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Coronavirus response update

A message from CEO Graeme Mason.

A man dressed in red Santa pants and two children stand with their backs against a wallStan Original Film A Sunburnt Christmas

Dear Colleagues,

After a challenging couple of months navigating the second wave it’s wonderful to see case numbers decreasing and restrictions easing across all states. As we all learn to live with the virus as part of our day-to-day, our industry has been able to safely and markedly increase production activity.

Below is the latest update from Screen Australia:

Cameras roll on more local productions

I want to commend the industry on its tenacity, passion and commitment to finding safe ways for productions to continue during this time. I’m buoyed by this which has led to now having a major level of production activity in many parts of the country and distinctive Australian screen content being made.

It’s been exciting to see more productions wrap, many others start shooting, and more enter pre-production.

Here are the latest updates for just some of our Screen Australia supported projects:

TV

  • The third series of popular NITV animated kids series Little J & Big Cuz is currently in production in Melbourne.
  • Stan Original Series Bump has wrapped in Sydney and Eden is currently shooting in the NSW Northern Rivers. The Stan Original Film A Sunburnt Christmas has also just completed filming in Adelaide.
  • SBS drama series The Unusual Suspects from Aquarius Films is filming in Sydney.
  • ABC comedy series Fisk (previous working title Entitled) written and co-directed by Kitty Flanagan has commenced production in Melbourne.
  • ABC children’s drama Itch produced by Komixx Entertainment has started shooting series two in the Great Southern and Peel regions of Western Australia.
  • Nine Network drama series Amazing Grace produced by Playmaker Media has begun production in Sydney.
  • Seven Network drama series RFDS is nearing completion of principle photography in and around Broken Hill.

Film

  • Feature film Blaze from award-winning fine artist and writer/director Del Kathryn Barton produced by Causeway Films has started shooting in and around Sydney.
  • Australian/New Zealand co-production Nude Tuesday written by Jackie van Beek and directed by Armagan Ballantyne is filming in and around Queenstown Lakes District and Auckland in New Zealand.
  • Anthology feature Here Out West from Co-Curious and Emerald Productions has started pre-production in Western Sydney.
  • Writer/director Goran Stolevski’s supernatural drama You Won’t Be Alone produced by Causeway Films has started filming in Serbia before returning to Australia later in 2020.

Online

  • ABC iview series Why Are You Like This successfully wrapped filming in Melbourne after having to halt filming in March when COVID first hit.
  • Short-form online drama series for SBS On Demand, The Tailings is in production in Tasmania.
  • Skip Ahead project Fishing in the Wild is currently shooting in the Northern Territory.
  • Web series Hug the Sun from Ben Russell and Xavier Michelides produced by Aunty Donna will start production before the end of the year in Western Australia and Victoria.

Documentary

  • Online series and short immersive film Worlds from artist and writer/director Josef Gatti started production last week in Victoria.
  • SBS documentary series Australia’s Health Revolution with Dr Michael Mosley from Artemis Media will start production next week in Western Australia.
  • Feature documentary Battle on the Franklin directed and co-written by Kasimir Burgess will commence production next week in Tasmania.
  • Animated online documentary series Woven Threads for Pedestrian TV from writer/director/producer Michi Marosszeky is currently in production in New South Wales.
  • Feature documentary from Beyond West and Veerhuis Pictures Facing Monsters has recently wrapped filming in regional Western Australia.
  • SBS documentary series See What You Made Me Do from Northern Pictures is currently in filming in New South Wales.
  • SBS documentary series What Does Australia Really Think? from the makers of Is Australia Racist? and Is Australia Sexist? is currently shooting in Perth with pick up shoots in other states.
  • The second season of Love on the Spectrum for the ABC is currently in production in New South Wales.
  • Feature documentary Off Country (working title) directed and produced by John Harvey and Rhian Skirving is currently in production in Victoria.

Increase to in-bound production activity

Australia has always been an appealing location for in-bound productions and those with significant foreign backing with our state-of-the-art facilities, incredible crews, unique locations and renowned actors. Our ability as a nation to stem the spread of the virus has made Australia even more attractive as a safe and viable location for globally backed productions which is creating good current opportunities and also long term potential.

International supported production activity has picked up in the past month with several productions resuming or beginning principal production and others announcing.

  • Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis for Warner Bros. recommenced its Queensland shoot in September.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers, for Hulu produced by and starring Nicole Kidman, began production in NSW Northern Rivers in August.
  • Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings resumed filming in Fox Studios and in Western Sydney in August with Thor: Love and Thunder set to come in behind it at Fox Studios and shoot in 2021.
  • The Location Incentive program has brought in three recently announced series from Matchbox Pictures, part of NBCUniversal Studios, to film back-to-back in Queensland over 18 months. These three titles will be the first productions supported under the $400 million boost to the Location Incentive and include Young Rock, Joe Exotic and Irreverent.

COVID-19 Budget Support

When COVID first hit the agency provided $1 million in emergency assistance to projects forced to shut down. Since then we have provided an additional $5.7 million to projects that could work remotely, or have needed help to start again and be COVID-safe. The agency has supported a total of 59 projects and this includes nine features (scripted), 16 TV projects (scripted), and 11 online projects. We’ve also funded 15 documentaries, five children’s TV series and three Indigenous productions.

We will continue to provide support to screen projects moving forward regardless of if they apply through the COVID Budget Support Fund or come through one of our other funding programs as the whole sector works through the ongoing challenges of COVID-19.

Temporary Interruption Fund

The agency is currently processing applications for TIF coverage. To date 20 projects have been approved, including six feature films and 12 TV dramas, one entertainment show and one online series.

We encourage applicants to get their applications in as soon as they are eligible as this is a capped fund. The guidelines are available here

As a result of support from the TIF and Screen Australia’s direct COVID funding we have supported a safe return to work on projects with combined production budgets of over $270 million. The TIF is filling a vital gap in getting productions back up and running, and has now been replicated in many other countries. This is testament to the speed with which the local screen industry has been able to adapt to adversity at every level and find positive ways to move forward.

New funding for screen sector in 2020-21 Budget

On Saturday 26 September the Minister announced that eight national cultural institutions would receive additional funding in the Federal Budget to support their activities during a continuing decline in revenue due to COVID-19. Screen Australia received an additional $1.1 million in funding which will go straight out to the sector to help productions continue to safely make distinctive Australian stories for the screen.

As part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget Screen Australia also received $30 million over two years to support the production of local content. The agency will also receive an additional $3 million over three years to focus on screenwriting and script development. This is a huge increase in support from the Government to Screen Australia for us to put out to the local screen sector and recognises the immense talent of our writers, directors and producers.

This boost in funding will enable us to support quality and culturally important Australian film and television content, and support producers to find a pathway to audiences.  

Our screenwriters are world-renowned with talents like Tony McNamara, Jennifer Kent and Dr George Miller so this funding will only elevate our ability for our writers to cut through and create works that reach local and international audiences.

This funding boost comes at a critical time for the industry as it navigates the challenges of COVID-19. Further details on how Screen Australia will use these funds to support the sector will be released in the coming months.

In addition to this support package the Government also announced a series of reforms to the regulatory framework that underpins Australian content. More information on these changes can be found here

Screen Australia is reflecting on what the new funding and new changes to Government regulation mean for us and for the sector. We recognise that many are keen to know what it may mean for our inputs to productions and we will update as soon as practicable. Screen Australia will work with the Minister, the Department and industry stakeholders to ensure we continue to foster a strong and vibrant local screen industry as these changes come into effect.

Looking ahead

There is no denying that this has been a challenging time for our industry, but I’m confident that we’ll continue to adapt, collaborate and passionately create new content. It is a testament to you all that we have been able to move on from working on how to keep afloat, onto new challenges of scheduling, crew availability and studio space as more productions return. Whilst celebrating this return to production activity I do want to note that Theatrical Distribution and even more Cinema Exhibition has been one of the hardest hit sectors. This month saw the release of four local films with Dirt Music, Rams, Combat Wombat and Never Too Late. I encourage those who can to get out and support the industry and these films.

Warm Regards,

Graeme Mason
CEO, Screen Australia

  • Subscribe to the Screen Australia newsletter to receive news fortnightly here
  • Hear from our executives, Head of Content, Sally Caplan and Head of Business Affairs and Offset, Tim Phillips outline the details of the Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF) and the COVID-19 Budget Support Fund here
  • Watch the BTS interview with Rams director Jeremy Sims here