At a 2016/17 Budget briefing for very senior officers of the Department of Communications, Minister Mitch Fifield set out the suite of measures that the Government will be announcing to support the various Federal Government film institutions from 2016/17 onwards. A senior staff member surreptitiously recorded Fifield’s remarks and, because he believed them to be blatant electioneering, has passed them on to industry observers. So from an informed source... Film Alert’s very own Budget leak...
Fifield paid particular tribute to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull whose desire for the film and audio visual industries to lead the way down new paths of an agile and innovative economy was regarded as the key reason for the film industry to be the subject of specific privileges. Fifield paid tribute also to the CEOs of the various film institutions for their rapid response and their agenda setting when faced with urgent requests from the Government to ‘give us something positive to sell’.
While all the details are not clear and some will require legislation to be passed by both Houses of Parliament, Fifield expressed the view that this leadership by the film and audio-visual industries would prove unstoppable. “Malcolm is especially pleased because a huge amount of this activity will be generated within his own east Sydney electorate. Win, win, win!”
Starting with Screen Australia, Fifield said that the Government had responded to the funding body’s suggestion that, as far as possible, it remove itself from anything to do with any judgement about what films to back. “There will be some films by first and second time directors but we would prefer that projects simply be sent on to us by the various state bodies who also do this sort of thing.” Otherwise, Screen Australia will remove entire levels of its middle management and simply draw up a list of film-makers who will each be given $10 million to go away and make a movie. “They can spend it all or they can leverage it into something bigger.” The first recipients, none of whom are even aware yet of the offer, are Peter Weir, Jane Campion, Wayne Blair, Rachel Perkins, Rolf De Heer and Catriona McKenzie. Thought had been given to including Ivan Sen in the group but he's just had a go and can wait until next year. Screen Australia’s CEO said the savings on staff will be put towards the funds. Before putting forward this proposal Screen Australia had sought the advice of a former senior Hollywood executive best known for his decision to pass on Star Wars. He remained convinced he had been right ‘at the time’ and that in the film industry when it comes to judging the worth of any project nobody really knows anything.
The National Film & Sound Archive will finally be freed from the penury and parsimony into which it has been plunged over the course of recent years. After providing the Government with a short, medium and long term agenda the NFSA will have funds provided to:
1. 1. Establish an NFSA Foundation for the purposes of
. co-ordinating fundraising with the private sector
. developing and deepening relationships with practitioners and the film industry; and
. encouraging research, debate and public discussion on the issues of film preservation, restoration and access
2. Iincrease the Federal Government’s financial contribution to ensure that the requirements for digitization of the collection is achieved in a timely and efficient manner
3. Develop plans for a major building to be located in Sydney to house key elements of the NFSA administration in conjunction with all appropriate film-related state government authorities and to include a screening and exhibition venue similar to ACMI in Melbourne
4. Fund, publicise and actively support a new search program designed to locate key lost elements of Australia’s silent film heritage.
Fifield thought that an annual commitment of $25m a year over the next decade should see the NFSA into a brighter future and enable it to become a world leader in the digitization of national film collections. “The place was in a perilous state until we were convinced that with an injection of money applied to the visionary agenda publicly and relentessly promoted by the NFSA, things could happen to take the place into a brilliant, innovative digital future” said Fifield.
The Australian Film, Television & Radio School will be given a small boost in funding. This boost will be sufficient to enable the school to remove itself from its current many and varied Technical & Further Education activities and allow the school to refocus on its primary task of educating talented would be feature film directors in the practical art of the cinema. Fifield was very firm at this point of his dissertation:“The School hasn’t produced any directors of note for years. The reason for this is because it stopped trying to do so. Why it did is a mystery that may never be solved. I’ve taken advice from the new team and I’m prepared to back them. If they fail in their task then there will be nothing for it but to formally hand the place over to the NSW Government for integration into the TAFE system. I am informed that the building specs are very good and the addition of Bunsen burners and other equipment will not threaten safety.”
Television Licence Fees will be abolished. This has been done after discussions with the TV majors who have agreed that the entire amount foregone by the Federal Government will be spent on the production of Australian drama. The amount to be spent will reduce by 10% a year until it is exhausted. The allocation of funds available will not remain with the TV majors. Instead the amount will be placed in a pool and be allocated by a specially chosen TV Drama Committee. Applicants will be able to approach the TVDC with proposals and offer the product to all TV stations, including the ABC, Foxtel and SBS. The Chair of the TVDC is to be Ms Anne Biderman. Committee members will include Mr David Simon, Mr Julian Fellowes, Mr Graham Yost and Ms Deborah Cox.
Fifield summed up by saying that the film industry had always been a leader. “We have stopped producing quality graduates from our School, once again stopped producing feature films that get any attention in the major film competitions and still not been able to utilise the skills on hand to participate in the international movement for massive digitization, restoration and retrieval of our film heritage. I declare those days over.”
The many Government supporters listening to the speech broke out into a burst of spontaneous and generous applause.