| Author: Paul Kalina |
| Publication: The Age |
THE Screen Australia roadshow pulled into town yesterday, and it was soon evident the Victorian film-making community has serious problems with the new agency's proposed programs. The PowerPoint presentation was designed to invite feedback (which it got) on Screen Australia's funding strands, which include an enterprise program providing up to $500,000 per year for a three-year period to experienced producers (and consume about 40% of Screen Australia's development budget) and a production fund providing up to 75% of a feature film's budget.
Thirty programs that existed under three former agencies have been shoehorned into six in the new "mega" agency. But the discussion was sidetracked into criticisms of the eligibility criteria of the enterprise program, which defines a highly experienced writer or director as one with a credit on three released features.
The most heated discussion centred on the lack of funding for short dramas and opportunities for emerging talent. In a submission, (which can be read on Screen Australia's website) Richard Lowenstein argues the case for short films and "creative collaborations on all levels of experience", concluding that under the new guidelines he wouldn't have a career in film-making.
Producer Melanie Coombs, whose diverse slate includes Oscar-winning animation Harvie Krumpet, said creative teams should not have to go cap-in-hand with an executive producer to access Screen Australia funds. Not all agree, however. Producer Daniel Scharf said the scattergun approach of short film making isn't working and funding should be in the hands of producers, not government agencies.
However, the guidelines do provide funding of up to $80,000 for short animations. The perceived anomaly, explained former Film Commission head Chris Fitchett on behalf of the Screen Australia bureaucrats, is because the industry has had success in this area. The guidelines' shortcomings were brought into sharp relief when someone asked what responsibility Screen Australia had to develop the industry, a view reflected outside the meeting by an attendee who suggested the guidelines were an attempt to future-proof the industry by putting it under the control of select producers.