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Hear from the experts

Of the 17 podcast episodes released in 2019 by Screen Australia, here are just a few of the highlights from recent guests.

From advice for writers and producers, to understanding budgets, festivals and the Producer Offset, listen to nine takeaways from this year’s Screen Australia podcast.

You can browse the podcast archive here, or subscribe via iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts.

Have any feedback? Email [email protected]

1. ALASTAIR MCKINNON

Managing Director of Matchbox Pictures (The Heights, Stateless, Hungry Ghosts)

Alastair McKinnon

“The questions around where you want to try and place shows is one that has expanded significantly in the last few years. So I think historically, if you're an independent Australian production company like Matchbox is, you would be targeting the ABC, Foxtel, the three networks - Seven, Nine and Ten. So it was pretty clear about what the mandates were for those various broadcasters. Now, I think there is a lot more focus on international opportunities, SVODs, Amazon's coming into the market, Netflix is coming into the market.”

“So there are more options, there are more doors to go through, which I think means you need to be even more specific about what you're doing and what your strategy is for where you take it.”

2. NIKI AKEN

Co-writer of The Hunting and Script Producer on Upright

Niki Aken

Niki Aken (far right) on the set of Foxtel series Upright

“I feel like all the things that you've heard before, like writing is rewriting, write every day, all of that is valid and do all those things. But I guess if I look back, I had a singular focus when I was chasing my dream of becoming a screenwriter and everything fed into the work. Everything I watched, all the exercises I did in my own time. The things that I did for fun would depend on what I was working on. So if there was a footballer character, I was going to see more football games, like everything was feeding into the work.”

3. LEE NAIMO

Screen Australia Online Production Investment Manager

“We want to be encouraging people to own their IP, the intellectual property of their project. And that's really important. That's something that we see ourselves as here to do - to help support creators so they can own their projects and have more agency as deals are constructed. So I guess it would be about trying to educate yourself on what a contract should even look like, what a deal should look like…..All these things that I think a lot of online creators might neglect these things because you often are creating your content in a vacuum. You might be blogging from your bedroom and getting a lot of success. And then suddenly someone knocks on your door and said, 'hey, you want a pile of money for this endorsement deal or this production deal', and you have no idea what it looks like. So I guess try and immerse yourself in the industry as much as you can and do a lot of research on this and educate yourself…

“…It's worth noting it's all you don't have to come to us with a million, billion, trillion subscribers already or those kind of runs on the board. Obviously it helps if you do have those, but we can fund stuff that doesn't necessarily have that track record. It's about that identification of your audience and how you're going to get to them.”

4. KRISTINA CEYTON

Producer and co-founder of Causeway Films (The Nightingale, The Babadook)

Kristina Ceyton

“I think [film festivals are] hugely important. I really think it's a launchpad for a film's commercial and critical success, especially for independent arthouse films. In the case of The Babadook, it really helped build the buzz around the film and people taking attention to it. What usually also happens is that in the lead up to the festival and then during the festival, you have very respected film critics do reviews. And that I think is the first instance where you start to build a following and you start to get attention and then it slowly builds from there. And also very often to those festivals, there's markets that are attached. So it's an opportunity for the sales agents to screen the film to buyers or for buyers to see the film as part of a festival with an audience, which is basically the best way to view a film. And that helps, you know, sell the film and sell off territories. So it's it's commercially it's really important, but also critically, I think, to build that momentum and that interest and the buzz.”

5. KELLY VINCENT

Screen Australia Project Manager

“What I suggest for newer and emerging practitioners is put in everything you can possibly think of [into your budget]. Then you'll look at the total and go, no way! And then you'll start rationalizing [and start culling]. But it'll always start with the script. The kind of traditional method was a page a minute. But obviously, if you've got a script that says the aliens attack the fort, how long is that going to take? That could be a week to shoot that. It could be five minutes... Feature films in Australia will shoot usually over five to six weeks. So that's three or four minutes a day, as a rough guide. Television, with two cameras and moving much faster. Some of our network television shows will shoot eight to 10 minutes a day, but obviously that's not an average. There'll be some big days and then there'll be some smaller days where there's less screen time shot. But basically, if you've got a five week shoot, you can then look at, okay, how much preproduction? How long do I need to engage my crew for? And that's where the costs can start to be broken down further.”

6. JOHN EDWARDS

Producer of Les Norton, Offspring and Romper Stomper, and co-founder of Roadshow Rough Diamond

John Edwards

John Edwards (middle) at an event for Romper Stomper

“It's still hard, though, to sell a relationship drama. I mean, the things that do best are often shows that are set in a big landscape like obviously Mystery Road's a good example. It's sold remarkably well… To do a Love My Way or a Secret Life of Us or whatever, they're always going to be a bit difficult. But then, you know, they were difficult 20 years ago when we did Secret Life Of Us too… it was basically funded out of Channel 4 and Channel 10. But, that's rare. And those things come along every once in a blue moon, but relationship dramas, which is what, frankly, in lots of ways I would prefer to be making and I think in some ways Dan [Edwards] would prefer to be making too, they’re hard. They’re always going to be hard. You need a bigger concept. And unfortunately, the easiest things to sell are things ‘oh put a murder in it, put a murder in it’.”

7. BERNADINE LIM

Screen Australia’s Head of Documentary

“But one thing that I have definitely got from my conversations with people is that you need to educate yourself. You need to be responsible for your - this lovely expression that I heard from Werner Hertzog, which is ‘Dream Management’. Every film has merit. Every documentary has something to say. And if you want to create the best opportunity for that vision that you have and for that story that you want to share with the Australian public and beyond, you need to put as much energy into the researching of that project as you do into the industry because it is changing so much… And I think for filmmakers, the time where you could focus just on the subject of your film… I think that's an old model and I don't think that's going to be the future. Filmmakers are going to think about their film from the beginning to the end. The audience, who's going to watch it? Who's going to buy it? How are they going to get there? Who can help them? I think the ecosystem is completely changed.”  

8. RYAN O’CONNELL

Writer, executive producer, creator and star of Netflix’s Special 

Ryan O'Connell

Ryan O'Connell and director Anna Dokoza from Netflix’s Special 

“All the things that have worked out in my life in terms of getting a book deal or getting a job or getting the show made, a lot of it was luck and timing and the stars aligning. But what I needed in a foundational sense was I'm tenacious as hell, I metabolize ‘no's’ as ‘go F yourself LOL I'll show you!’ Which is great. A great metabolizing moment of ‘whatever’.

“And I think you kind of need to have that spirit because if you are someone who doesn't fit a mould or is unconventional, Hollywood won't know what to do with you because there's no reference point… Seriously now I'm full ‘Lady Gaga Star is Born press tour’ where I'm like ’99 no's and all it takes is one yaas!' but it's true. It really is true. And you kind of have to just believe and also understand that people are running on fear and they lack imagination, and people always say, we're looking for this, we want this. Honey, they don't know what the hell they want. It is your job to tell them and push it through.

9. MICHELE MCDONALD

Senior Manager of Screen Australia’s Producer Offset and Co-Production Unit (POCU)

“So the process at Final Certificate is, look we always recommend that people work with production accountants during their productions because one of the key things is that all of the expenditure is tracked and detailed and in your general ledger, line by line, in a very clear and transparent way. And, production accountants, that's what they do… And one of the fundamental things we do is we assess your claimed QAPE because that's what you're offset's based on. So we'll either do that in-house for lower budget or more simple projects, or we'll send it out to an external assessor. And we have a pool of assessors we call independent film production consultants. IFPCs. Another acronym. And the IFPCs are people that we specially train: independent production managers, line producers, accountants, and they will just assess the QAPE and ask questions if there are any, and will do a report to us with their final recommendation. And once we've confirmed that all the other key eligibility criteria have been met, then Screen Australia will issue a final certificate that has a final QAPE amount on it. And that's then what applicants will submit to the ATO with their company tax return for the same financial year in which the film is finished. And then that goes through the ATO process. And because, as I said at beginning, it's a refundable tax offset. So the tax department will make sure the company doesn't have a tax debt and then a refund just automatically goes through to the company bank account.”