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Production
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 of at least a commercial half-hour in duration, with a minimum budget of $250,000 per hour, and a confirmed domestic commission.

Screen Australia aims to fund 30–40 hours of content a year through this program.

What funding is available?

Program funds will be allocated across all suitable Commissioning Platforms.

Any amount up to $1 million may be requested per project. The amount of direct Screen Australia support is limited so that total Federal Government funds, including the Producer Offset or Producer Equity Payment (PEP) 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.

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.

Who can apply?

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 one-off documentary of 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. Please refer to the ACMA guidelines for the definition of a documentary
  • note: Screen Australia does not invest in programs such as reality or magazine television, light entertainment, panel or travel shows, infotainment, current affairs, cooking, ‘how to’, sports, corporate, training, games, extensions to film or TV, or community access programs or projects whose primary market is the education sector
  • 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
  • not be more than 15 commercial hours of any one project, which may include multiple series. Projects longer than 15 commercial hours will not be eligible for funding unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.
  • not be a pilot or standalone episode for a longer series.

Foreign formats are eligible but priority is given to original material.

Presale requirements

A domestic 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 have 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.

What is the process?

You must apply using the Application Portal available on the Screen Australia website, providing all the materials requested.

Applications can be submitted at any time and must include:

  • A complete finance plan using the Screen Australia template
  • All relevant deal memos and agreements in relation to marketing and distribution finance. Please note: a signed & dated deal memo or signed & dated term sheets must be attached for ALL marketplace or equity attachments for every line of the finance plan including offset lender.
  • A detailed budget using the standard Screen Australia A-Z Budget format that matches the finance plan
  • An outline, treatment or script
  • A creative vision statement
  • All relevant cast, presenter, interviewee, access deal memos and/or agreements
  • ASIC company extract no more than 28 days old

In addition, other relevant documents may be required in the Application Portal.

All documentation should be in place at the time of submission.

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 be eligible for assessment.

Decisions will be made in approximately 8 weeks.

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. Nonetheless, 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 equally weighted 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.

Unless invited to reapply (in the context of managing available funds), projects can only be submitted more than once if substantial changes have been made, and any more than two applications for the same project will not be accepted.

Pathways to audience

For this program, projects must have commitment from a domestic Commissioning Platform in place, and a copy of the relevant agreement must be included in the application.

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.

Terms of Funding

INCLUSIVE ATTACHMENT SCHEME

As a condition of Screen Australia production support an above or below the line attachment must be allocated to each project: for example an attachment to a Director, Producer, DOP, Editor or Composer. The attachment should reflect the theme or content of the project: for example Indigenous, ability, gender, LGBTI+, culturally or linguistically diverse. Or the attachment should be targeted at providing experience to emerging practitioners. The costs must be included within your production budget and potential attachments should be discussed with your Investment Manager.

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.

You must list all of your Chain of Title documents in the application and a Solicitor’s Opinion letter will be required for projects requesting $50,000 or over in Screen Australia funding. 

Contact an Investment Manager:

Before applying to Screen Australia for Producer Program funding, it is essential that you contact an Investment Manager to discuss your project. Contact the Program Operations team if you are unsure who to speak with: 1 800 507 901 or email Documentary.