Screen Australia has been forced to revisit its plans to strongly favour experienced producers when it hands out development finance.
The move is a result of increasing industry dissatisfaction over the agency's definition of experience. As a result, the agency has decided to re-examine that part of its guidelines.
Speaking exclusively to Screendaily.com, Screen Australia's deputy chair Ian Robertson said: 'Our aim is to ensure that producers have sufficient experience to warrant development support while not unreasonably excluding people.'
He was talking shortly after revealing to delegates at the Screen Producers Association of Australia annual conference that a review was now underway of the words used to define experience.
'Emerging producers are very unhappy about this aspect of the draft development guidelines... We will be expanding and softening the definition as it now stands,' he said. 'We always knew it would be contentious but we are certainly not going to remove the requirement for producers to be experienced... We are not going to make it open slather.'
Generally, Screen Australia's approach of outsourcing to experienced members of the production community, rather than micromanaging projects and centralising knowledge and resources within a bureaucracy, has been welcomed by producers.
But Robertson has acknowledged that perhaps they have set the bar too high. Currently, only applications for development from an experienced producer, experienced executive producer, or a highly experienced writer/director team are eligible.
An experienced producer is currently defined as someone with at least one credit as a producer on a feature that has been released on a minimum of 10 commercial screens in one territory, or exceptional credits in other genres such as a primetime broadcast miniseries or telemovie.
An experienced executive producer needs at least two as a producer or executive producer
Criteria for a highly experienced writer or director is: a credit in these roles on at least three features that have been released on a minimum of 10 commercial screens in one territory; or, one feature that has been selected for either Cannes, Venice, Berlin main sections, or Sundance; or at least two network miniseries that have received significant ratings or critical acclaim.
There are concerns that these definitions are too rigid; do not recognize achievement in other disciplines; force some producers to hand over intellectual property to other producers without guaranteed gain; and confuse experience and talent..
Screen Australia is also under fire for its decision to not directly fund short films, at least not initially. The fear is that this approach may prevent the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers, who are at home with digital technology.
Robertson, in his prepared speech, confirmed that the current number of staff at Screen Australia was significantly higher than it needed to be, and that contracting and recoupment arrangements would be simplified.He also reminded delegates that applications for development finance would be decided within six weeks and accepted year-round, rather than conforming to deadlines.