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Production
Producer Program

The intention of the Producer program is to provide producers with the flexibility to drive projects both creatively and commercially, with Screen Australia funding as the foundation for growing and securing deals.

The program is designed to support innovative documentaries with a strong creative vision in the context of today’s evolving media and distribution landscape and the commercial realities of increasingly fragmented sources of finance.

It supports one-off documentaries and series intended for broadcast, festival, theatrical, online and Virtual Reality audiences. Minimum budget is $125,000 per hour or $125,000 in total for non-linear projects.

Screen Australia aims to fund 20–30 hours of content a year through this program.
Marketplace commitment is not required at application but projects will need to demonstrate a highly developed understanding of how they will reach and engage their target market and audience. See ‘Pathways to audience’

Please Note: It is a condition of this funding program that successful applications will have all finance in place within four months from the date of confirmation of Screen Australia approval. It is understood that some funding approvals will lapse because they cannot confirm finance within this time frame.

What funding is available?

Any amount up to $750,000 may be requested. For projects eligible for the Producer Equity program (PEP), the PEP payment will automatically form part of the Screen Australia contribution. Producers who have a genuine cinematic feature that may require a larger investment should talk to Screen Australia as soon as possible about their project.

There are no limits on the proportion of the budget Screen Australia can contribute under this program.

Other sources of finance are encouraged and the assessment process will take into account the level of Screen Australia funding requested as a proportion of the overall budget. Contributions might come from marketplace entities, as well as from state agencies, other government organisations, cultural institutions, international sources, private investors, philanthropy or other partners.

The program is open to applications for post-production as well as production. Screen Australia may decide to provide funding at a different level than that applied for based on the assessment of the project. We may also refer the project to a different funding program but applicants will be required to reapply under the guidelines of that specific program.

A minimum of 20 per cent of program funds will be reserved for projects with international finance. There is no required minimum level of international finance for a project to form part of these funds.

Who can apply?

In order to be competitively assessed for funding through this program, 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: Please refer to the ACMA guidelines for the definition of a documentary.
  • be intended for public release
  • have a total budget of at least $125,000 per hour (or $125,000 in total for non-linear projects)
  • not be 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 programs, or community access programs or projects whose primary market is the education sector

Both one-off documentaries and series are eligible. More than 15 broadcast 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, although the assessment criteria will take originality of format into account.

The creative team responsible for the project must:

  • include one producer, director or writer who has at least two ‘eligible credits’ in their respective role.

For linear documentaries, and linear projects with multiplatform elements, an ‘eligible credit’ is a linear documentary that is 30 minutes or longer in duration, and has:

  • been broadcast by a recognised Commissioning Platform or channel, or
  • had a commercial theatrical release, or
  • been invited to screen at IDFA, Hot Docs or equivalent.

For interactive documentaries, an ‘eligible credit’ must be an equivalent project which has been publicly released.

Note that 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 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 and form a genuine collaboration.

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 including the producer, writer, director, director of photography and editor to be sourced from the freelance market and not from the staff of the Commissioning Platform.

What is the process?

The assessment process is in two stages.

STAGE 1 – EXPRESSION OF INTEREST (EOI)

You must apply using the expression of interest application on the Application Portal, providing the following materials:

  • a three-to-five-page proposal including:
  • an outline or treatment of the proposed documentary project making clear reference to structure, characters, and stylistic and visual approach. See What is a synopsis? An outline? A treatment?, and
  • the key creatives’ vision for the project and how they plan to get it made and seen.
  • 200-word bios and CVs for the creative team – the producer, writer and director, or equivalent key roles relevant to the project, and any other confirmed Heads of Department ie DOP, editor, etc.
  • if available, sample footage or sizzle reel maximum five minutes. Vimeo link preferred. If the footage or reel is password protected, please limit to 3 letters.
  • optional, a simple talk-to-camera ‘video pitch’ of no more than two minutes, where key creatives present their vision for the project. The pitch must be downloadable and password protected with the same password as the sample footage or sizzle reel. Vimeo link preferred.

Applications will be considered by Screen Australia executives and/or industry specialists as required. Documentary specialists are listed on the Screen Australia website.

Eligible expression of interest applications will be considered for shortlisting against the following criteria:

  • Track record and capacity of the creative team
  • Creative strength of the project, including:
  • the concept/idea: its distinctiveness and clarity of objectives,
  • the proposed realisation: level of boldness or innovation,
  • cultural impact: its potential to create an impact beyond the first viewing, i.e. to inspire debate, insight or reflection, and/or create an enduring legacy for future generations with local and where appropriate international audiences.

Applicants will normally be notified in writing approximately 4 weeks after the closing date as to whether their application has been shortlisted. Stage one decisions are final. Due to the number of applications we receive we do not have the resources to provide extensive feedback to unsuccessful Stage one applicants.

STAGE 2

If your project is shortlisted you will be sent an invitation to submit a further application for Stage 2 via the Application Portal which must include:

  • a treatment of no more than 5-10 pages
  • a detailed budget using the standard Screen Australia A-Z Budget format and budget summary. Fees should comply with industry standards. They will be considered in the context of the budget and track record of the key creatives and crew
  • a draft finance plan using the Screen Australia template, indicating which sources of financing are confirmed by placing an ‘X’ in the column on the left.
  • a one-paragraph narrative that explains the status of financial commitments to-date and how you intend to secure the remaining funds needed to make up your budget.
  • ASIC company extract no more than 28 days old
  • where available you can provide visual material, such as rushes - no longer than 5 minutes in duration - or if you are applying for post-production funding, a rough cut of the film. Vimeo link preferred.

In addition, or if your project is successful and prior to a letter of approval being issued you may be asked to supply:

  • a marketing and release plan (at least one page), including, as relevant, broadcast, film festival pathway, theatrical release and/or innovative distribution strategy (see Pathways to audience)
  • a production schedule and methodology, including appropriate milestones
  • evidence of any confirmed sources of finance or marketplace commitment
  • where there is Indigenous community participation or content involved in the project:
  • a statement setting out how you are approaching the Indigenous content or participation with regard to appropriate protocols, even if the content is not specific to a particular community or individual. You must demonstrate that you have a consultation plan covering the full production process and are following it. The statement should be based on the checklists available in Screen Australia’s guide Pathways & Protocols: a film maker’s guide to working with Indigenous people, culture and concepts
  • evidence of consultation to date
  • if the project will involve particular Indigenous individuals or communities, signed letters of consent confirming their willingness to participate.

Please note materials, including all AV materials, will not be returned, so applicants must ensure they keep copies of everything.

The deadline to submit your materials for Stage 2 will be advised on the invitation email but is normally within 2 weeks.

Shortlisted applications will be considered against the following equally weighted criteria:

  • Creative strength of the project, including:
  • the concept/idea: its distinctiveness, originality of format, clarity of objectives
  • the proposed realisation: depth of research, boldness of approach or level of innovation, and
  • quality of the submitted production materials: script, treatment, footage, Proof of Concept (POC), etc as relevant
  • The project’s relevance and resonance to audiences, including such factors as:
  • cultural significance for Australians
  • potential to create an impact beyond its first viewing – i.e. to inspire debate insight or reflection and/or create an enduring legacy for future generations
  • ability to engage, challenge, entertain, inform and/or enlighten
  • Viability of the project, including:
  • understanding of audience, release plan and demonstrated pathway to viewers
  • viability of the budget
  • strength of the finance plan, including the amount requested from Screen Australia as a proportion of the total budget, and the international component where relevant revenue potential.
  • Track record and capacity of the creative team.

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 at 2nd stage, 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 Stage 2

Projects must be able to demonstrate a clear pathway to audience as part of their Stage 2 application. There should always be a credible pathway to Australian audiences, even for international projects. For content with traditional marketplace attachments such as broadcast presales, festival investment or distributor guarantees, relevant agreements or letters of interest should be provided at Stage 2 only.

For non-traditional attachments, a described pathway to audience could involve:

  • demonstrated community of interest in topic
  • marketing plans
  • existing database and promotional channels
  • existing and potential partnerships with organisations tied to significant communities of interest
  • analytics of audience engagement in existing program related content and platforms (e.g. websites, social media channels and trailers).

For example, a VOD release on an obscure website would not be sufficient by itself. You would need to support this with proof of an established community of interest or audience being driven to the website by a marketing campaign.

Applicants proposing alternative pathways should submit copies of any marketing plans as well as provide detail on relevant mailing lists, audience analytics and/or existing partnerships with organisations.

Terms of funding

Screen Australia will email confirmation of approval to successful applicants, to allow producers to complete the project’s finance plan. This letter will set out the amount of Screen Australia’s contribution, which will not be varied other than in exceptional circumstances. The producer needs to secure the total finance plan, or have a revised and achievable finance plan and budget approved by Screen Australia, within four months from the date of confirmation of approval. Where relevant, Provisional Producer Offset certification will also need to be obtained before funds can be released.

Note that Screen Australia will not be able to give unlimited extensions to producers to secure their finance and it’s expected that some funding approvals will lapse.

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.