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Coronavirus response update

A message from CEO Graeme Mason.

Dear Colleagues,

It is now over a month since most production in our industry was halted as a result of COVID-19. Our sector continues to have its resilience tested as the complexities of the delay become more apparent. It’s heartening that we are continuing to see a drop in new cases and I’m hopeful that with each day we come closer to a return of some kind of normality.

Below is the latest update from Screen Australia:

We are still funding great Australian stories

The agency remains open for business. We recently announced $8.5 million in production funding for 10 new projects, which will generate over $50 million of production expenditure, and more projects were approved at our board meeting last week. I hope this gives assurance and certainty to the industry that we continue to look ahead and are working with multiple productions across genres and mediums to prep and shoot. We just had our latest funding round for scripted drama close and the surprisingly large volume of applications gives me great belief in the ability of the sector to resume work, as soon as it is safe to do so. After safety, our key priority is to support the industry to be in the best position possible when production activity can return.

Our Premium Plus Story Development fund is now open and we are already getting a lot of applications through. We have also noticed a significant spike in Premium and Generate development applications. While those in our industry may be temporarily confined to isolation, it’s fantastic to see that this hasn’t impacted the generation of strong story ideas.

Preparing for the return

While the cameras aren’t rolling, Screen Australia has been working hard to ensure we have multiple projects set to resume as soon as possible. Our team has been working with all Screen Australia-funded projects to get them even more match fit.

Setting up protocols for when projects can re-start production is a key focus. We have been working on this with all parts of the sector: state and territory agencies; companies who have been filming through this time; international agencies and companies; and industry bodies and guilds. We are working with our colleagues at AFTRS, who are doing great work to coordinate this activity to help create an outline of protocols for production when it returns.

We are also in the process of identifying what operational issues need to be addressed before productions can commence. This of course varies from production to production and currently also from the different states and territories. We and the state and territory agencies are working together on this and looking at what other industries are doing.

We are on track to expend our budget across all programs as planned. Our priority has been finding a balance between assisting those already funded and working through their extra costs, while also managing the increased demand on development funding. We are also looking at what changes we might need to make for the start of the next financial year.

Options Paper

The Federal Government released the Options Paper in mid-April, which Screen Australia co-authored with ACMA. The current consultation period provides a platform for everyone to consider the immediate and longer-term possibilities for the creation of vital Australian screen stories, and I’d encourage the entire industry to participate. This is a critical moment.

Screen Australia exists to support the telling of Australian screen stories and promote the development of a creative and vibrant local production industry. Our screen stories matter. They bring us together, challenge us, and enrich our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.

We can’t, obviously, make a submission to our own paper, but what we want to see come from this process is a screen industry that has found a way to balance the economic and cultural value of our screen stories in the modern media landscape. We want to see a high-functioning production industry creating innovative, high-quality Australian stories for local and global audiences.

Documentary

Our documentary team continue assessing applications in the latest rounds and note there was a significant increase in applications for Development, Producer Production Funding and the Producer Equity Program. Unlike some other parts of the sector and our operations more broadly, this area is clearly still working to fully expend all available funding which we are happy to accommodate and support.

Finally I’d like to thank all in our industry for your patience, passion and commitment to preparing for the recovery – when the hunger for content will fuel a great need for Australian productions.

As we #StayHome, members of the Australian screen sector have shared their career learnings in the Advice from Isolation content series on Screen News and I encourage those who haven’t, to check out those stories. So far we’ve had pieces from Ben Steel on how to survive and thrive in the entertainment industry, while Veronica Fury provided tips on building a business and Corrie Chen shared her advice on episodic television directing.

I hope everyone in the industry continues to stay well, stay motivated and stay home.

Warm Regards,

Graeme Mason
CEO, Screen Australia

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