Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) president Nick Murray has called for the introduction of a scheme to inject up to $260,000 (A$500,000) into the p&a budgets of local films.

The move, he said, would help Australian films to overcome the difficulties they have in securing prominent and sustained release.

"US product has a 90% market share in our cinemas," Murray told SPAA's annual conference this week. "We have to compete for the remaining 10% but are doing so pitting 15 screens against 300."

Murray wants less public funding spent on international marketing - "trying to get Iceland to buy yet another package of failed Australian features" - and the Australian Film Institute to help stimulate the appetite for local films. No such scheme currently exists, although the FFC has very occasionally. provided p&A loans.

His proposal came at a conference dominated by concerns about the state of the Australian film industry - which has not had a breakout international hit since Shine in 1995. Only eight of the 140 features backed by the Australian Film Finance Corporation are in profit.

Industry consultant Malcolm Long - former managing director of public broadcaster SBS - proposed the formation of an industry-wide council across all sectors to develop a "cluster consciousness" similar to the one that has made the Australian wine industry an international success.

"The key to the wine industry's success was the collective planning of a future for the industry - creating a cluster of all the relevant players to achieve that vision and mobilising resources to address key obstacles."

He says that by comparison, the Australian film industry is fragmented and sectarian "with leadership diffused between government agencies and craft based guilds."