Screen Australia ups development funds

Also streamlines its fund application process

DUBAI -- Aussie film industry body Screen Australia will spend more than $10 million on film development in 2009-10, nearly 60% more than the amount spent in an average year by its predecessor, the Australian Film Commission.

After three months of consulting the industry, Screen Australia also said Tuesday that it has streamlined the application process to get funds, and introduced an Enterprise Program to provide filmmakers as much as $500,000 per year for a three-year period.

The Enterprise Program, meant to offer multiyear funding to encourage the production of film slates rather than one-offs, will spend a minimum of $3 million in 2009-10 and grow to an estimated $5.5 million by 2011-12, Screen Australia said.

"This fundamental philosophical shift will support practitioners to create outstanding screen content that resonates with audiences," Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said, adding her belief that the sooner a producer boards a film the greater its chances at success.

Screen's overall 2009-10 budget of production incentives is $60 million, or 73% of the organization's annual budget of $82 million.

Even as the money the group gets from the government shrinks by $9.5 million to $93.5 million, Screen said the funds available to filmmakers have "significantly increased" in the form of new producers offsets or tax rebates.

Screen will continue to offer development programs for one-off features and documentaries and also introduced a Talent Escalator program intended through laboratories and fellowships to give a career boost to budding filmmakers.

An Innovation Program will focus on digital and other technology projects and, Harley said, Screen was "open to ways of funding short film production in association with state government organizations and other partners."

Screen's financing will go toward "audience-engaging and culturally relevant" features, shorts, documentaries and dramas for TV and children.

Screen also released guidelines to tap an initial $4 million in an Indigenous Programs fund aimed at helping film projects by indigenous Australians. This is $2.5 million more than was allocated by the AFC.