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Review of programs and operations
Draft Statement of Intent 2008/09
industry comments

Comments received Tuesday 23 September

12.43pm from Eugene Donnini

Dear Screen Australia,

Unlike many aspiring screenwriters, I came to this business without any former training, when, in   2006, and much to my surprise, I received a $10,000 dollar New Screenwriters Program grant from the Australian Film Commission, to develop a small script, based on a book of short stories I’d written, entitled Goin Home. Since that time my script has - like myself - evolved and moved forward, to the point where it has now attracted a producer and the serious interest of several well known directors. 

But it hasn’t been easy…A recent Reading commissioned by Film Vic concluded that the writer understands the language of cinema and the principles of on-screen action - of showing as opposed to telling. The result is that most prized of screenplay diamonds, the absolute page turner… This was the kind of ego injection I needed, after three years of bloody hard work, a few funding rejections and the often irrational demands made upon my time by the Frankenstein bureaucrats down at Centerlink.

But even at this stage, there is no guarantee that my script will further progress. I’m still on the journey - a journey fraught with danger, and from where I’m standing, it seems only the well connected go the distance, and not, in some cases - as the recent crisis in the Australian Film Industry indicates - because of the quality of their work. It is important for Screen Australia to realize, that without a good script, there will be no good movie, and that reputations and star - billing are often not enough to float a sinking ship. 

Scripts should be assessed on their quality and potential alone, with the writer’s name blotted out, until the final decision is made. In other words, what I’d like to see - and I’m sure I not alone here - is a level playing field. At the moment, new and aspiring writers are blocked at every turn, with little or no access to industry support and funding.  A good place to make some positive changes would be in the area of script assessment, which, for the above reasons and reasons that follow, leaves a lot to be desired.  For example, it is extremely important that in the area of script assessment for funding, reasons are given for the decisions that are made. Legislation, as it stands, precludes this!

Assessors need to be accountable for the decisions they make, and despite the outcome, offer constructive criticism. On the two occasions I have been denied funding, I found this lack of accountability, frustrating and discouraging (more than the rejection) and at one stage considered chucking it all in. For a new screenwriter this kind of industry feedback would be extremely important, and in many cases mean the difference between success and failure.

On a broader scale, if Australian audiences have shown us one thing consistently, it’s this: that genre doesn’t really matter. The diversity of successful Australian movies reflects the very nature of our culture: Shine, Gallipoli, Lantana, Chopper, the Castle, Mad Max, Muriel’s Wedding, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and so on…which all have several things  in common:  characters an audience can relate to and empathise with, clear plots, engaging dialogue and great drama, in other words, a good script.

Best wishes,

Eugene Donnini

7.43pm from Graeme Bond

The greatest word of wisdom I've heard on the subject of getting things done in any art field is 'There is no limit to what we might achieve if it didn't matter who gets the credit.'

Egos have a way of cancelling each other out - a Mexican standoff. Hence there will always be that standoff between the status quo and the 'maverick'. Yet today's maverick is tomorrows status quo. And the maverick doesn't run with the herd. He has his own 'statement of intent'.

Here's the rub:
If you have a story that you must tell, O filmmaker, do it. (If you aren't prepared to back yourself, best you back out - real slow. Go home to mother.) Hire your team and self-sell the film town-by-town in travelling picture shows with the actors in your film out moving tickets. You ask 1000 people in a town to come to your picture show, 300 will say 'yes'. You may even care to film a short sketch set in the town to amuse the locals as an aside and screen it before the show.

That's one hell-of-a 'Statement of Intent' I found in Noah's Ark. It has never been surpassed.

Old hat, or entrepreneur?

Graeme Bond
Birdsong Press