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COVID-19 resource directory for the screen sector

Screen Australia has collated the below information for the local screen sector. It was last updated 29 May 2020.

The Australian Government is providing a range of support programs and advice to respond to the Coronavirus. Screen Australia is working with the Government, industry, and all state and territory screen agencies to understand and address screen sector issues.

This directory collates the Federal assistance currently available, and answers common questions related to Screen Australia and the Producer Offset.

Screen Australia is fully operational, with only funding for international travel programs not being processed at this time.

Please ensure you receive our newsletter for updates. See below for further information on Screen Australia funding.

CRITICAL INFORMATION

The first priority is your health and safety.

The Australian Government provides key information on the COVID-19 Coronavirus:

  • via this website
  • via the National Coronavirus Helpline: 1800 020 080 (24 hours, 7 days)

If you’re trying to improve your own mental health, or support somebody else with mental health issues, please visit Head to Health.

You can also contact Support Act, which has expanded its Wellbeing Helpline beyond the music and theatre industries to now incorporate all artists and arts workers across Australia. This expansion has been supported by $10 million in funding provided by the Australian Government through the Office for the Arts. The free, confidential service is available 24/7, and is staffed by professional clinicians familiar with issues faced by people working in music and the arts. It can be accessed by calling 1800 959 500 or via email. Find more information about Support Act’s Wellbeing Helpline here

SCREEN PRODUCTION

Some screen productions have resumed. COVID-Safe Guidelines have been developed by an Australian Screen Sector Task Force. They provide support and assistance to all practitioners (from screen producers to individual workers) in the Australian screen production industry as they consider returning and recommencing productions. The Guidelines are a live document and offer up-to-date practical advice, drawing on a range of resources and consultation with the federal Chief Medical Officer's team, and will continue to evolve alongside the advice of governments and sector best practice. You can access the guidelines here

It is critical that productions seek their own professional advice on a range of issues, including obligations and insurances.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT FROM GOVERNMENT

The below sections focus on support from the Australian Government. Please note these may change over time. There may be further assistance from your state and territory government and/or your local government and councils.

A list of local screen agencies is included at the end of this document.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT - INDIVIDUALS

Current assistance is summarised below.

You can find fact sheets on all payments here

Income support for individuals who are out of work, seeking work or receiving other payments

To support Australians who have lost income through the Coronavirus, the Government is temporarily expanding eligibility for income support payments, and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement.

You may be eligible if you have lost income due to the Coronavirus, and are:

  • a permanent employee that has been stood down or otherwise lost employment
  • a sole trader
  • self-employed
  • a casual worker
  • a contract worker.

Income tests and other eligibility criteria apply. Please note these tests have been adjusted since the program was first announced. Payments differ depending on your circumstances. To apply, visit here

JobKeeper payment for employers, and the self-employed

The JobKeeper payment supports businesses impacted by the Coronavirus to pay wages and keep staff employed. It is available to businesses with employees, sole traders and self-employed individuals. It is summarised in the ‘Financial support – business’ section below.

SUPPORTING APPRENTICES OR TRAINEES

The Government is supporting small businesses to retain their apprentices and trainees. It is summarised in the ‘Financial support – business’ section below’.

Other payments to support households

The Government is providing two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. The first payment was made between 12 March and 13 April 2020 inclusive, and the second payment will be available on 10 July 2020. More information is available here

Temporary early release of superannuation

The Government is allowing individuals affected by the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. Individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments. More information is available here

WORKING FROM HOME EXPENSES

The ATO has introduced a new, temporary, simplified method for calculating working from home costs. More information is available here

FINANCIAL SUPPORT – BUSINESS

Current assistance is summarised below.

You can find fact sheets on all payments here

Businesses can call 13 28 46 for assistance, and subscribe to the business.gov.au newsletter here

JobKeeper payment for employers, and the self-employed

The JobKeeper payment supports businesses impacted by the Coronavirus to pay wages and keep staff employed.

To be eligible, employers must demonstrate either a 30% or 50% decline in turnover relative to a comparable prior period, depending on the size of the business. Eligible employers will be able to claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March 2020, for a maximum of six months. Employers must pass this payment on to employees.

Eligible employers include:

  • businesses structured through companies, partnerships, trusts, and sole traders
  • not for profit entities, including charities
  • self-employed individuals are also eligible.

Eligible employees include:

  • permanent employees, including full-time and part-time staff
  • casual staff employed in the same role for longer than 12 months as at 1 March 2020.

If someone was employed on 1 March, ceased employment, and is then re-engaged by the same employer, their wage will be eligible for the payment (if other eligibility criteria are met).

This support is provided to employers, who pass it on to employees. Employers are required to notify their employees if they nominate to receive the payments. Individuals who are receiving income support payments, and who start receiving JobKeeper support, must notify Services Australia.

A range of eligibility requirements for businesses and employees apply. The scheme is administered by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). More information is available on the ATO’s website here

Freelance and other employees who are ineligible for JobKeeper support may receive income support payments (see ‘Support for Individuals’ above). Businesses (including the self-employed) must apply to participate in the scheme, and should register with the ATO for updates.

SUPPORTING APPRENTICES OR TRAINEES

The Government is supporting small business to retain their apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage paid during the nine months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Employers will be reimbursed up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee.

More information, including eligibility requirements, is available here

Cash flow support

To support employers to retain employees, the Government is providing temporary cashflow support to small and medium businesses and not for profit (NFP) organisations that employ staff.

Tax-free cash flow boosts of between $20,000 and $100,000 will be delivered through credits in the activity statement system, when eligible businesses lodge their activity statements.

Eligible organisations include those that employ staff and are:

  • small and medium-sized business entities with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million
  • NFPs, including charities, with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million.

More information is available here

Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses

The Government is lessening the threat of actions that could unnecessarily push businesses into insolvency. Current measures include:

  • temporarily increasing the threshold at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company, and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands they receive
  • temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent
  • temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) to provide temporary and targeted relief from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus health crisis
  • The ATO will tailor solutions for owners or directors of businesses that are currently struggling due to the Coronavirus, including temporary reduction of payments or deferrals, or withholding enforcement actions including Director Penalty Notices and wind-ups.

More information is available here

Increasing the instant asset write-off

The Government is increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanding access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020.

More information is available here

Accelerating depreciation deductions

Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct 50% of the cost of an eligible asset on installation, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost. This measure is provided to 30 June 2021 to support business investment.

More information is available here

CORONAVIRUS SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED ENTERPRISES (SME) GUARANTEE SCHEME

The Government will support up to $40 billion of lending to SMEs (including sole traders and not for profits). Under the scheme, the Government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs. The Government will provide eligible lenders with a guarantee for loans with the following terms:

  • SMEs, including sole traders, with a turnover of up to $50 million
  • Maximum total size of loans of $250,000 per borrower
  • Loans will be up to three years, with an initial six month repayment holiday
  • Unsecured finance, meaning that borrowers will not have to provide an asset as security for the loan.

More information is available here

CHANGES TO THE EXISTING EXPORT MARKET DEVELOPMENT GRANTS PROGRAM

The Government has announced changes to the existing Export Market Development Grants program:

  • The Government will inject additional funding into the program for the 2019/20 financial year.
  • The Government has waived the export performance test for businesses applying for a grant for the 2019/20 grant year, from 1 July 2020.
  • Austrade has also announced some changes to the program’s requirements for applications lodged in 2019/20.

The changes are detailed here, and full information on the program is available here

RELIEF FOR COMMERCIAL TENANTS

Measures include a temporary hold on evictions, and a mandatory code of conduct for commercial tenancies to support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the Coronavirus. More information is available here

HELP WITH ENERGY BILLS

The Government has suggested steps for businesses struggling to pay energy bills here

SCREEN AUSTRALIA

Screen Australia is fully operational.

What will happen to my funded project?

If you currently have a project that received production or completion funding from Screen Australia, please discuss your project with your funding manager, or reach out to us on 1800 213 099 or [email protected].

Which programs still offer funding?

Most funding programs, including Development and Production funding, are continuing to take applications as normal.

Funding for travel to overseas festivals, markets and workshops has been suspended. The Talent USA: New York and Bunya Talent Indigenous Hub contingents will be rescheduled.

Make sure you receive the latest funding information by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media.

How do I deliver my project to Screen Australia?

Funding often includes an instalment on delivery to Screen Australia. We are temporarily accepting digital delivery so you do not need to leave home to meet your obligations.

  • Final cost reports:
  • Projects funded by our Indigenous and Documentary Departments: email to your investment manager
  • All other drama (features, TV and online): email to [email protected]*
  • Media kit, high resolution stills and trailer: email [email protected] for instructions on how to submit these via our secure dropbox.*
  • Declaration in respect of cost report: we appreciate that statutory declarations are currently hard to obtain. You do not need to get this declaration witnessed at the moment, but please digitally sign it as an informal declaration and e-mail to [email protected].*
  • Full production video files and DVDs: Please retain these items for physical delivery at a later time. They will still be required.

* Please put your project title in the subject line of any email you send and name attached files appropriately.

If we need other delivery items from you in the short term, Screen Australia will contact you.

When Screen Australia can accept physical delivery, we will contact you to obtain the remaining deliverables.

THE PRODUCER OFFSET

Screen Australia administers the Producer Offset on behalf of the Australian Government. The Producer Offset and the rules governing its operation are enshrined in legislation.  Screen Australia has no authority to amend the legislation and change the operation of the Producer Offset. Any amendments would be a matter for Government and would require legislative change. 

You can find more information on the Producer Offset here

Is the Producer Offset still operating?

Yes: applications for the Producer Offset are being processed and the Producer Offset and Co-production Unit (POCU) is still fully operational.

You can contact POCU:

Applicants for the Location Offset or PDV Offset should contact the Office for the Arts here

My production has been halted: can I claim the Offset?

The Producer Offset rebate can only be provided once a project has been completed and other steps, such as a Qualifying Australian Production Expenditure (QAPE) audit, have been taken. Applicants should contact POCU for further information.

My production may not meet minimum QAPE thresholds: can I claim the Offset?

Minimum Qualifying Australian Production Expenditure (QAPE) thresholds apply to the Producer Offset. Projects cannot claim the Producer Offset if they fall below the required QAPE threshold. Applicants should contact POCU to discuss further.

My production had a theatrical release, but cinemas are now closed: can I claim the 40% rebate for feature films?

A feature film is the only format which receives the 40% Producer Offset. A feature film is defined in the Producer Offset legislation (the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth)) as a film which ‘was produced for exhibition to the public in cinemas’.

The below scenarios describe how theatrical distribution is assessed by Screen Australia:

Scenario 1: A project has received a Provisional Certificate as a feature film, and theatrical distribution was assessed against the published guidelines and approved by Screen Australia.  In these cases where the film is now unable to have a cinema release due to the Coronavirus, producers will still receive the 40% rebate at the Final Certificate stage. 

This is consistent with how POCU has always administered the program – i.e. if producers were able to demonstrate that a film was ‘produced for exhibition to the public in cinemas’ at Provisional stage, and through no fault of their own the theatrical release was unable to happen, a 40% rebate still applies at Final stage. Please note that all other key eligibility criteria must also be met.

Scenario 2: A project has received a Provisional Certificate but theatrical distribution was not assessed or approved by Screen Australia. POCU will assess these films as per normal at Final Certificate stage under our published guidelines taking into consideration all of the factors of a particular project e.g. deals in place with theatrical distributors/cinemas, a distribution plan outlining the expected pathway to a theatrical audience, arm’s length investors, track record of production team etc. We appreciate that theatrical distributors may be less inclined to attach themselves to films for the short term in the current market. Only some of the factors set out in the guidelines relate to theatrical distributors. Projects will be assessed on a case by case basis taking into consideration all of the elements of a production. Please note that all other key eligibility criteria must also be met.

The assessment of whether a project is a feature film is outlined in section 2.5.4 (page 13) of the Producer Offset Guidelines.

Scenario 3: A project has not received any Provisional Certificate.  These projects will be assessed similarly to those under Scenario 2.

TRAVEL

Travel is currently severely restricted, including within Australia. This will impact both local and foreign productions.

Information on international travel, including restrictions and travel back to Australia, is available here

Further information for travellers is available here

CONTACTS

Screen Australia has created a Facebook group where industry can connect – join here  

The Screen Australia newsletter remains the primary means the agency communicates funding opportunities to the sector.

State and Territory screen agencies

Industry organisations

QUESTIONS

If you have a question that you would like answered, and/or a suggested addition for this page, please email [email protected].