Australian funding body the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) is to adopt a studio model when funding local films as part of a radical overhaul of its investment procedures.
Chief executive Brian Rosen said that the FFC will choose films to fund and will then work alongside filmmakers to secure marketplace interest.
In the past the FFC has used a deal driven model of funding - using deals with distributors, investors and other marketplace players to trigger FFC support.
The new studio model is likely to see a committee rather than an individual making funding decisions. Rosen said its success will depend on these decision-makers going for the innovative idea and taking risks because, generally, Australian films have to be distinctive to attract audiences. Pale imitations of Hollywood films, he said, rarely work.
Rosen was speaking to producers on the final day of the annual conference of the Screen Producers Association of Australia, and he was quick to assure them that the plan needed their approval and the board's.
His proposal is partly a response to a perceived lack of accountability over which films are funded. It also comes as the Australian industry suffers from a severe lack of finance.
The other half of Rosen's plan is to use the FFC's money to create a bigger pot, and an investment banker is currently conducting a feasibility study on how this might be achieved. A local version of sale and leaseback is not out of the question, for example, he said.
The FFC currently provides about half of the total cost of US$43m (A$60m) for 12-15 films per year. Rosen does not envisage backing more films but, with the help of research recently commissioned from producer Antonia Barnard, he would like that US$43m grow to US$72-87m.
While there is "no way" the Federal Government will increase funding to this extent he told ScreenDaily.com that he was "90% optimistic" that it would provide some increase if the FFC started working more closely with the private sector.
Rosen emphasised his disdain for guidelines and his love of flexibility during his 80-minute address. His ideas included better rewarding producers for success, paying for financing trips abroad, and funding re-shoots and re-edits where appropriate.
He also said filmmakers had to pay more heed to audiences - "I have no problem if a film is a niche film that only 100,000 people are going to see but the size of the budget has to reflect that." He talked constantly about the need to engage, intrigue and excite audiences.