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FIRST NATIONS
Documentary Production 

MESSAGE FROM SCREEN AUSTRALIA'S CEO REGARDING COVID-19: CLICK HERE.

 

This program seeks to support strong and distinctive documentary projects primarily to assist in the professional development of the key creative team.

What funding is available?

Limited funding is available through this program to support the production and/or post-production of one-off documentaries, documentary series or factual multiplatform projects. Funding is designed to complete the project, not a stage of production.

There are no limits on the proportion of the budget Screen Australia can contribute under this program. However, 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 overall budget. Contributions might come from marketplace entities (eg broadcasters), as well as from state agencies, other government organisations, cultural institutions, international sources, private investors or other partners.

Producer Equity Program

Note that producers of eligible low-budget documentaries with approved budget/finance plans of $125,000 to $500,000 in total can also apply for a direct payment of funds equal to 20 per cent of the approved budget through the Producer Equity 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 broadcaster with a licence fee of at least $30,000 per broadcast hour or part thereof.

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:

Applicants

  • An application must be from a producer on behalf of a team, including a writer and director, or writer/director.
  • The director must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian.
  • 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.
  • The producer or the director must have at least one eligible documentary credit.
  • To be an ‘eligible documentary credit’ under this program, a project must be a broadcast half hour or longer and have:
    – been broadcast by a recognised broadcaster or channel; or
    – had a commercial theatrical release; or
    – been invited to screen at IDFA, Hot Docs or equivalent.
    Note that credits must fall within the definition of ‘documentary’ set out on page 4. Corporate, education, training, sports, news programs etc are not acceptable.

Projects

  • can be a one-off or series linear 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
  • 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.
  • must be intended for distribution via a Commissioning Platform with the required presale confirmed. See below.
  • not be more than 26 broadcast hours of any one project, which may include multiple series.

Presale requirements

A domestic presale for Australian Commissioning Platform is required, 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;
  • 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.

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, cinematographer, editor) to be sourced from the freelance market and not from the staff of the Commissioning Platform.

No international marketplace attachments are required but producers are encouraged to develop a marketing strategy for international sales.

What is the assessment process?

Applications are by invitation only. Contact a First Nations Investment Manager to discuss your project or the Program Operations team if you are unsure who to speak with: 1 800 507 901 or [email protected]

If you are invited to apply you will be asked to submit your application using the Application Portal 

Turnaround time for decisions is approximately eight weeks.

Refer to the website for a downloadable materials checklist. 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.

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

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

  • Script/treatment/outline: The script, treatment, outline and project materials according to: (i) the strength and distinctiveness of the idea; (ii) the quality of the writing; (iii) readiness of the script or treatment to proceed into production.
  • Creative team: The producer, director, writer according to: (i) evidence of skills, relevant experience and achievements which demonstrate either an established successful track record or exciting new talent; and (ii) their demonstrated creative, technical and managerial capacity to deliver the project.
  • Project: The project’s potential in relation to: (i) the creative team’s demonstrated understanding of the intended audience; (ii) the creative team’s vision for the project; (iii) the proposed participants.
  • Viability: Screen Australia will consider (i) the viability of the proposed budget in relation to achieving the creative team’s stated goals and vision for the project; (ii) the viability of the proposed financing structure including the amount requested from Screen Australia as a proportion of the total budget; and (iii) the production schedule.

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.

Budget requirements

Format: Budgets must be presented in the A-Z Budget format, using the Screen Australia template. Fees should comply with industry norms. They will be considered in the context of the budget and track record of the key creatives and crew.

Production budgets must include:

  • Contingency: Contingency is set at 10 per cent.
  • Completion Guarantor: Screen Australia reserves the right to require a completion guarantor.
  • Delivery items: Allowance must be made for delivery items specified for Screen Australia, the Commissioning Platform and NFSA, as well as for sales company deliverables and other delivery items as required. See Terms of Trade for details.
  • Study guides: The cost of a study guide must be included in the budget as a line item of $2,500 per hour. If the publisher decides not to create a study guide, the $2,500 can be applied to marketing expenses. The producer must seek Screen Australia’s approval of the choice of publisher (ATOM is pre- approved).
  • Promotions and marketing: Budgets should allocate an appropriate marketing spend fit for purpose.

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.

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.