Scripts must reflect big ideas that are unique and engaging, local distributors and potential overseas partners told the Australian and New Zealand filmmakers pitching projects as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival's financing market 37South.

While hardly a new or surprising message, it is a crucial one at a time when the support mechanisms and financing structures of both countries are in transition - and it is also a good reminder for independents worldwide in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

By today (Sunday), the last day of the four-day 37South, there had been 820 meetings, some of which involved high-profile overseas entities such as The Weinstein Company, The Works, Moviehouse, Magnolia, the Bank of Ireland and Aramid Capital. Mark Gooder, Australian head of Icon until he moved within the company to LA two years ago, made the sobering point, however, that it was more common for Australia to be a source of talent rather than of scripts and ideas.

'It is much easier to say 'no' to an Australian film than it has ever been,' he said, blaming the small nature of local films, the glut of films on the market, many of which have better ideas and better known cast, audience preoccupation with other things, and limited non-theatrical revenues.

Roadshow managing director Joel Pearlman said similar but added a positive spin: 'The majority of films released as an industry have tended to be more niche and when they gross $2m that is a good result. We have far less shots at more substantial commercial returns but I absolutely believe that with the right sort of material you can captivate audiences.'

False rumours swirled around that the Minister of the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, might announce the name of the inaugural chief executive of new agency Screen Australia when he spoke on Friday night. Instead he said it would be soon and that he was determined to make the right decision.

He said he would 'shortly' make public a 'statement of expectations' for Screen Australia and ask staff to review the programmes of the three organisations replaced on July 1, seeing how they measure up against the new functions and responsibilities. He wants to know the best way to balance support for development, production, marketing and distribution by year end, he added.

'It's clear to me that if the industry is to survive, Screen Australia must be a major influence for change,' said Garrett. 'It will need to be a very different organisation to the bodies it replaced.

'I expect that Screen Australia will adopt a strategic and innovative approach to industry support, and expect this support to balance cultural objectives while at the same time encouraging the growth of a more competitive and sustainable industry.'

Industry sustainability and more Australian production are the two key aims behind the new producer offset, introduced alongside Screen Australia. Producers have now been granted 116 provisional certificates, 47 of which are for feature-length films, representing A$824 million worth of production. But Garrett acknowledged that not all would be made.