News 10.06.16

NSW ANNNOUNCES $20M ‘MADE IN NSW’ FILMING FUND



Ausfilm sat down and spoke with Courtney Gibson, CEO of Screen NSW who is in Los Angeles this week, following the NSW Government’s announcement of an additional $20m in funding to Screen NSW over two years to attract domestic and international production to the State.  The ‘Made in NSW’ fund trebles the amount of money Screen NSW has to invest in production over the next two years.

Courtney Gibson was appointed in late 2015 as CEO of Screen NSW, the funding body which serves the state that’s home to 60% of Australia’s production companies. A senior Australian media executive with a background in TV commissioning and production, Courtney has served in roles including Executive Head of Content Creation at ABC TV, Head of Arts, Entertainment and Comedy at ABC TV, Programming Production Executive at the Nine Network, Director of Programmes at Endemol Australia and Commissioning Editor in Documentary at SBS TV.


What does the $20m ‘Made in NSW’ mean for production in NSW?

This new fund of $20m over two years (2016/17 – 2017/18) is a strategic decision by the NSW Government to invest in major Australian TV drama and to attract international film and TV. The fund will also free up Screen NSW’s recurring funding to invest in more local feature film production, as well as alternative platform content and new technologies.

The fund will invest in Australian TV drama to be made in NSW that has the potential to travel internationally and to reach new audiences, and the production of new internationally financed films and television, including co-productions.


What kind of television projects is Screen NSW looking to fund?

We will be looking to support TV drama, both series and mini-series, with the potential for returning series, the potential to sell internationally, which will be shown on prime time Australian television – either free to air or subscription channels and online platforms – and that is a landmark, event, must- see television that people will talk about.

What does the ‘Made in NSW’ fund mean for NSW’s ability to attract ‘footloose’ production?

The fund gives us the opportunity to aggressively pursue international productions.  We know NSW has cast, crew, facilities and services, including our PDV providers, that are among the world’s best and this new funding makes us even more competitive.
International productions bring tremendous economic value to the State as well significant benefits to our location industry, including opportunities to showcase and develop our crews and talent as well as infrastructure and facilities.

On this trip to LA it is my intention to forge significant relationships for the long haul, to attract significant production to NSW to the benefit of partners on both sides of the Pacific.


You are overseeing an energetic period of change and renewal at Screen NSW. What are some of your key priorities, outside the focus of the ‘Made in NSW’ fund?
We led the way as the first Australian screen agency to set a gender target of 50:50 by the year 2020 – an equal gender split  of writers, directors and producers across our suite of content funding programs and we have made it our priority to provide more funding and create more opportunities for other underrepresented groups including indigenous practitioners, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, practitioners with disabilities and LGBTQI content creators. Ensuring a plurality of voices and perspectives is critical to delivering rich content from our sector.

Partnerships and exploration of new technologies are vital to making sure Screen NSW screen practitioners can take advantage of opportunities developing in our industry both here and internationally.

We’ve created 360 Vision, a Virtual Reality development program, in partnership with the ABC, Screen Australia, Event Cinemas and AFTRS.  This kicked off with a truly inspiring one-day lab earlier this month where speakers included the inimitable writer, director, producer Rose Troche (The L Word, Go Fish) who has spent recent years developing pioneering VR works. Other international presenters were Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer at the Canadian Film Centre and Founder of CFC Media Lab, Gabo Arora, Senior Advisor and Filmmaker at the United Nations (UN) and Barry Pousman, Co-Founder, CEO of Variable Labs and a Chief Digital Strategist at the UN.

We are now calling for submissions for Virtual Reality content across all genres, with up to six projects selected for further development under the banner of 360 Vision.

We’ve also launched our 360 Vision Virtual Reality app. Developed by Triggar VR, the 360 Vision app is compatible with Apple and Android and available to download from app stores, with new content uploaded every week.


What are some of the partnerships you’ve been working on?
Partnerships are all about leveraging opportunity for NSW screen creatives. We have just announced a new three-year joint initiative with ABC TV Arts to fund one new feature length arts documentary each year. The documentary will have its world premiere each year at the Sydney Film Festival prior to screening on ABC TV.

As part of our drive for gender equity, we have developed She Shoots, a program to address the overwhelming gender disparity in commercial unscripted television camera and sound departments.  This is a partnership between AFTRS, Screen NSW, Women NSW and Executive Women’s Television Group, a group of NSW-based senior women from production companies and broadcasters, who have come together to tackle gender bias in the screen industry.

This group of NSW women came together when they heard about our gender target and decided they wanted to do something about pro-active. As with our funding, delivering results in our industry is about levering other support and working together.

We have been working with TV comedy production companies to fund attachments for women writers as we know there is woeful representation of women in comedy writing rooms.  It’s been this way since the advent of television and until you just decide to hire female writers as a priority, nothing is going to change.

As a Government agency, we are uniquely positioned to insist we make decisions around prioritising projects that create equity of opportunity for women. Otherwise, all we are doing about it as an industry globally is just talking about it and running temporary initiatives which come and go but which don’t move the needle on what is a systemic problem. The only way to change things is to just start making different decisions. And at Screen NSW we are doing that. And we’re not making second best decisions or investing in anything but superstrong productions either.  We make sure that equal representation is front of our mind when we make decisions about what we are going to fund and what we are not going to fund.  If we don’t operate on this basis, nothing will change.

Gender equity, and diverse representation more broadly won’t happen unless we work together as an industry – we can’t meet our gender target unless industry comes with us. And we are going to meet that target.


What are the opportunities for co-productions with NSW and what other incentives are available for producers bringing their projects to NSW?
In addition, to support from Screen NSW, producers can access Australian Federal Government incentives.   The Producer Offset is available to producers of Australian film and television projects – including qualifying co-productions. With 40% offset for features, it’s one of the most attractive offsets in the world. The Australian Federal Government provides an incentive for larger budget foreign films which film in Australia. The Location Offset is applied at a fixed rate of 16.5% of qualifying Australian expenditure on a film project and is available to productions with an Australian spend of more than AU$15 million. The Australian Federal Government PDV Offset also provides a 30% rebate to projects that spend at least AU$500,000 on post, digital and VFX works in Australia, regardless of whether the production was shot in Australia.


What’s filming in NSW right now?
There are a number of big TV drama series in production at the moment, including Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake 2, with Elisabeth Moss and Gwendoline Christie Doctor Doctor from Essential Media, Cleverman series 2 from Goalpost Pictures (series 1 is currently screening on Sundance TV), Bond, about the infamous winner of the America’s Cup in 1985, Alan Bond; Deep Water, a true crime drama from Blackfella Films with Noah Taylor and Yael Stone.

There‘s also the feature Dance Academy: The Comeback, which will also shoot in NYC, The LEGO® Batman Movie in production at Animal Logic, Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant and the final touches are being made to Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, which will be released later this year.