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Screen Australia releases documentary Discussion Paper

30/09/2019

30 09 2019 - Media release Screen Australia releases documentary Discussion Paper

Behind the Blue Line, The Australian Dream, War on Waste

Screen Australia has today published a Discussion Paper which outlines proposed revisions to the agency's documentary funding program to better support the industry and adapt to changes in the sector.

Industry feedback is being sought, with submissions closing 27 October 2019. New guidelines will be published in February 2020, and effective from 1 July 2020.

Screen Australia's proposed reforms will enhance the existing Development, Producer and Commissioned programs, and create a new Completion funding pathway for lower-budget documentaries.

Head of Documentary at Screen Australia, Bernadine Lim said, Over the past few months, we have met with over 100 documentary content creators, distributors, and broadcasters from around Australia. We have heard and considered the range of issues and opportunities facing the documentary sector. Whilst we can't provide solutions for every pressure point, for those matters within our sphere of influence, I believe these proposed revisions will ensure creators can keep telling exceptional true stories.

We have designed these reforms with a view to making our funding programs more accessible and easy to understand. I'm confident these changes will promote a diverse slate of projects across more platforms, made by creators of varying experience levels.

The annual funding available to the Documentary Department will remain in the $14-$16 million range.

A summary of the four proposed reforms are listed below:

1. An enhanced Development Program with increased funding, and a simplified application process, open year round. The funding pool for Development and initiatives will increase by up to $500,000 to $1.3-$1.7 million, to help projects build momentum and early market interest. The fund will support creators to meet market demand for more elaborate development materials and encourage the creation of local formats.

Three types of development opportunities will be offered to reflect the key phases in the development cycle. These include Seed funding to support very early phase development, General Development funding for research and the creation of development materials, and Advanced Development funding for projects with marketplace interest.

2. A simplified Producer Program with an easier application process and an extra funding round, meaning applications will now be accepted five times a year. Funding will be capped at $500,000 per project. The application process is expected to be much easier and faster. Only applications that require further clarity will be required to submit additional materials via a second stage.

The $500,000 per project cap reflects the typical maximum ask of the fund in recent years. A portion of the fund will be quarantined for low-budget documentary.

The funding pool for the Producer Program will increase by up to $300,000 to $4.4-$4.9 million.

3. Revise and clarify the Commissioned Program to fund projects commissioned by all current major platforms including free to air, pay TV and streaming services. The cap per project will be lowered from $1 million to $750,000 to enable more titles to be funded. The revised program will ensure Australian documentary content is available on as many platforms as possible. Local platforms may receive preference for funding, but provided a project qualifies for the Producer Offset and the Australian producer is bona fide, projects for global streaming platforms will be eligible.

The funding pool for the Commissioned Program will remain in the $6.5-$7 million range.

4. Introduction of a creatively assessed Completion Fund for low-budget documentaries (with total budgets of $125,000-$500,000) that provides up to 20% of an approved budget via an accelerated cashflow method. The proposed fund will be open all year and will have a total funding pool amount of $1.5-$2 million. The existing Producer Equity Program (PEP) will be retired. In 2019/20 total PEP funding will be capped at $2.5 million.

The Completion Fund has been designed so that the majority of projects that would previously have been eligible for PEP, will now be eligible for Completion Fund. Funding limits will remain the same as they were for PEP, but the first drawdown will increase from 50% to 80% to give faster access to funds.

Additional changes include:

Increase the minimum licence fees under the Commissioned Program to reflect increases in production costs and support more sustainable screen businesses.

The proposed increase has been calculated by applying the method used by the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) for drama quota settings.

Applicants must provide a domestic pre-sale from an eligible commissioning platform with a minimum licence fee. The fees will increase as follows:

From $180,000 to $196,000 per hour, where Screen Australia funding is more than $500,000.

From $150,000 to $163,000 per hour, where Screen Australia funding is $500,000 or less.

There will be no change to the other licence fee, which will remain:

$100,000 per hour, where at least 10% of the budget comprises of advances from sales agents for the international market, and/or international territory presales irrespective of the level of the Screen Australia funding.

In exceptional circumstances, Screen Australia may consider a lower licence fee if the international offer forms a very high proportion of the total budget.

Eligibility requirements have been revised to create an open-door approach to seed and online development funding.

Eligibility requirements will change to make documentary funding more accessible. No credits will be required to access Seed Funding, development for any online program or the Completion Fund.

More details about eligibilit
LINK: https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2019/09-30-scr...
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