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Screen Australia releases revised feature production guidelines

To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its funding programs, Screen Australia today released proposed revised feature film production guidelines for industry comment.

“Screen Australia investment plays an important role in ensuring Australian storytelling makes it to the big screen with the best chance possible of success,” said Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley. “The aim of the revised guidelines is to provide a transparent and well-understood process that acknowledges the complexity of feature film financing and provides greater flexibility for the industry.”

The two main changes are 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 – eight rather than the current four – reducing the need for producers to submit a project before it’s ready just to make a deadline.

Letters of Interest will be more clearly targeted to reflect Screen Australia’s interest in the potential of a project. Producers will be able to apply 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. The process and criteria for considering LOI applications will be more streamlined compared to production investment applications, and once issued, a Letter of Interest will have no specified expiry date.

For production investment, there will be no separate finance plan deadline. Applications which don’t have a complete finance plan in place will not be accepted, but with more frequent meetings, producers can hold off applying until they are ready, without compromising their project. The annual feature film allocation will be spread across the year on a quarterly basis to be applied to the Board meetings that fall into that quarter.

The current 12-month block on re-submitting a project for production investment will also be removed. A project which is unsuccessful can be re-submitted whenever the producer feels it is ready. If a project is unsuccessful twice, however, any further applications (whether for Letter of Interest or production investment) would be deemed ineligible, other than in exceptional circumstances.

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

Comments will be received until Friday 6 April 2012. However, Screen Australia encourages you to provide your feedback as soon as possible, so that any issues that emerge can be fully considered in finalising the guidelines.

It is envisaged that the first deadline under the new guidelines would be 31 May, culminating in the July 2012 Board meeting. The schedule for the remainder of 2012 has also been released.