A high-powered group of signatories has sent a letter to Australian Prime Minister John Howard urging him to increase film industry funding when he hands down the 2000-2001 budget in early May.

The group includes producers Jan Chapman and Lynda House, directors Gillian Armstrong, Scott Hicks and Chris Noonan and writers Laura Jones and Jan Sardi. The letter was sent by the Australian Federation of Film & Television Associations which encompasses producers, directors, writers, actors and technical personnel.

The letter outlined the need for more funding for development and production of feature films and certain types of TV drama identified in a mini-review commissioned late last year. The letter also emphasised that Australians have invaded the big screen on a global basis which wouldn't have happened without local expertise.

Meanwhile, the state of Victoria has appointed a taskforce to review and develop a strategic framework for the Victorian film and television industry, which, despite clinching Warner Bros/Village Roadshow's Anne Rice adaptation Queen Of The Damned, has lost its share of national production in recent years.

The taskforce, which includes actor Sigrid Thornton, producer Terence McMahon, writer Chris Fitchett, lawyer John Howie, film school head Jenny Sabine and writer-director Rob Sitch, is due to report to local arts minister Mary Delahunty on August 31.