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Coronavirus response update

A message from CEO Graeme Mason.

Dear Colleagues,

Now the government has outlined their staged approach to the easing of restrictions it is essential that we as a sector map out our own plans for returning to work. Our focus must turn to developing frameworks for how we can get the sector back up and running, and how we can support productions when filming resumes. This is likely to be a slow and slightly uneven process as each production is different and has its own issues and requirements. We all take encouragement and lessons from those projects which have kept going during this time and those that have already resumed, and are committed to growing that number when possible.

Below is the latest update from Screen Australia:

Getting back to work is our focus

We have been working with AFTRS in collaboration with all parts of the sector (including MEAA, SPA, Guilds, ABC, SBS, Ausfilm and major production companies) to create a set of guidelines and protocols which will lay out key principles and practices to best aid a return to screen production. A draft was shared with the office of the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer for their input and we plan to launch these protocols within the coming weeks. This industry-wide set of principles has been created to help facilitate the sector in getting back into production safely and practically in a COVID-19 world. They cover details such as safe distancing, the number of people on set, personal protective equipment, cleaning, medical advice, travel and transport. To be clear, whilst comprehensive, these protocols will provide an overarching framework and each project will need to have their own specific personalised production plan that is fit for their individual situation.

The issue of insurance and its impact on finance plans more generally is another factor that many of us have been looking at, as it likely needs to be addressed for many projects before production can restart. Since early March 2020, insurers have been excluding coverage for COVID-19 related events, most notably from their film producers’ indemnity (FPI) coverage. The Minister is aware of this situation and we are liaising with many in the sector and working closely with the Department on helping to find a way through these complex issues.

Unprecedented applications for funding

We are seeing a significant spike in application numbers and the agency is working hard to process these very large volumes in a timely manner.

In the 48 hours leading up to the close of Enterprise Business & Ideas funding on 1 May, Screen Australia received an unprecedented 74 applications. We appreciate the time and energy that creatives put into this application process, and assessments are already underway. More on this will be announced in the coming months, but please keep in mind the surge in application numbers and the limited remaining funds for this program will mean only a small number will be successful. A reminder as well that the Business & Ideas stream of Enterprise funding is now on hiatus and will be reviewed, with the intention of the new program stream becoming active again in 2021. The Enterprise People stream remains open.

In April we received 92 Story Development applications (including Premium Plus, Premium and Generate) and funding for the development of Australian stories remains vital. Our latest slate of development projects was announced today and it’s fantastic to see so many strong ideas coming through.

For our most recent production funding round for scripted drama - which closed on 16 April - we received 14 applications, so even though the cameras aren’t rolling the demand for funding remains and this means the sector will be in a great position when production can return.

Our Indigenous Department’s short film initiative No Ordinary Black, which closed 20 April, had 41 submissions and the Online team’s Skip Ahead initiative which closed last week received 38 applications.

I’m buoyed by the demand for our funding programs and want to assure the industry that Screen Australia remains open for business.

Documentary

It’s been pleasing to see many documentaries have been able to continue production in some form during this time. They may not be going at full speed or the way they planned, but their adaptability to be able to continue in any form is commendable. This is without doubt the area that is working the closest to business as usual. Our documentary team is working closely with these productions and doing what they can to allow extra flexibility where possible when it comes to deadlines and deliverables.

To increase the flexibility for the sector, the agency will open the documentary development program to be a year-round program from 25 May. The last development round for this financial year had closed on 3 April, so we are delighted to be able to re-open this for the sector and encourage creatives to make the most of this opportunity.

The recent Development and Producer program rounds saw a major spike in application numbers. The most recent development round received 40 applications and the Producer program received 27 applications – both well above the average per round this financial year. Hence, the demand on these programs remains and they will continue to be competitive.

GOING FORWARD

As we continue to draw closer to a return to work, we remain committed to collaborating with the entire sector to allow us to get back up and running as quickly as possible. We have been talking to many in the industry about what changes or processes are needed to get cameras rolling again. This is especially true for drama and features with the challenges they face for cast and crew, and we welcome the sector’s input on this issue. In the meantime please stay safe and continue to support each other as we work through the ongoing challenges together.

Warm Regards,

Graeme Mason
CEO, Screen Australia

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