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Documentary development

Screen Australia’s Documentary Development program assists experienced documentary makers to achieve planned outcomes for the development of their projects.

This could include further research, writing the next draft of a script or treatment, strategic shooting and/or editing to attract marketplace development or production finance, or compiling a sizzle reel.

The program is primarily focused on providing development support to one- off projects.

Interactive or web-based projects: Producers of interactive or web-based projects must discuss their project with an Investment/Development Manager to explore what development may be possible, before applying for development funding.

Time-critical funding – by invitation only

Producers must consult with an Investment/Development Manager about applying for time-critical funding (including funding for time-critical shooting).  Applications outside of the scheduled rounds can only be made by invitation.

A comprehensive rationale will be required, setting out:

  • what the funding is to be used for

  • why the expenditure is vital to the realisation of the film and

  • why the timing is critical.

Strong marketplace interest, including broadcast, must be demonstrated.

Unsolicited applications will not be accepted for consideration outside a development funding round.

What funding is available?

Applicants may apply for any amount up to $30,000.


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

  • Sole applicants must have at least three ‘eligible credits’ in the role of producer or director.
  • In the case of teams, one of the key principals must have at least three ‘eligible credits’ in their respective role (this may be the producer or director, or an equivalent role relevant to the type of project).

For linear documentaries, and linear projects with multiplatform elements, the three ‘eligible credits’ must include at least two eligible linear documentaries.

For interactive documentaries, the three ‘eligible credits’ must include at least one eligible interactive project equivalent to the one for which funding is sought.

An ‘eligible credit’ under this program must be either

  • a linear documentary,  is 30 minutes or longer in duration, and has:
  • been broadcast by a recognised broadcaster or channel or Commissioning Platform or
  • had a commercial theatrical release or
  • been invited to screen at IDFA, Hot Docs or equivalent.


  • an interactive project which has been publicly released.

Note that corporate, education, training or community access programs are not acceptable credits for eligibility purposes.

Less experienced practitioners may be part of the team, as long as at least one key principal is eligible as above. The intention is not to exclude new talent, but encourage them to team up with more experienced practitioners.

  • Current recipients of funding through Screen Australia’s pre-2014 Enterprise program are not eligible.

In addition:

  • Generally, projects funded under this program may only reapply for further development investment if they have confirmed matching marketplace funds (i.e. from broadcaster(s), distributors, sales agents or other credible marketplace entities), and such applications will be considered in the light of the advancement and the overall viability of the project.

Funding decisions

Applications are considered by Screen Australia executives, with industry specialists consulted as required. Funding decisions will be made against the following criteria:

  • track record and capacity of the creative team including the ability to fund production
  • the strength of the idea and the fit with the aims of quality, culture and/or innovation
  • the appropriateness of the proposed development strategy and use of Screen Australia funds at this stage of development
  • understanding of audience, and pathway to viewers.  

Other factors, including availability of funds, diversity of slate and the gender and cultural diversity of the team may also influence Screen Australia’s funding decisions.

Decisions on applications are final. Screen Australia will advise applicants in writing of the outcome of their application. Where an application is declined, the applicant will be advised of the reason.

Terms of funding

Funding through this program is provided as a limited recourse loan.

Where Screen Australia subsequently provides production funding, its contribution to the development phase will be recognised in the production budget and will become part of Screen Australia’s total funding for the project. Screen Australia’s total contribution will then be treated as a grant or recoupable investment according to the terms of trade and guidelines for production funding.

Where the project goes into production without further Screen Australia support, the development funding provided by Screen Australia is not repayable.


Sector-building Initiatives

Screen Australia will also continue to seek ways to strengthen and advance Australian documentary storytelling and its practitioners through special initiatives such as workshops, forums and other events, conducted by Screen Australia or in partnership with state bodies, industry organisations or other entities.

Stay in touch via Screen Australia’s e-news, like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.

See Also

Indigenous documentary development (for Indigenous documentary makers)