As expected, very experienced producers will most benefit under the new regime and large amounts of money will be directed into a small number of projects and businesses, rather than being spread thinly across many.
Some companies will get as much as $900,000 (A$1.5m) over three years for development under an 'enterprise programme'. They will have to demonstrate that they have a track record, an ambitious business plan, and an impressive slate of projects.
For other producers, there will still be resources available for the development of specific projects, as there was from the now defunct Australian Film Commission (AFC), but projects will have to have experienced producers attached and teams around them.
The maximum per application is $30,000 (A$50,000) and applications will be favoured if they have marketplace approval or the promise of development financing from elsewhere as well. Various criteria still have to be met but producers do not have to fit projects into boxes as was the case at the AFC.
Features applying for production investment will be assessed on six criteria: the track record of the main creative triumvirate; the distinctiveness, quality and readiness of the script; the project's creative potential; the audience potential; the commercial potential; and the financing strategy and the team's ability to deliver the project.
Screen Australia says films of all budget sizes are eligible and that it is committed to involving the industry in the selection process, although how this will work is not specified.
The draft guidelines state that when the new agency invests alongside the producer offset, the total contribution from both government sources will not exceed 75% of the budget, but that it is unlikely to get that high except in exceptional circumstances. (All Australian features can now get back 40% of their qualifying production expenditure in Australia under the producer offset, providing that expenditure reaches $60,000 (A$1m).)
Screen Australia will insist on guaranteed local theatrical distribution and an international sales agent before considering applications able and expected to claim the offset. Applications will be accepted at any time, in line with Screen Australia's aim of being responsive. Features with budgets too low for them to qualify for the offset will only be able to apply on two occasions each year, however. If they are of great cultural merit, they could get as much a 75% from the agency.
Much is made in the guidelines about innovation, which seems to be shorthand for digital media projects. The indigenous branch of the old AFC will be replicated in the organisation - or more accurately, continued, as all the staff of the AFC, the FFC and Film Australia moved over into the new organisation except two of the chief executives.
Screen Australia is saying all the right things. When choosing which projects to invest in for production, for example, it will 'value excellence, audience engagement and Australian cultural content across all platforms.' In development the goal is to develop 'a vibrant, successful and dynamic screen industry, which is responsive to audiences and provides an interpretation of Australian culture both here and overseas.'
Whether it succeeds in these aims is yet to be seen and what cultural content constitutes, now that the producer offset is meant to cater for commercial projects, remains a mystery.