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Story development


Please note these guidelines will cease 31 May 2018. Refer to new draft guidelines here.

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 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 feature film and high-end television funding:

  • Applications must be from one of the following eligible key creatives:
  • a producer with a ‘producing credit’ on behalf of a team involving at least a writer or  writer/director, OR
  • a producer without an eligible credit in partnership with another producer or executive producer who have a minimum of two ‘producing credits’ on behalf of a team involving at least a writer or writer/director, OR
  • an executive producer with at least two ‘producing credits’ on behalf of a team involving at least a writer or writer/director, OR
  • a writer with a ‘writing credit’.  Please see note below, OR
  • a writer/director with a ‘writing credit’.  Please see note below,  OR
  • a director with a ‘directing credit’ in conjunction with a writer. Please see note below, OR
  • a team supported through our Online Production program, OR
  • a team supported through our Brilliant Stories initiatives.
    Note: you can only apply with the same project.

Note: A solo writer, writer/director or director as referred to above must include plans to attach a producer and other key creatives, if and as appropriate, to demonstrate a viable pathway for the project to move into financing and production.

To be eligible for online and interactive funding:

  • Applications must be from one of the following eligible key creatives:
  • an online and interactive drama team who have:
  • received funding through our Online Production program, OR
  • a YouTube channel with a minimum of 100,000 subscribers, OR
  • one video with more than 500,000 views and at least 12,500 subscribers, OR
  • a team supported through our Brilliant Stories Initiative, OR
  • a writer, writer/director, director or producer on behalf of a team who has:
  • received funding from Screen Australia's short fiction programs; OR
  • received an AACTA award nomination for a short fiction film; OR
  • a short fiction film selected to screen at one of the following major international film festivals: Berlin, Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, SXSW, Telluride, Tribeca, Sundance, Venice, BFI London, Annecy, Suttgart, Ottawa, Fantastic Fest, Busan, Sitges or Rotterdam; OR
  • a short fiction film selected in competition to MIFF or the Sydney Film Festival; OR
  • received an award at St Kilda or Flickerfest for a short fiction film including best short film, Indigenous, animation, best screenplay or best director.

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

  • 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.
  • If a project has previously been assessed and declined for funding under Screen Australia’s Story Development, Matched Marketplace Development, Brilliant Stories, Feature Development, Single Draft or predecessor agency feature development funding (or other Screen Australia initiatives) 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 key creatives who are not Australian citizens or Australian residents.
  • Recipients of Enterprise Program funding should refer to the Enterprise Program guidelines and the specific Enterprise agreement regarding their eligibility for this program.

A ‘producing credit’, ‘writing credit’ or ‘directing credit’ is a ‘produced by’, ‘written by’ or ‘directed by’ drama credit on at least:

  • one feature film that has been selected for Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance, Toronto or SXSW, or has received an Academy Award® nomination, OR
  • one feature film released on a minimum of five commercial screens, excluding festival screens, in one major territory, OR
  • one primetime or children’s broadcast mini-series or telemovie shown on a major network, OR
  • three broadcast hours of primetime series or children’s series, OR
  • one mainstage theatre production which has received outstanding critical and/or box office success with a professional mainstage theatre company: 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.
Note: Screen Australia acknowledges the value of a wide variety of festivals and theatre companies. For the purposes of Screen Australia’s story fund eligibility it is the festivals and companies listed above that are recognised

Applicants must also meet the general eligibility requirements set out in Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade. With the exception of official Co-Productions, it is Screen Australia’s expectation that applications for direct funding will demonstrate that the project is written and directed by Australian citizens or residents.

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 company (i.e. broadcaster or 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).
  • Note: if you are applying as a sole writer, director or writer/director, or writer and director team, please also briefly describe the genre and intended target audience, the budget level relative to the potential audience, any marketing and distribution plans, the benefit of the project to the career and business objectives of the team, as well as your plans for attaching a producer.
  • 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) and the benefit of the project to the career and business objectives of the team. 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 company (i.e. broadcaster or 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
  • 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.
  • You must list and warrant all of your Chain of Title documents in the application.If you are successful, you may be required to submit a solicitor’s opinion letter on all Chain of Title documents. If over the course of the development tranches you receive $50,000 or over you will be required to submit a solicitor’s opinion letter if your project is successful.You may request legal fees of up to $1,000 for this opinion letter as part of your application.

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.

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, 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%).

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.

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 cannot be retrospective.

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


Screen Australia can allocate funds to special initiatives through partnerships with the industry as well as specific talent development opportunities from targeted initiatives to help grow the pool of emerging creatives. Past examples include The Girls Initiative and Developing the Developers. Stay in touch via Screen Australia’s e-news, like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.

Please contact the Program Operations team on 1800 507 901 to discuss your proposal before submitting your application.

We receive many more applications than we can support. Inevitably, some applications will be unsuccessful and applicants will be disappointed by this result. However, our decision is final. Specific requirements apply where there is Indigenous community participation or content involved in a project. Please refer to the guidelines.