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Review of Documentary Funding

At the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) in February 2014, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason launched a comprehensive review of the agency’s documentary programs, aiming to explore the best ways to support Australian documentary into the future, in particular how to:

  • remain responsive to a rapidly changing production and distribution environment
  • reach and engage with audiences on all platforms
  • improve the contestability of funds
  • support low-budget documentary
  • streamline Screen Australia's administration of documentary funding.

During AIDC, a plenary session involving all delegates, open round-tables and specific stakeholder engagement, led into six weeks of public consultation. During this phase of consultation 25 written submissions were received – most of which are available here

The documentary and strategy teams then sought views on proposed models from a range of filmmakers, practitioners, commissioners and decision makers leading up to the release of draft guidelines for industry comment.

Round 2 draft guidelines released

On 19 September, we released a second draft of the guidelines, reflecting many of the ideas from the documentary community that came in through written submissions and discussion over the previous six months. Find out more

Consultation extended

On 30 July 2014, Screen Australia advised that the review process would be extended to accommodate further industry consultation, and the existing program guidelines would continue in place for the remainder of 2014.

Industry submissions raised a number of issues and further matters for consideration.

“It is important to ensure our funding levers help great stories to reach existing and new audiences which will in turn promote sector growth,” CEO Graeme Mason said in announcing the extension.  

“We don’t have the resources to fund every documentary so it is critical that we take the necessary time to further review our policy settings. Further discussion and consideration will take place prior to the publication of amended draft guidelines in late August/early September. We will then aim to finalise guidelines in early October for a 1 January 2015 start date,” he said.

Draft guidelines

Draft guidelines for a new suite of documentary programs were released for industry comment on 16 June 2014, along with background on the the key elements of the proposed programs.

The draft guidelines acknowledge the diverse views that emerged during the consultation and reaffirm Screen Australia’s commitment to its role and function in the complex and evolving documentary production ecosystem. The aim is to ensure our support is properly calibrated for the future.

Download draft guidelines

Submissions were open until 18 July 2014. Read submissions received

Discussion paper

A discussion paper was released on 4 March 2014.

Download discussion paper

Written submssions were invited until 4 April 2014. Read submissions received

The discussion paper set out key data on Australian documentary production, along with an overview of the production environment, a description of Screen Australia’s current funding and support mechanisms and some of the issues that the agency, and broader industry, will need to take into account in helping build the Australian documentary sector into the future.

We invited comment particularly focused on the questions below, but encouraged participation beyond this where relevant to the purpose of the discussion.

  • Are specific targeted programs such as the current suite of documentary programs efficient and effective?
  • How can Screen Australia best support low-budget documentary making?
  • How can high-end documentaries reach the broadest possible audience?
  • Should Screen Australia continue to offer separate theatrical funding for documentaries or should it create one funding program for ‘premium’ documentaries, regardless of platform?
  • Could a requirement for marketplace commitment be met in ways other than a broadcaster presale?
  • If so, what sort of indicators of audience reach and engagement could Screen Australia reasonably expect filmmakers to provide for their projects?
  • What are the impacts (positive and negative) on the industry of the notional broadcaster funding allocations which currently apply to the NDP and GDP? Should these be revised?
  • In making decisions about whether to invest in projects, what considerations should be prioritised (eg cultural, innovation, audience reach)?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of Screen Australia accepting applications in rounds versus at any time?