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Coronavirus response update

A message from CEO Graeme Mason.

Dear Colleagues,

With restrictions easing across the country and consistently low numbers of new cases of coronavirus being reported across Australia, the outlook for the local screen sector to get back to creating world-class stories is looking more and more positive. Increasing numbers of productions are readying themselves for return and we now have a comprehensive set of COVID-Safe Guidelines available to assist projects as they prepare for safe ways to get cameras rolling again.

I’ve been inspired by the way creativity has flourished during this challenging time. We’ve seen this manifest itself in projects like At Home Alone Together, a sketch comedy series that was the culmination of a joint initiative we worked on with the ABC to support emerging writers, actors and comedians. Australian director Luke Eve, who was forced into lockdown in Spain, innovatively turned his real life experience of a cancelled wedding into Cancelled, a heartfelt digital series. Given the sheer volume of applications we’ve received in the past few months I’m sure we’ll be seeing more inventive screen stories emerge from this period.

Below is the latest update from Screen Australia:

COVID-Safe Guidelines released

On Friday 29 May the COVID-Safe Guidelines were released and are available on the Screen Australia website to view here. Creating this resource was a collaborative effort and I thank AFTRS for leading this piece of work, the other members of the Taskforce who pulled it together and everyone in the industry who helped contribute.

The Guidelines provide advice on how to eliminate and minimise the risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 while working on a production. They will continue to evolve alongside the advice of governments and sector best practice. The Guidelines offer up-to-date practical advice and are to be used by screen productions as a framework to develop their own COVID-Safe risk mitigation plans prior to recommencing work.​

We have been pleased to see a number of productions working to build their own individualised COVID-Safe plans, considering what they need to do in order to start filming in a safe and practical way. We know in practical terms that this could mean longer shoots, changes to casting, higher costs, and new challenges for each production to work through and we are committed to supporting all productions in any way we can. As I’ve previously stated, the demand for our funding programs remains high, and while that is great to see it does mean we have limited capacity to support projects financially as they deal with additional costs.

Insurance

Insurance remains a factor that will impact the ability of many projects to return to production. We continue to work closely with the Minister and the Department to help navigate through the complexity of this issue.

Premium Plus

I’m pleased to announce that to date we have provided over $620,000 in funding to eight television and three feature projects through our Premium Plus program. Titles that received funding include feature films Run Rabbit Run and Puff, and television series including Yes, Chef! for the ABC and New Gold Mountain for SBS. The Premium Plus fund was launched in April 2020 to help support the industry during the COVID-19 crisis. The focus of this fund is to support higher-budget productions that are close to being production ready with firm market interest, with late-stage development (including pre pre-production) costs. The fund remains open for applications, at this time, and the recipients will be announced in our next development media release.

Shape the future of the Australian Screen Sector

This week is the last chance for industry to submit feedback on the Options Paper released by the Federal Government 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 before submissions close on 12 June.

Drama Report

In the coming months our Strategic Policy and Industry Insights team will be sending out their annual survey to production companies to collect data for Screen Australia’s Drama Report. This year marks the 30th year of the Drama Report and it continues to be a valuable resource in measuring the health of the screen industry by providing a comprehensive view of drama production activity in Australia. This year’s report could be the most important yet in terms of assessing the impact of COVID-19 on our industry and with that in mind I would strongly encourage all productions to participate in the survey.

Looking ahead

Cinemas across Australia and the world are beginning to reopen and I hope we will soon be able to see and support fantastic local projects back on the big screen. Until then as release strategies continue to evolve I’d like to remind everyone that the best way to support Australian content and creatives is by buying it, renting it, and streaming it at home.

Warm Regards,

Graeme Mason
CEO, Screen Australia

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