees retrospectively so applicants should plan ahead and allow for the eight-week turnaround of their application). A cap of $3,000 applies per option renewal. Screen Australia can also support the purchase of an initial option through the Matched Initial Option program.
  • Marketing strategy and pitch materials; plans for adjacent or multiplatform delivery,
  • Casting, pre-visualisation work, financing or pitching costs, including the cost of producing a short scene 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 fund explorative travel.

All applications, including applications for the development of screenplays based on underlying works, require either:

  • an industry-standard script of 90-120 pages,
    or
  • a 5-20 page treatment plus the first five pages of the script.

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?).

Where there is no writing component for late-stage development, funding will be capped at $20,000.

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.

Eligibility

Recipients of Enterprise Program funding need to 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 be considered an ‘experienced’ producer, or must have an experienced producer or ‘experienced executive producer’ working with them (see definitions below). This is in recognition of the increased complexity of international film financing, and the need for market knowledge and financing skills on the producing team.

There are no special eligibility requirements for writers or writer/directors applying with an eligible producer.

However, in recognition of their level of experience and/or success, the following may apply for one tranche of development funding without a producer or executive producer attached:

  • ‘proven’ writers and writer/directors,
  • ‘proven’ directors in conjunction with a writer.

Their application must detail at what stage they plan to attach a producer, and subsequent applications must be made with an eligible producer on board.

Definitions

An ‘experienced producer’ is defined as having at least one credit as producer on:

  • a feature film that has been released on a minimum of five commercial screens in one territory, OR
  • a primetime broadcast drama miniseries or telemovie.

An ‘experienced executive producer’ is defined as having at least two credits as producer or executive producer on:

  • feature films that have been released on a minimum of five commercial screens in one territory, OR
  • primetime broadcast miniseries or telemovies.

A ‘proven’ writer, director or writer/director is defined as having :

  • one credit in these roles 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
  • at least two credits in these roles on features released on a minimum of five commercial screens in one territory, or primetime broadcast miniseries or telemovies, OR
  • credits in these roles for at least six broadcast hours of primetime series (not serials).

For writers, television credits should be ’written by’.

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-project development funds notwithstanding that usual eligibility requirements may not be satisfied.

Rights: 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 us sighting all rights agreements and being satisfied 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 four 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.

Further funding: 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 project, 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 or script editor articulating the plan for the next stage.

Projects from proven writers, directors or writer/directors that have received one tranche of funding must attach an eligible producer in subsequent applications for further funding.

Multiple applications: Projects that are unsuccessful in applying to this program may only reapply if the project and application are substantially and demonstrably reworked.  Projects which have been the subject of two consecutive unsuccessful applications for feature development funding – through this program or the Australian Film Commission’s feature development programs – are not eligible.

Documentaries: Documentary projects, including theatrical or feature-length documentaries, are not eligible under this program (see Documentary Development).

General eligibility requirements: Applicants must also meet the general eligibility requirements set out in Screen Australia's Terms of Trade.

Assessment process

Applications will be assessed by a combination of Screen Australia executives and industry specialists/peers as required (a minimum of two readers at all times).

Industry specialists currently used as script assessors by the Development Department are: Ranald Allan, Karin Altmann, Emily Anderton, Michael Brindley, Andy Cox, Matthew Dabner, Louise Gough, David Hely, Amree Hewitt, Emma Jensen, Zyra McAuliffe, Nathalie Peter-Contesse, Tim Richards, Joan Sauers, Katherine Slattery, Steve Vidler, Sally Chesher, Regina Lee, Kathryn Castles. 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 of the success or otherwise of their application. Where an application is unsuccessful, the reasons will be conveyed to the applicant, with a written statement of reasons provided on request.

Assessment criteria

When assessing applications for this program, Screen Australia will take the following criteria into account:

  • The potential strength of the concept and the underlying premise
  • The strength and distinctiveness of the story and the quality of the writing
  • The development notes, and the degree to which they articulate the issues to be faced in the next stage of development and outline the strategies to address them
  • The potential of the project to reach its target audience
  • The viability of the project and whether it can be realised for an appropriate budget relative to its audience
  • A successful track record of the producer, writer, and, where appropriate, the director and development executive or script editor; and the likelihood that their experience will advance the project..

Application materials

Applications must be made on the relevant Screen Australia application form, and include all supporting material listed in the checklist on that form.

If you wish to apply for subsequent draft funding you will need to submit a new application and must include information clearly reflecting the advancement of the project.

See also Applicant information.

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.

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 a draft within three months.

[Updated 11 March 2013.]

Application Timing

Applications can be received at any time.

Turnaround time for application
decisions is approximately eight weeks.

Downloads

Enquiries

Free call: 1800 507 901
Email: Development

see also

Please note:

We receive many more applications than we can support. Inevitably some applications may be unsuccessful and applicants may be disappointed by this result. However, Screen Australia’s decision is final.