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Why Screen Australia backs the films it does

Head of Production Sally Caplan explains the thinking behind Screen Australia’s feature film investments and grants.

<h6>Head of Production Sally Caplan</h6>
Head of Production Sally Caplan


There are five opportunities per year to apply for feature film production funding from Screen Australia and up to 20 films are successful. Demand for funding always outstrips how much is in the pot.

With four of the five 2017/2018 application deadlines now passed, a total of $39.46 million has been requested so far, which is more than double the $18.27 million the agency has put aside for the whole year for production and completion. By the final 6 April deadline, the number of films that have sought investment or a grant is highly likely to be more than double the number supported.



Deadline # Number of applications ^ Total requested ($m)
30 June 2017 13 14.23
22 September 2017 10 12.88
1 December 2017 5 4.46
22 January 2018 7 7.89

* The applications are for production funding only, ie applications for completion are not included. They cover investments and grants.

# There will be one more allocation of funding in 2017/18 (deadline 6 April).

^ These 35 applications cover 34 films.

Demand is higher than indicated by these figures because applications for completion funding are not included – such applications can be submitted at any time. Also, there are instances when producers are discouraged from applying: perhaps the level of violence in a proposed film is beyond extreme or the budget is deemed far too high for the inexperienced director attached.

This discussion aims to help applicants jostling for funding to better understand the agency’s motivations. Head of Production Sally Caplan talks in general about what drives her and her colleagues (part 1) and specifically about each film supported in 2014/15 (part 2). Some financial data about these films is also included (part 3).

When demand for funding is particularly high, producers are asked to hold back films that are not time critical – that is, films that don’t have to go into production promptly – and to request less than $2 million, the most available for an individual film. Such requests are often ignored according to Caplan.

“(Australian) producers have to be more resourceful and strategic. We don’t have the money to support more than a couple of films a year at a $2 million ask. Every time we put that much into a film we are possibly knocking out four talent escalators.”

Caplan has worked extensively in the UK and says the level of talent in Australia compares “very favourably relative to the population” but UK producers are more efficient at raising money, assisted by proximity to other key territories and more workable time differences.

She notes that the funding cuts applied to Screen Australia – a total of $51.1 million over the last four years – were initially absorbed by lowering operating costs but are now having an impact on production funding levels. Screen Australia received $81.85 million in taxpayer funding for 2017/18, down from $84.44 million in the previous year.