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Screen Australia updates Documentary program guidelines

From 1 August 2016, Screen Australia will introduce a number of changes to the Documentary funding programs.


Across the agency specific funding levels for 2016/17 programs will ultimately be driven by demand and merit assessment. Documentary has an indicative budget of between $15m and $17m, which is noted in the guidelines.

Liz Stevens, Senior Manager of Documentary notes, “The guideline changes make sure the funding programs stay relevant, especially in the face of changing audience trends and the platforms available to documentary.”

“Screen Australia knows how complex it can be to pull all the elements of a project together in order to green light a concept and we’re dedicated to not be adding to that workload. We’ve introduced a number of changes to the Producer program which will not only give producers an opportunity to pitch their project directly to our decision makers, but will also knock weeks off getting to the final decision.”

“A significant change sees the introduction of a fully contestable Broadcast fund, now called the Commissioned program.  It is going to be even more important that applicants explicitly meet Screen Australia’s criteria of culture, quality and innovation.”

Broadcast Program

We’ve adapted the Broadcast program after a request from government to review our funding programs to provide greater contestability in recognition of audience engagement across a wide variety of platforms. To this end we’ve changed the name to Commissioned program and will accept applications with licences from a free-to-air or subscription television broadcaster and/or newer online platforms such as subscription video on demand (SVOD).

Producer Program

Screen Australia wants to reduce decision making time even more for the Producer Program. This is in line with Screen Australia’s commitment to cutting red tape across the agency. The second stage of the Producer program now gives producer/director teams an opportunity to present and talk about their projects with us face-to-face. This change will enable us to let producers know the outcome of a second stage application within 4 to 5 weeks, nearly halving the decision making time for this stage. More here

Development Program

Changes to this funding program will see a reduction to the decision making time from 10 weeks to between 6 and 8 weeks. Little has changed within the guidelines and the online application form is now available for the round that closes on 26 August where you will be asked to submit fewer materials for assessment.

Producer Equity Program

Producers may still apply for 20% of their production budget on low budget films of $500,000 or less. In recognition of the increasing number of platforms available to documentary the minimum budget threshold has changed from $125,000 per half hour to a total budget of $125,000. Maximum threshold remains at $500,000.  Sometimes it can take months to establish the chain of title for PEP only projects so we now require a solicitor’s opinion on the chain of title to eliminate lengthy research.  These changes will affect projects that start pre-production on or after 1 July 2011. More here

“I’m particularly pleased to update the Producer Equity guidelines so the program can support documentaries across multiple platforms by removing the restriction to the length of a documentary. It’s a successful program that supports many low budget documentaries with or without other Screen Australia support and it’s important to keep it relevant by following audience trends” noted Stevens.

Want to know more information on applying for documentary funding? Go here