The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) is to formally ask the federal government for a one-off $84m (A$90m) injection of cash for the production of feature films.

SPAA is arguing for a three-year fund on the basis that the sector has to attract institutional investors in order to grow and that the producer offset (PO) is not working as expected, in part because of the global financial crisis and the negative effect it is having on independent film.

Under the proposal, a film would need 75-80% of its budget in place to be eligible and would principally be for films costing $3.7m-$14m (A$4m-A$15m), SPAA executive director Geoff Brown told

But it would also back bigger budget pictures such as Bruce Beresford’s Mao’s Last Dancer, which has now taken A$14m to become the twelth most successful Australian film of all time locally. A budget cap of $23m (A$25m) is likely to be applied.

SPAA wants the fund run by a chief executive answerable to a panel of highly experienced players. More details will be known once the submission is finalised by mid-December.

The PO, introduced more than two years ago, returns 40% of the cost of Australian features back to the producer and whether it is operating to expectations is the subject of some debate.

Screen Australian chief executive Ruth Harley says it is, but Brown says it isn’t because most films utilising the PO are still depending on a green light from Screen Australia, or would have been made anyway with studio backing – his examples are Happy Feet 2 and Guardians Of Ga’Hoole.

Harley is expected to issue some financial information about the PO take-up on Friday during her session at the annual SPAA conference, which begins in earnest on Wednesday.

“I will regard it as successful when a minimum of two active equity investors are backing half a dozen or a dozen films per year,” said Brown. Producers would need to give potential investors a large slice of their 40% equity entitlement in order to attract them, he said. Australian investors have been notoriously shy of film since the 1980s.

In other news, it was announced today that after 30 years in the job, Sue Milliken has stepped down as the key representative of Film Finances, one of two very active completion bond companies in Australia and New Zealand. She has passed the reins to Anni Browning who has worked alongside her for 12 years. Milliken, who has two features in development, will consult to the company.