Television and online
General Drama Production
Screen Australia aims to support the creation of a diverse slate of quality, innovative, original, culturally significant small-screen storytelling that resonates with contemporary audiences.
We are mindful that new online platforms are entering the commissioned arena and recognise that accessibility to content on a wide variety of platforms provides strong opportunities for audience engagement.
Accordingly it is expected that appropriate consideration be paid to each platform (as outlined below in Marketplace Attachments).
The following guidelines apply to all productions made primarily for broadcast or subscription television, VOD platform or similar (with or without an associated catch up service), but specifically excludes theatrical projects qualifying for the 40 per cent Producer Offset and productions which fit under the parameters of Screen Australia’s Multiplatform Drama Guidelines.
For the purpose of these Guidelines the term Commissioning Platform includes a free-to-air or subscription television broadcaster and/or newer online platforms such as subscription video on demand (SVOD).
All projects must have a Commissioning Platform attached at the time of application.
For projects to be considered eligible for Screen Australia funding the agreement with the Commissioning Platform must reflect the terms and conditions in these guidelines, including minimum licence fee requirements.
Investment and slate management principles
In an environment where the Producer Offset provides the primary means of Government support for projects with commercial potential, Screen Australia’s investment and slate management principles are governed by its enabling legislation, the Screen Australia Act 2008, to:
"ensure the development of a diverse range of Australian programs that deal with matters of national interest or importance to Australians, or that illustrate or interpret aspects of Australia or the life and activities of Australian people."
In this context, and given the need to allocate its limited funds fairly and effectively, Screen Australia manages its slate in collaboration with producers and Commissioning Platforms, according to the following principles:
- Consultation with producers and Commissioning Platforms about the year’s slate and upcoming priorities
- Recognition of Commissioning Platforms’ expertise in connecting with audiences as part of their commissioning processes
- Reserving the right to make investment decisions based on published criteria that reflect the requirements of the Screen Australia Act, including placing an emphasis on programs with a high level of artistic and cultural merit and promoting the development of commercially focused screen production businesses.
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.
These guidelines encapsulate what Screen Australia refers to as General drama and Children’s programs.
Note: Children’s programs can be animation or live action, preschool, drama or factual and do not have to be a ‘P’ or ‘C’ program as classified by the ACMA. However, the primary audience for the content must be children, as opposed to families generally. Given the particular challenges and opportunities involved in producing television programs for children (including the difficulties Commissioning Platforms have in monetising content) both funding strands have discrete eligibility requirements – including different licence fees and funding caps.
Gender Matters Attachment Scheme:
Screen Australia is running a pilot attachment program in the financial year 2016-17 under the Gender Matters Initiative.
Participation is automatic for productions that apply for more than $500,000 investment from Screen Australia across scripted drama projects (Feature and General & Children’s TV).
If the Screen Australia ask in your finance plan is over $500,000 please access the Gender Matters Attachment Scheme Information for Producers here.
What funding is available?
Screen Australia will not contribute more than 40 per cent of the total budget, inclusive of any Producer Offset amount, other than in exceptional circumstances.
Further, Screen Australia investment is capped at $2 million in any one general drama, other than in exceptional circumstances.
For official co-productions the 40 per cent cap applies only to the Australian component of the budget.
Please refer to the website for further information on the General drama program and application deadlines.
Who can apply?
General drama of any broadcast format is eligible for this program, including telemovies, telemovie packages and series (no distinction is drawn between series and mini-series).
A compelling case must be demonstrated for Screen Australia to fund more than 26 viewing hours of any one project, including multiple series (whether or not they have been funded by Screen Australia). It would be expected that Screen Australia’s contribution to subsequent series for any such projects would be significantly smaller than any contribution for the original series.
Applicants and projects must meet the general eligibility requirements set out in Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade, as well as the specific requirements of these guidelines. 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.
Specific requirements apply to projects where there is Indigenous community participation or content involved.
Given that new online platforms are entering the commissioned drama arena, Screen Australia is open to engaging with producers should any of these platforms seek to directly commission Australian content.
Screen Australia requires a local presale of at least $440,000 per broadcast hour from a Commissioning Platform on terms agreeable to Screen Australia and otherwise in accordance with all relevant industry agreements.
A presale at the minimum licence fee must not include:
- any equity component for the Commissioning Platform;
- broadcast 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 broadcaster.
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 has the effect of undermining the minimum licence fee requirement.
The producer will also need to be able to demonstrate that they are able to engage cast to match the requirements of the Commissioning Platform.
In addition to the local presale, Screen Australia will normally require a recognised and appropriate sales agent for ROW to be attached on all projects financed under the General drama program.
Information for all applicants
What materials do you need to apply?
Applications must be made on the relevant application form, and include all supporting material listed on that form.
Incomplete applications will not be accepted. This includes those without finalised finance plans in place with associated letters of offer.
Budgets can be presented in the A-Z Budget format, available from the Screen Australia website, or in Movie Magic or EP format. Fees should comply with industry standards. They will be considered in the context of the budget and track record of the personnel.
Budgets must include:
- Contingency: Allowance for a contingency of 10 per cent of the total below the line costs.
- Overheads: Production company overheads are capped at 5 per cent of the company’s total expenditure on the project, or $500,000, whichever is the lesser amount.
- Completion Guarantor: An allowance should be made for a completion guarantor unless Screen Australia agrees otherwise in writing.
- Promotions and marketing: Costs for promotions and marketing should be incorporated from the outset. Line items for specific promotional materials must include professional stills photography and press kit.
- Delivery to digital platform: Screen Australia now considers it as standard that the budget is sufficient to allow for all necessary online delivery requirements.
- Delivery items: Producers must budget for all relevant deliverables, including for Screen Australia, the NFSA, sales company deliverables and other delivery items as required. For more information see Terms of Trade.
Official co-productions & the Producer Offset:
Projects approved as official co-productions are eligible for, but not automatically guaranteed, direct Screen Australia support.
Important: You do not need to have lodged an application for your Producer Offset Provisional Certificate at the time of applying to the funding round unless specifically requested by your Investment Manager. In most cases producers will be able to wait to see whether or not their project has been successful for funding before applying for a certificate, saving time and application fees. However, if you are approved for funding you will need to lodge your application and receive your certification prior to contract execution.
Producer Offset and Co-production provisional approvals must not be more than two years old (from the date of your application for Production Investment). If approvals were granted over two years ago, a reassessment by the POCU will be required before Screen Australia can accept the application
See Producer Offset & Co-production Programs for further information.
Foreign actors - Screen Australia encourages producers to engage with the Foreign Actor Certification Scheme (FACS) process early if they intend to bring foreign actors into Australia to be a part of any production. Separate to any requirement from Screen Australia, a production must meet the requirements of this scheme.
What is the assessment process?
Applications are considered by Screen Australia executives, with industry specialists consulted as required. Funding recommendations will be made at a meeting chaired by the CEO and composed of relevant Screen Australia staff.
Decisions for recommended projects requesting more than $1 million will be made by the Board. Decisions for recommended projects requesting $1 million or less may be made by the CEO.
Investment decisions will be made against the following criteria, and in the context of the slate management principles:
- the quality of the proposal including its innovative and/or cultural significance;
- the project’s potential to connect with its target audience;
- the track record and capacity of the creative team;
- the strength of the marketplace e.g. any ROW sales agent and the level of co-finance (excluding Screen Australia and the state agencies);
- diversity of slate.
Other factors including the gender and cultural diversity of team may also influence Screen Australia’s funding decisions.
Preference will be given to original formats over programs based on foreign formats.
Decisions on applications 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.
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.
What is the contracting process?
To help streamline the contracting process, Screen Australia has developed core conditions for its Production Investment Agreement (PIA) and Production Grant Agreement (PGA). The complete agreement will comprise the core conditions together with a series of schedules.
How it works:
- The core conditions in place at the time a project is approved for funding will apply.
- The goal is to keep the core conditions unchanged, with any exemptions addressed in the Special Conditions Schedule.
- Once all schedules are agreed to, the schedules and the core conditions will be merged into one fully executed pdf with approved budget and drawdown schedule (if applicable).
You can download the core conditions for agreements from the Screen Australia website.
Contact an Investment Manager
Before applying to Screen Australia for production funding, it is essential that you contact an Investment Manager to discuss your project. Call the Program Operations team if you are unsure who to speak with. We also encourage you to contact the Program Operations team before you submit your application to discuss any eligibility questions and ensure all the required supporting material is in place. This will mean we can process your application as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Program Operations: 1800 507 901