State Screen Agencies Respond to COVID-19

Keeping businesses afloat, fast-tracking development and priming for quick recovery are key for agencies, with smaller states able to respond first.
State Screen Agencies Respond to COVID-19 Photo by Teigan Rodger on Unsplash&a
No image supplied

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Thursday 2 April, 2020

As film and television production ground to a halt in the last fortnight, the State-based screen agencies are responding in various ways, mostly through redirecting funding into development that can be done in isolation, as well as measures aimed at keeping businesses and individuals afloat and engaged. The message from all the agencies, including Screen Australia, is that applications and processing of funding is happening as usual with some increased flexibility and relaxed criteria.

ADVERTISEMENT

State governments' general relief packages for the Arts and Creative Industries are well worth checking out too, as many include screen practitioners and digital arts programs. Hopefully many can survive this hibernation and emerge poised and ready to spring into action whenever restrictions are lifted. Six months is the period most commonly mentioned, though who knows if we'll ever work in quite the same way again?

Here are some of the State responses for the screen industry, with more announcements imminent.

Screenwest

On Tuesday this week, Screenwest announced a two-and-a-half million dollar WA Screen Industry Sustainability Package as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the statement this is funded by repurposing existing funding provided by the State Government of Western Australia through Lotterywest, but will be delivered in addition to funding already committed to current projects.

The package is focused on getting through the next six months and has been designed in response to a WA industry survey and feedback.

Key elements of the package to be launched with immediate effect include:

  • The Bright Ideas Sustainability Fund – designed for below-the-line crew and directors, this is a one-time special purpose practitioner initiative aimed at creating new methods of sustainability, and applicants can apply for up to $5000.
  • A funding boost to existing Screenwest Development Programs
  •  Repurposing and funding boost to the On Demand Content Fund
  •  Taking Care of Business  – Production Company and Producer Support Package, a one-time special purpose fund, separated into four tiers, depending on how established the applicant is, with grants ranging from Tier 1 (Up to $75,000) for established major players, to Tier 4 (up to $7,500) for emerging WA producers who've made a consistent contribution over the last 2 years.

A suite of other Talent Development and Diversity Initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks. As Screenwest's Head of Strategic Projects and Screen Investment, Matt Horrocks, said: 'Nurturing the talent of our industry is key to enabling it to survive this period. We know investing in development opportunities will enable many members of the industry to sustain work and utilise their creativity. Whilst these initial decisions will provide some support and guidance for the industry, we are still working with our partners on other measures to bolster sustainability. We make no pretense that these initiatives are adequate to the full needs of the sector. They amount to what we can do through the active repurposing of the funds we have. Watch this space.'

Screenwest has also set up a discussion group for members of the Western Australian screen industry to connect and share resources and ideas.

Screen Tasmania

The Tasmanian government has launched a COVID-19 support package that includes new funding of $1.5 million and new operational measures of over $2 million to support the individuals and organisations in Tasmania’s cultural sector. There's specific mention in this package for screen practitioners and organisations.

The Arts and Screen Digital Production Fund is aimed at supporting screen practitioners, artists and arts organisations whose work has been cancelled, postponed or disrupted by COVID-19, with grants of up to $10,000 for individuals and $50,000 for organisations to enable the arts and screen sectors to work together.

Screen Tasmania itself has committed an additional $250,000, available through the Additional Screen Development Fund to provide an injection of funds into the Tasmanian screen industry to undertake work during the current COVID-19 emergency. To allow more people to be involved in development tasks, funding caps for the Screen Tasmania Project Development Program have been increased to $30,000 for Advanced Stage Development and Short-form Series Booster, and $20,000 for Intermediate Stage Development.

The Tasmanian agency is also fast-tracking assessment of applications in its current development round, and changing its payment terms to adapt to the new conditions. Screen Tasmania ordinarily provides Project Development support 70% on signature, 30% on delivery (acquittal), but effective immediately, that will be now be 90% of signature, 10% on delivery.

South Australian Film Corporation

The SAFC website has a great FAQ section about the nitty gritty responses to COVID-19, including information about tenancy at the Adelaide Studios (tenants get a 20 per cent discount on rent until further notice), the opening of the Lottie Lyell 2020 Award, and an increased development spend for Early and Advanced Development.

In addition, the SAFC is actively encouraging development proposals that will employ SA crew to provide services to advanced stage projects and is exploring ways of engaging experienced crew in paid mentorship activities.

The SAFC also invited all members of the SA screen sector to join CEO Kate Croser and Head of Production and Development Beth Neate in a special Virtual Town Hall Meeting which occurred today (Thursday 2 April from 12.30pm) to talk through COVID-19 support measures, answer your questions and get feedback on ideas for the future. Keep an eye out for this on Facebook. We expect more announcements here soon. 

Screen Queensland

The Queensland agency has just completed an industry survey to assess what's required, and has convened a task force of experienced professionals with diverse expertise across the sector to provide feedback on the challenges facing the State's industry. Announcements expected soon.

Screen NSW

Perhaps understandably, its the states like NSW and Victoria, worst hit by the virus, that are slowest to in issuing targeted responses or funding packages for the screen industry. Last week, Screen NSW issued an update for its clients. Key points included the closure for the time being of Festival Travel and Market Travel, and he closure of applications to Charlie's working space and postponement of the talent escalator in LA. Production finance and development funding rounds are open as usual for applications.

Film Victoria

Film Vic's industry development opportunities remain open, and they're actively seeking applications and input from entities seeking to deliver industry development online. They've issued an update communicating facts, including that activities that are already funded can seek to negotiate and renew funding requirements, including:

  • Adjusting requirements on meeting KPIs
  • Delaying or removing reporting requirements
  • Varying the purposes and outcomes of funding
  • Extending timelines for projects
  • Allowing organisations to use funds provided for a deliverable to be repurposed to pay essential bills including wages, rent and utilities.  

The ACT & Canberra 

The ACT Government has issued $500,000 immediate support for Canberra artists who have lost their income and ability to maintain their arts practice as a result of COVID-19. This is not administered through a screen agency, but does include screen artists. Funding of up to $10,000 per artist will be available for Canberra artists to support arts development and the sustainability of their arts practices over the next 6-9 months. Applications will open on 30 March 2020 and will close on 17 April 2020 at 5pm.

Northern Territory

Through the Northern Territory Government's $2 million Creative Industry Sector Immediate Response and Resilience package, there's $1 million for a Screen Industry Support and Content Development Program. This reprioritised funding program will be delivered through three funding rounds (round 1 opens on 1 June), with two primary grant objectives: 

  • To support screen content development, essential upskilling of the industry
  • Development of production-ready content.

There's also a Digital Adaptation fund ($10,000 per practitioner) and a Channel NT Virtual Territory program, aimed at getting artists online and digital. Canny screen workers in the NT will know that collaborating with visual artists to make work online and digital is one way through this crisis.

Watch this space as things unfold.

About the author

Rochelle Siemienowicz is a journalist for Screenhub. She is a writer, film critic and cultural commentator with a PhD in Australian cinema. She was the the co-host of Australia's longest running film podcast 'Hell is for Hyphenates' and has written a memoir, Fallen, published by Affirm Press.

Twitter: @Milan2Pinsk
Instagram: Rochelle_Rochelle