Antony Ginnane, president of the Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) delivered an up-beat welcome address at SPAA's annual conference in Queensland, Australia.
Despite describing the feature film industry as 'spectacularly unsuccessful' of late and 'the cultural equivalent of ethnic cleansing', Ginnane went on to describe the new producer offset as a 'magnificent opportunity... to move the power centre in the industry from government bureaucracies to producers'.
He acknowledged, however, that the world economic climate was having a big negative effect.
'International banks are pulling out of the film sector left and right,' Ginnane, 'while we are gamely trying to introduce banks and financial intermediaries to the offset to enable it to become an integrated part of the new funding process.'
In fact, there is no shortage of Australian financial intermediaries at the conference.
New players such as Abacus, Fulcrum, Media Funds Management and Waterloo, and existing companies such as Investec, were present and all took the opportunity to point to their ability to cashflow the offset and fund the gap.
Little is being said, however, about actual deal terms and which banks are standing behind them.
Ginnane highlighted that the landscape is changing fundamentally not just because of the offset, which gives back 40 per cent of Australian production expenditure on Australian films to producers, but also because of the arrival of the new super-agency Screen Australia.
Ginnane said he was 'broadly comfortable' with its draft guidelines. He also gave a stamp of approval to the incoming chief executive, former New Zealand Film Commission boss, Ruth Harley, describing her as
'intelligent, collaborative, knows her staff and has done much to advance the cause of film and television in NZ.'
Ginnane suggested that Screen Australia consider underwriting commercial lenders against any shortfall or default on the offset. He reiterated concerns about the offset not being available to very low-budget pictures and highlighted that producers have to wait 12 months to get back the offset if they finish their films just after the end of the financial year.
He also warned that nothing had yet been said about how Screen Australia will split its $100 million worth of taxpayer money between production, development, marketing and cultural support,
After delivering his address, Ginnane presented life memberships to producer Patricia Lovell, who produced such iconic films as Picnic At Hanging Rock and Gallipoli, and Murray Forrest, who ran Australia's dominant film laboratory Atlab for many years.
SPAA executive director Geoff Brown confirmed that next year the SPAA Conference moves back to Sydney for the first time for a decade. It has been in Queensland for the last five years and this year has attracted 550 people.