Screen Australia Outlines Staffing, Program Cuts

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Screen Australia helped produce film's like David Michôd's "The Rover."

The federal agency that supports film and television production in Australia was forced to make the cuts after the government pulled a total of $35.7 million out of its budget for the next four years.

SYDNEY — Government-backed agency Screen Australia will shed 10 percent of its staff and cut its production investment and project development programs by $1.9 - $2.8 million (AUS$2-3 million) a year the agency said Thursday in response to budget cuts announced by the federal government in May.

Aiming to lessen the impact of the cuts, however, the agency said it would give back more equity to producers by treating financing of up to half a million dollars as grants and relinquish copyright for projects with that level of financing.

The government announced in May it would cut Screen Australia's budget by $35.7 million (AUS$38 million) over the next four years, including pulling $4.6 million (AUS$5 million) out of its budget this year.

Screen Australia received nearly $82.8 million (AUS$88 million) in funding from the federal government in 2012-13, and around $49.9 million (AUS$53 million) of that goes to direct production funding.

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The key cuts to be made will include a reduction in staff to 100 personnel (from 112 at 30 June 2014), saving approximately $940,000 (AUS$1 million) and a $1.8 - $2.8 million (AUS$2-3 million) reduction across production investment and project development programs, with the cap on Screen Australia investment in an individual feature project lowered from $2.35 million to $1.8 million (AUS$2.5 million to AUS$2 million).

Other areas earmarked for savings by the agency include a decrease in funding for traditional prints and advertising (P&A), saving approximately $470,000 (AUS$500,000); savings of around $376,000 (AUS$397,000) in Talent Escalator professional development programs, avoiding duplication with a new enterprise; consolidation of its short film programs; and a transition away from direct funding of screen resource organizations, with an eye to commissioning those organizations to run professional development activities currently managed in house. That will create savings of up to $1.54 million (AUS$1.6 million).

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason admitted the cuts meant "difficult decision have had to be made" but the agency was "streamlining our operations and making processes simpler and easier for industry … and to the greatest extent possible we have tried to maintain funding for onscreen production," he said.

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As a result, all production funding up to $470,000 (AUS$500,000) will be treated a grant, aiming to give more equity to the producer, and the agency will also relinquish copyright in favor of the producer for all projects up to that sum. 

Other cuts will see Screen Australia's marketing department close, to be replaced by a new Business and Audience department, which will have a greater focus on business development. Assistance to state run and industry based programs will also be cut.

"There are challenges before us, but I also see great potential. We will back our creative talent to capitalize on opportunities and take more Australian stories out to the world. We will grow the pie for Australian production by facilitating international collaborations, using advantages such as our talent and our world-class production reputation. We will encourage new models of digital production and distribution that ensure our industry continues to evolve with its audiences," Mason said.