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Screen Australia cuts staff, caps production investments

In response to federal budget cuts, the publicly funded agency will cut up to AUD$3 million (US$2.83 million) in production investments and project development programs, and reduce 10% of its staff. (Pictured: Graeme Mason)
July 24, 2014

In response to federal budget cuts, publicly funded agency Screen Australia will cut up to AUD$3 million (US$2.83 million) in production investments and project development programs, and cap investment in feature projects at $2 million, down from $2.5 million.

The May budget cuts to the agency –  which supports about 50% of Australian screen projects such as documentaries, feature films, TV drama and children’s drama - amount to about $38 million over four years. In response, Screen Australia has undertaken a major overhaul of its programs and operations, totaling about $5 million this fiscal year.

Among the changes that could affect filmmakers is a new rule that funding up to $500,000 be given in the form of a grant that is intended to “provide more equity for the producer as well as simplify the contracting process,” according to a statement. In addition, the agency will now cap investments in feature projects at $2 million, down from the previous limit of $2.5 million, in order to spread the funds farther.

The cap comes alongside a $2 million to $3 million reduction across production investments and project development programs, as well as a $500,000 cut in funding for prints and advertising this financial year.

Furthermore, there will be cuts to Screen Australia’s Talent Escalator professional development programs of about $400,000, as well as a “transition away from direct funding” to screen resource organizations that will create savings of about $1 million to $1.6 million, though the agency said it may direct those operations elsewhere.

Finally, the agency will lose 12 full-time positions, leaving a staff of 100 – almost half the original, 190-strong team in 2008, when Screen Australia was formed after the merging of the country’s Film Finance Corporation, Australian Film Commission and Film Australia.

Meanwhile, other streamlining processes include producers now retaining copyright for projects up to $500,000, shortened turn-around times for applications, a two-stage application process that will limit the burden of initial submission materials,  and a more efficient online application system.

“There are challenges before us, but I also see great potential,” said Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia (pictured above), in a statement.

“We will reduce process as much as possible and step out of the way of industry, providing more funding as grants, with no copyright interest, so that producers keep more revenue from their productions. We will encourage new models of digital production and distribution that ensure our industry continues to evolve with its audiences.”

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