Story Development

Story Development - features, online & interactive & High-end television drama

Creative story development involves art, craft and heart.

It’s a process that needs to be flexible and responsive, embracing a diversity of tools and approaches that will enrich and focus the creative vision at the heart of a story so audiences will be engaged and entertained across a variety of delivery platforms.

We therefore encourage you to design a bespoke approach to development that will keep the project’s momentum up, its purpose alive and the audience in clear view.

What funding is available?

Applications for Story Development funding can be made at any time for:

  • up to $50,000 for feature drama films with a total cap of $100,000 of Screen Australia funds over the life of an individual project unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated. This includes all funding received from Screen Australia’s Feature Development, Single Draft and predecessor agency feature development funding.
  • up to $20,000 for online and interactive drama including series and one-off. Online and interactive drama must have a total cumulative running time of at least 30 minutes in order to be eligible for development funding. Funding excludes traditional television formats aimed at a mainstream broadcaster.
  • up to $40,000 for high-end television drama to develop an ambitious concept into a series bible, series outline, first draft pilot script or first episode script. Please note: High-end television drama is high-budget programming intended to, and with the clear potential to, reach a wide global audience. Applications must be accompanied by written evidence of strong and genuine interest from a major international broadcaster or international internet streaming company, outside the ANZ territory, which can commission projects and has its own transmission network.

What can you apply for?

Development plans may include, but are not limited to:

  • writer, director, producer fees
  • script editor, script reader reports, consultant fees
  • table reads, writers’ rooms, actor workshops
  • consultation about digital elements, digital distribution platforms and audience engagement strategies
  • series bible, series outline, pilot script or first episode script
  • visualisation materials – pitch materials, teaser trailers, storyboards, electronic proof of concept (EPOC) that will help to inform the creative process (eg animated feature character tests, online/interactive creative tests), or test scenes (filming/production when part of the development process)
  • story and character research
  • costs associated with consulting with Heads of Department, eg DOP/Cinematographer, editor, production designer, sound designer
  • international project development workshops
  • casting costs
  • budgets and schedules
  • reasonable legal costs
  • option renewal costs ($5,000 cap)

Only in exceptional circumstances will a request to acquire an initial option be considered (on a case-by-case basis).

Who can apply?

To be eligible for Story Development funding:

  • Applications must be from an eligible producer (subject to the exceptions outlined below) on behalf of a team involving at least a writer or writer/director.
  • The producer must have a ‘producing credit’ (subject to the exceptions outlined below), or have a producer or executive producer with a minimum of two eligible producing credits working with them (see definitions below). This is in recognition of the complexity of international 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 a producer or an executive producer is attached in order to satisfy eligibility requirements, their meaningful and continued involvement in the project must be evidenced within the development and financing plans for the project.
  • In recognition of their level of experience and/or success, the following may apply for one tranche of funding per project (up to $30,000) without an eligible producer or executive producer attached:
  • a writer or writer/director with a ‘writing credit’
  • a director with a ‘directing credit’ in conjunction with a writer.

Applicants who do not meet these criteria may be considered only in exceptional circumstances.

In all these cases, the application must include plans to attach a producer, and subsequent applications must be made with an eligible producer on board.

  • For online and interactive practitioners not satisfying the eligibility requirements above and wishing to make an application for feature film and high-end television funds, the team must have received funding through our Multiplatform Drama program.
  • For online and interactive drama fund applications where practitioners do not satisfy the eligibility requirements above, the creative team must have at least:
  • received funding through our Multiplatform Drama program, OR
  • a YouTube channel with a minimum of 100,000 subscribers, OR
  • one video with more than 1 million views and at least 25,000 subscribers.
  • If a project has previously been assessed and declined for funding under Screen Australia’s Feature Development, Single Draft or predecessor agency feature development funding it must evidence substantial changes since the previous submission. This statement and the application materials will be taken into account when considering whether or not Screen Australia will accept the application and assess it again for funding. Note that after two unsuccessful submissions, no further applications for that project will be accepted other than in circumstances that are deemed to be exceptional.
  • Screen Australia is not able to pay any costs towards international producers, writers or directors if the producers, writers or directors are not Australian citizens or Australian residents.
  • Recipients of Enterprise Program funding should refer to the Enterprise Program guidelines regarding their eligibility for this program.

A ‘producing credit’ is a fiction credit on at least:

  • a feature film that has been released on a minimum of five commercial screens (excluding festival screens) in one major territory, OR
  • a primetime broadcast mini-series or telemovie or high-end television series shown on a major network, OR
  • a feature film that has been selected for Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance, Toronto, or SXSW, or has received an Academy Award® nomination.

To be eligible, an executive producer must have a minimum of two eligible producing credits on feature films.

A ‘writing credit’ or ‘directing credit’ is a fiction ‘written by’ or ‘directed by’ credit on at least:

  • a feature film that has been selected for Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance, Toronto, or SXSW, or has received an Academy Award® nomination, OR
  • two released feature films (on at least five commercial screens in one major territory), OR
  • two primetime or children’s broadcast mini-series/telemovies, OR
  • six broadcast hours of primetime series or children’s series, OR
  • a theatre production which has received outstanding critical and/or box office success with a professional mainstage theatre company (eg Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Black Swan State Theatre Company) State Theatre Company of South Australia, Queensland Theatre Company, La Boite Theatre Company, Darwin Theatre Company).


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

What materials do you need to apply?

While we are open to the type of material you submit with an application to evoke the creative vision, be strategic about the amount and length of material you include in your application. Your application will be enhanced by the quality of your submission materials rather than the quantity.

The application materials required include:

  • a one-page synopsis
  • a story document appropriate to the project:
  • a treatment (up to 20 pages, 10 pages preferred). A writer without previous credits must submit a number of sample script scenes (up to 5 pages) from the writer’s previous work (TV, short films, feature or online drama), or
  • a scriptment – a document that is part script, part treatment and may include visuals or illustrations (up to 30 pages), or
  • a draft script (up to 120 pages, 12 point Courier font)
  • for online and interactive drama (series, one-off), an outline, treatment or draft scripts
  • for high-end television, a copy of proposal materials used to secure the written interest from a major international broadcaster or international internet streaming company such as a pitch/concept/story document, episode breakdowns, proposed team, etc
  • a development plan (up to four pages) that describes the team’s creative vision, outlines the progress of the project to date, identifies the current challenges and the tools and approaches that will be used to explore and address these in the next stage of development. This should include notes from the writer, director and script editor (where attached)
  • a detailed research plan (as appropriate)
  • if a producer is attached, a producer’s statement that identifies the genre, the intended target audience, the budget level relative to the potential audience as well as the marketing and distribution plans (theatrical and/or other platforms). If the project is applying for late stage funding , this statement will need to include financing strategies, proposed cast and potential market attachments
  • if an EP is attached, written confirmation that demonstrates the EP’s meaningful involvement
  • for high-end television, written evidence of strong and genuine interest from a major international broadcaster or international internet streaming company, outside the ANZ territory, which can commission projects and has its own transmission network
  • if the project is being submitted for a second time after a previous unsuccessful application, a summary of the substantial changes that will make it eligible to be considered again
  • agreements for key creatives that are attached to the stage of development applied for (eg writer’s agreement, script editor’s agreement)
  • CVs for all key creatives.

What other materials could you include?

Other application materials to evoke the tone, mood and style of the project may include:

  • photographs, artworks, a mood reel, a look book, storyboards, EPOC, a pilot episode, a sample filmed scene, or music
  • a three-minute pitch to camera (via downloadable and password protected link only).

Rights and chain of title

An applicant (be they an eligible producer, writer, writer/director or director) must be able to evidence that they hold sufficient rights in a project, and have obtained sufficient clearances necessary to be able to develop and finance it to production.

  • Where an 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.
  • 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. We advise 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.
  • Any commitment from us will be subject to review of key chain of title documents (which include writer’s agreement, option agreement and script editor agreements) to ensure that they comply with industry standards. If the project is in late stage development, a solicitor’s opinion letter on the chain of title may be requested.

What is the assessment process?

Applications will be assessed by Screen Australia executives and/or industry specialists/peers as required. Please see the full list of External Assessors on our website. See also our Conflict of Interest Policy.

Decisions will be made by Screen Australia’s development team in a meeting chaired by the Senior Development Executive and approved by the Head of Production.

We 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 do not have the resources to provide extensive feedback on each project.

Assessment criteria

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

  • The dramatic potential of the concept, the strength and distinctiveness of the story within its own genre and the potential of the story and characters to engage an audience (40%)
  • The progress of the project to date, the degree to which the development plan identifies and articulates the challenges present in the current material while also offering potential strategies to address them in the next phase of development; OR for late stage applications, the readiness of the script for production and the perceived effectiveness of the financing strategy (20%)
  • The relevant skills and experience (or mix of experience) of the team and the likelihood that the team will advance the project through development, financing and into production (20%)
  • The team’s understanding of the market and audience for their project, the viability of the intended budget relative to the potential audience and the intended platform of distribution (20%).

Terms of funding

Funding through this program is provided as a grant unless the project is funded for production investment by Screen Australia and the producer includes the development funds as part of qualifying Australian production expenditure (QAPE).

Where the project goes into production without Screen Australia production funding, Screen Australia may require the producer to repay the development funding previously provided in order to acquire any copyright interest held by Screen Australia.

See Terms of Trade for more information.

Funding recipients must deliver the delivery materials for which the funding was provided.

[Page updated 1 September 2015.]

application timing

Applications can be submitted at any time through the Online Application Portal and must include all necessary and relevant additional supporting material.

Maximum turnaround time for application decisions is approximately four weeks.


Please contact the Program Operations team to discuss your proposal before submitting your application:

Freecall: 1800 507 901


See Also