As part of its on-going revamp, Australia's major development agency, the Australian Film Commission (AFC), has issued new funding guidelines under which film-makers with a proven track record will be given the most support.

Experienced talent will be given access to the lion's share of AFC funding - and at an earlier stage in the life of a project. The move will reduce the AFC's exposure but doesn't account for the fact that a disproportionate number of critically or commercially successful Australian films are from first-timers.

In other changes, up to $29,500 (A$50,000) has been made available for several drafts of one project, providing it can be matched by a private investor, and "short features" of 45 to 55 minutes are being encouraged as a bridge between short films and features.

"It was setting people up to fail," said AFC head of development and marketing Chris Warner of the old system. "We were burning people out and they were leaving the industry because the scripts were going nowhere."

The changes are part of a continuing overhaul initiated by AFC chief executive Kim Dalton, aimed at making development the organisation's core activity. Earlier this year, the AFC decided to place more emphasis on the crucial role producers play in development. Trusting producers is a major theme in the latest changes.

At the Sydney launch of the guidelines this week, the AFC also signalled that it would be asking for industry support when it starts lobbying for more resources. The new document represents about $3.7m (A$6.3m) in funds, including a $354,000 (A$600,000) cashflow facility.

"This (the new guidelines) is against a backdrop of insufficient resources overall," said Warner. "We are trying to be more strategic but we know we have gaps. We know there are programmes that could have three or four times the money.