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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 23 October 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.

Screen Australia recently supported four wellness webinars to be hosted by Film Art Media in November this year. You can register here

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

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

COVID-SAFE GUIDELINES

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

TEMPORARY INTERRUPTION FUND (TIF)

Screen Australia welcomes the Government’s announcement of the TIF, which is administered by Screen Australia. The TIF provides assistance for new local productions which have been unable to start production due to production insurance exclusions relating to COVID-19. Applications for the TIF are now open. You can access more information, including eligibility requirements here

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 has temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments, and established a new, time-limited Coronavirus Supplement.

The Government has extended the payment period of the temporary Coronavirus Supplement from 25 September 2020 to 31 December 2020. The rate of payment changes over time. 

For detail on income tests and eligibility criteria for the Coronavirus Supplement, 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.

Information on JobKeeper payment changes that impact JobSeeker payment is available here

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 has provided two separate $750 payments to social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders.

The Government will provide two additional Economic Support Payments of $250 each. 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. The Government has extended the JobKeeper Payment until 28 March 2021.

More information on the JobKeeper Payment extension and details of key changes, including changes to payment rates and relevant date of employment, 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 contact the ATO.

JOBMAKER HIRING CREDIT

As part of the 2020/21 Budget, the Government announced a new incentive for businesses to employ additional young job seekers called the JobMaker Hiring Credit

The ATO will administer the credit. For further details, including eligibility, visit here

This measure is subject to the passage of legislation.

SUPPORTING APPRENTICES OR TRAINEES

The Government is supporting small and medium-sized business to retain their apprentices and trainees through the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy.

Note that this wage subsidy has been extended to include medium-sized businesses.

More information, including eligibility requirements for small and medium-sized businesses, 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 31 December 2020.

More information is available here

Accelerating depreciation deductions

Businesses with an aggregated 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 incentive applies to eligible assets acquired from March 2020 and first used or installed by 30 June 2021.

More information is available here

TEMPORARY FULL EXPENSING

As part of the 2020/21 Budget, the Government announced that it will allow eligible businesses with an aggregated annual turnover up to $5 billion to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value in the year they are first used or installed.

For more information on eligibility and the interrelation between temporary full expensing, and the instant asset write-off and backing business investment incentives announced by the Government in March 2020 (summarised in this ‘Financial support – business’ section), visit here

CORONAVIRUS SMALL AND MEDIUM SIZED ENTERPRISES (SME) GUARANTEE SCHEME

The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme is supporting up to $40 billion of lending to SMEs (including sole-traders and not-for-profits). The scheme has been extended with the second phase to start on 1 October 2020 and will be available for loans made until 30 June 2021. More information, including eligibility requirements and terms of guaranteed loans, are 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.

HAS SCREEN AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCED ANY SPECIFIC COVID-19 FUNDING?

Please visit the top of this page for links to recent announcements, including funding announcements.

Full details are available here

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 SOME 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].