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Review of Feature film production funding

On 6 March 2012, as part of its ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its funding programs, Screen Australia released for industry comment revised guidelines for Letters of Interest and feature film production investment.

The aim was to:

  • provide more flexibility by making Letters of Interest available at an earlier stage in the financing process so that producers can respond to marketplace feedback without already being locked into deals

  • consider financing decisions at more Board meetings per year, reducing the need for producers to submit a project before it’s ready just to make a deadline

  • make best use of the time and skills of senior Screen Australia staff and external industry specialists, at the same time as creating opportunities to take diverse opinions into account, from both inside and outside the organisation

  • provide a transparent and well-understood process that acknowledges the complexity of feature film financing.

Download draft guidelines

Final guidelines were issued on 24 April 2012.

The key changes compared to the original guidelines are summarised below.

Key changes

Letters of Interest (LOI):

  • Letters of Interest are more clearly targeted to reflect Screen Australia’s interest in the potential of a project.

  • An application for a Screen Australia Letter of Interest can be made when the screenplay is at a very advanced stage of development (for example, ready to cast but still one draft away from shooting), and will require only a firm letter of interest from a domestic distributor.

  • Letter of Interest applications will be considered against different criteria from production investment applications, using a more streamlined process. LOI applications will be considered by a Screen Australia Development Executive, a Screen Australia Investment Manager and an external industry specialist, taking into account an external reader’s report. Their recommendations will then be considered by the Head of Production Investment and Head of Development, who will together recommend whether or not the application should be approved.

  • Once a Letter of Interest is issued, Screen Australia expects its currency to be determined by the marketplace. There will be no specified expiry date, although Screen Australia anticipates that any subsequent application for production investment will be submitted within 12 months of the date of the letter.

  • If a project is unsuccessful in applying for a Letter of Interest, the producer will be able to:
    – apply once more for a Letter of Interest after six months have elapsed from the date of the decision, or
    – apply for production investment at any time, once the finance plan has been confirmed (applicants should note, however, that unless the project has changed substantially and the reasons the LOI application was unsuccessful have been addressed, it’s unlikely that Screen Australia will choose to invest).

  • If a project is unsuccessful twice, any further applications (whether for Letter of Interest or production investment) would be deemed ineligible, other than in exceptional circumstances. 

Production investment:

  • Finance must be in place at time of application: there is no separate deadline for a confirmed finance plan. Applications for production investment without finance in place will not be accepted. However, eight financing meetings during the year, rather than four, means producers can hold off applying until they are ready, without compromising their project. The annual feature film allocation will be spread across the year in quarterly budgets to be applied to the Board meetings that fall into that quarter.

  • Investment criteria have been refined.

  • The two external industry specialists will be joined by the Head of Development and Head of Production in meeting with applicant teams as part of the consideration process. Find out more about Screen Australia's use of industry specialists.

  • Unless the project has previously been rejected for a Letter of Interest, a project which is unsuccessful can be re-submitted for production investment once more whenever the producer feels it is ready. As noted above, if a project is unsuccessful twice, any further applications would be deemed ineligible, other than in exceptional circumstances.

There is no change to any other aspects of the guidelines, including funding caps or market attachment requirements for production finance.

Producer liaison

One of Screen Australia’s Drama Investment Managers, Sally Browning, Mark Lazarus or Tim Phillips, will be assigned to the project and will continue to remain the producer’s primary contact throughout the process once a project is under consideration.