DOCUMENTARy Commissioned Program
The Commissioned program is designed to support the production of a diverse range of quality documentaries made primarily for free-to-air or subscription television broadcast, VOD platform or similar (Commissioning Platforms), that offer a compelling vision and have clear enduring cultural value beyond their initial availability.
The program targets projects at least a commercial half-hour in duration, with a minimum budget of $250,000 per hour, and a confirmed local commission.
Screen Australia aims to fund 30–40 hours of content a year through this program.
Post-production funding: Applications for matched post-production funding will be considered up to a maximum of $100,000, provided that the project has a post- production presale to a domestic commission with a licence fee of at least $50,000 per commercial hour.
What funding is available?
Program funds will be allocated across all suitable Commissioning Platforms. (Note: Projects with local market place attachments may also be funded through the Producer Program.)
Any amount up to $1 million may be requested per project. However, the amount of direct Screen Australia support is limited so that total Federal Government funds, including the Producer Offset or Producer Equity payment where relevant, do not account for more than 75 per cent of the project’s total budget.
Co-funding with state agencies, other government organisations, cultural institutions, private investors or other partners is encouraged, and the assessment process will take into account the level of Screen Australia funding requested as a proportion of the overall budget
Applicants and projects must meet the general eligibility requirements under Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade.
In addition, the project that is the subject of the application must:
- be a documentary, comprising a single episode at least a commercial half hour in duration, or a series of any number of episodes at least a commercial half hour in total duration
- have an approved budget/finance plan of at least $250,000 per hour
- be intended for distribution via a Commissioning Platform with the required presale confirmed
Both one-off documentaries and series are eligible. However, more than 15 commercial hours of any one project, which may include multiple series, will not be eligible for funding unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.
Foreign formats are eligible but priority is given to original material.
A local presale for an Australian Commissioning Platform with a minimum licence fee as follows:
- $180,000 per hour, where Screen Australia funding is more than $500,000
- $150,000 per hour, where Screen Australia funding is $500,000 or less
- $100,000 per hour, where at least 10 per cent of the budget comprises:
- advances from sales agents for the international market, and/or
- international territory presales
irrespective of the level of the Screen Australia funding.
A presale at the minimum licence fee must not include:
- any equity component for the Commissioning Platform;
- Broadcast or streaming rights for New Zealand or another Rest of World (ROW) territory;
- subscription television rights (if the presale is to a free-to-air broadcaster), or free-to-air rights (if the presale is to subscription television);
- transmission via another platform - for example SVOD, transactional video on demand or other online platforms if they are not the originating Commissioning Platform;
- distribution rights for Australia or a ROW territory;
It can include a genuine ‘catch up’ service associated with a Commissioning Platform.
If a Commissioning Platform wishes to exploit additional rights such as SVOD, Screen Australia expects the parties to negotiate in good faith for a payment to the producer which is reasonable in all the circumstances.
The Commissioning Platform must not enter into any agreements with the producer (or a related entity) that has the effect of undermining the minimum licence fee requirement.
Screen Australia will not finance programs where the project has been developed by a Commissioning Platform and sub-contracted at a later stage to a producer, except where chain of title resides with the producer.
In addition, Screen Australia expects key creatives (producer, writer, director, director of photography, editor) to be sourced from the freelance market and not from the staff of the Commissioning Platform.
Application process and materials
You must apply using the online application portal available on the Screen Australia website, providing all the materials set out on that form.
Applications can be submitted at any time. All documentation should be in place at the time of submission, including all signed licences and agreements (in short form at least). For projects that have also applied for state agency funding, the state agency decision must be made within 4 weeks of the date your application is submitted to Screen Australia to as eligible for assessment. Decisions made in approximately 8 weeks.
Pathways to audience
For this program, projects must have commitment from a local Commissioning Platform in place, and a copy of the relevant agreement must be included in the application.
However, enhancing audience reach through new pathways is also encouraged. This could involve:
- demonstrated community of interest in topic
- access to an existing database and promotional channels
- existing and potential partnerships with organisations tied to significant communities of interest
- analytics of audience engagement in existing related content and platforms (e.g. websites, social media channels and trailers).
Marketing plans can demonstrate how these new pathways will enhance the project’s audience – and ongoing revenue potential where relevant – by providing detail on relevant mailing lists, audience analytics, and/or any existing partnerships with relevant similar interest organisations.
As a ‘last in’ investor to a Commissioned program project, Screen Australia acknowledges that other parties, including the Commissioning Platform, have already committed funds to the project. However, Screen Australia’s resources are limited, and not all projects can be supported.
In line with its investment and slate management principles, Screen Australia reserves the right to provide less funding than the amount requested, or to decline funding altogether, based on the following criteria:
- The relevance of the project to Screen Australia’s objectives, which are to support:
- Quality: premium Australian content that resonates with contemporary audiences in a global marketplace
- Cultural value: screen stories that shape our cultural imagination, contribute to our national belonging, and create an enduring legacy for all Australians now and into the future
- Innovation: risk-taking and creativity that grows and evolves content across different forms and business models.
- The appropriateness of the amount requested from Screen Australia, taking into account:
- the size and viability of the project’s budget
- the contributions and investment positions of other parties, including the producer, and international finance where relevant
- the Screen Australia funds available.
- The track record and capacity of the creative team.
Diversity of the slate as well as the gender and cultural diversity of the team will also be taken into account, reflecting Screen Australia’s aim to support Australian content across a variety of subjects, styles and approaches and viewpoints.
Applications will be considered by Screen Australia executives, and decisions 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
Where Screen Australia’s total contribution (including any development funds) is $500,000 or under, funding will be in the form of a grant:
- Screen Australia does not take a share of receipts from projects funded under a grant, which means the funds do not have to be repaid other than in circumstances set out in the Terms of Trade.
- The amount of the Screen Australia grant will be agreed upfront and not varied, other than in exceptional circumstances.
- Screen Australia does not require a share of copyright in productions that it funds under a grant.
Where Screen Australia’s total contribution (including any development funds) is more than $500,000, funding will be in the form of recoupable equity investment, with copyright and recoupment terms in accordance with the agency’s Terms of Trade.