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Documentary Development

This program seeks to provide practitioners with the opportunity to create appropriate written and/or visual materials to ensure that projects are as strong as possible when competing for production finance. Emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander producers are encouraged to apply.

What funding is available?

  • Up to $30,000 for one-off feature and series documentaries intended for a Commissioning Platform
  • Up to $20,000 for one-hour television documentaries 
  • Up to $20,000 for online series productions

Funding is available for the further development of a treatment and/or draft scripts, series bible, project development as well as fees for writer, producer, director, story consultant, research, and/or securing production financing.

Only in exceptional circumstances would we consider funding outside of these amounts.

Who can apply?

Applicants and their projects must meet the general eligibility requirements set out in Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade in addition to the following:

  • A sole applicant;
  • must be an Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander key creative  (writer, producer or director). 
  • A writer and/or director must have at least one ‘eligible documentary credit’ in the role they apply with.
  • The producer (where attached) must be either: 
  • An ‘experienced producer’, or 
  • A producer who has at least two eligible documentary credits’, or 
  • An emerging producer applying in conjunction with an experienced producer (if applying in a team). 
  • If applying with a team:
  • The same minimum credit requirements for writer, producer or director apply as mentioned above for sole applicants.  In addition;
  • The director (where attached) and any co-directors must be Australian Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander person
  • In the case of co-writing teams, made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers, the original concept must come from the First Nations Australian  writer. This must be shown in the application.

An ‘eligible documentary credit’ under this program must be either:

  • a linear documentary, is 30 minutes or longer in duration, and has:

  • been broadcast by a recognised commissioning platform. (ie broadcaster or channel), or
  • had a commercial theatrical release; or
  • been invited to screen at IDFA, Hot Docs, or equivalent, or
  • an interactive linear documentary which has been publicly released.

  • Where the request includes shooting material, a director must be attached.
  • The project must be a documentary as defined by ACMA.  Screen Australia does not invest in reality or magazine television, light entertainment, panel 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.

Further Funding: Any application for further development funding after the first tranche will only be considered if the project has at least a letter of interest from a Commissioning Platform, and such applications will be considered in the light of the advancement and the overall viability of the project.

Outstanding applicants or projects that emerge through the First Nations Department’s Special Initiatives may be invited to apply to this program. This provides the opportunity for First Nations practitioners to access single-project development funds even where minimum credit requirements are not satisfied.

What is the process?

Applications can be lodged via the Application Portal. Turnaround time for decisions after deadline is approximately six weeks.

Applications are assessed by Screen Australia executives and/or industry specialists as required. Screen Australia will advise applicants in writing of the outcome of their application.

Funding decisions will be made against the following equally weighted criteria:

  • the track record and capacity of the creative team including the ability to fund production
  • the strength and distinctiveness of the idea and creative approach
  • the appropriateness of the proposed development strategy and use of Screen Australia funds at this stage of development
  • the understanding of audience and pathways to viewers.

Terms of funding

Funding through this program is provided as a grant.

If a project has received development funding from Screen Australia and proceeds to production investment with Screen Australia finance, the previous funding must be recognised in the production budget (as an above-the-line cost) and will become part of Screen Australia’s total investment in the project. Where the project goes into production without Screen Australia funding, Screen Australia may require the producer to repay the development funding previously provided by Screen Australia in order to acquire any copyright interest held by Screen Australia. See the Terms of Trade for more information.

Rights and Chain of Title: You must list all of your Chain of Title documents in the application form.   If you are applying for funding which is $50,000 or under in total Screen Australia funds for this project, you will not be required to submit any Chain of Title documents for any applications submitted.  If over the course of the development tranches, you receive over $50,000 combined, you will be required to submit a solicitor’s opinion letter.