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Understanding funding announcements

Screen Australia is a Commonwealth Government Agency, and successful funding applications are published in various ways.

This guide explains the difference between funding decision processes and funding announcements, and how to best get a sense of Screen Australia’s annual slate.

HOW IS FUNDING DECIDED?

At Screen Australia, programs are open all year for applications, or have recurring deadlines (e.g. quarterly rounds) or have one-off deadlines.

As a result, funding decisions are also made in different ways against different timelines. For instance, investments of $1+ million in individual projects must go to Screen Australia’s Board, so these decisions only happen five times a year. Whereas, lower-monetary value funds tend to allocate funding more frequently e.g. the new Story Development program provides funding multiple times a month.

WHEN IS FUNDING ANNOUNCED?

Where Screen Australia is the only financier (e.g. development grants), funding announcements happen 4-5 times a year per program, depending on volume.

For production funding, it can take up to 12 weeks to announce funding. However, there are many variables that impact these announcements including:

  • Are the other investors confirmed?
  • For dramas, are the cast to be confirmed before the announcement?
  • When is the shoot starting?
  • Is a broadcaster involved?
  • Is an international partner involved?

HOW IS FUNDING ANNOUNCED?

Funding is generally announced via a media release, either distributed by Screen Australia or another partner on the project e.g. a broadcaster.

In 2018/19 alone, nearly 100 drama (narrative) titles received Screen Australia production funding, plus 98 which received development funding. In the same year, nearly 50 projects received documentary development funding, and another near-60 titles received production funding. All up, Screen Australia allocates hundreds of pieces of funding a year, which are all itemised in Appendix 3 in the agency’s Annual Reports.

Due to the sheer volume of funding being announced, Screen Australia will announce funding in batches or ‘slates’.

Titles in a slate announcement may have had their decision meetings at different times and may have been funded at different times.  As such, individual slate announcements are not indicative of Screen Australia’s overall funding decisions for the year.

For instance, a single slate may include a low-budget film that needs to be announced quickly because it’s about to shoot, and a television show that was actually funded 10 weeks prior at a Board meeting.

Slates also only detail successful applications – they do not give a sense of how competitive the funding decisions may have been, or who applied.

For instance, a slate funding announcement may include four projects that all have female producers. However they were selected from an application pool of ten applicants, which had 60% male producers. As such, it is not possible to draw any conclusions about gender trends in producing.

For confidentiality reasons, Screen Australia does not detail unsuccessful applications.

GENDER, DIVERSITY AND NEW TALENT

Screen Australia has made several changes to its programs in an attempt to better utilise the full breadth of creative talent in Australia. These programs specifically seek to increase participation in key roles by women and new creators, particularly from under-represented and diverse backgrounds. Considerations of diversity include everything from where a creator lives in Australia, to how they identify their cultural background.

  • The newly revised Gender Matters KPI aims to have 50% of all writers, directors and producers receiving Screen Australia development and production funding to be women by 2021/2022 over a 3-year average. [more info]
  • The new Story Development program installed in 2018, sought to drastically increase the amount of new talent being funded by the agency by removing credit requirements. As a result, 59% of the 2018/19 Generate recipients had never received Screen Australia funding before. [more info]
  • Inspired by the success of the Gender Matters Attachment program (see backgrounder for more information), from 2017/18 a paid Inclusive Attachment become a compulsory requirement on projects that received drama production funding from Screen Australia.
  • From May 2018 it became a pre-condition of Screen Australia’s funding of any TV drama series with more than one block, that at least one block must be directed by a female director.

Screen Australia tracks progress on an annual basis, as such it is not accurate to utilise slate funding announcements as representative of Screen Australia’s overall funding trends. We encourage all industry to be aware of which projects have received funding, however, a single slate announcement cannot accurately represent overall funding trends.

  • Slate releases do not give a sense of who applied for funding or how many applications were received, which is a key factor Screen Australia uses to track the progress of initiatives such as Gender Matters.
  • When creatives are attached to a project varies by format, for instance in feature film the director is always attached at the time of application, whereas in television, a director (or directors) may not be attached until well after funding has been announced.

For more accurate analysis, Screen Australia publishes data annually for both Gender Matters and now the new Story Development fund. The screen industry is a creative-driven business, and it cannot be predicted when someone will have a great idea, which is also why the agency also uses three-year averages to track everything from Gender Matters to box office.

Gender Matters has been run since 2015, so the tracking systems have become more advanced over time, including the August 2019 publication of a full breakdown of successful vs unsuccessful applications by gender. This annual data is more instructive than slate releases to monitor trends e.g. over three years, 21% of all incoming feature film applications for production funding had a female director, however 25% of successful applications had a female director. Across three years, 49% of writers, directors and producers attached to successful applications for Screen Australia production funding were women.

Since July 2019 Screen Australia has been testing an expanded data collection method so that measures of diversity can also be reported. It is hoped this will be rolled out agency wide in 2020/21. Screen Australia is also a member of the Screen Diversity & Inclusion Network (SDIN). With the support of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), the SDIN have been leading the development and build of an industry-wide tool called ‘The Everyone Project’ for the measurement of the diversity of Australian screen practitioners, built by Screen Industry Innovation. It is expected to be launched in late November 2019.

Screen Australia does not publish the applicant-supplied gender or any diversity-related data of individual creators as this would be a breach of privacy. Data is always deidentified before being used in public reports.

CAN I RECEIVE FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENTS?

All Screen Australia-generated funding announcements are included in the fortnightly newsletter – subscribe here.

At any time, you can also browse the Funding Approvals pages in the Funding and Support section of the Screen Australia website.

The Annual Report is the most comprehensive listing of all Screen Australia funding – see Appendix 3.

JUST STARTING OUT?

If you’re new to the industry, read our Screen Australia for Beginners guide to understand how you can apply for funding.