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HONG KONG – Screen Australia, Australia’s federal support body for the film and TV industries, is to cut staff numbers and streamline its programs.

The moves were announced by CEO Graeme Mason on Wednesday, after the federal government recently required the organization to save A$25 million (US$23.6 million) over the next four years.

Mason said the organization should use the cutbacks and enforced reshuffle to become more industry focused.

Staff numbers will be lowered from 112 at present to 100, saving approximately A$1 million (US$945,000) per year. The marketing department will be eliminated, as will the state and industry programs section and three from the legal department. The marketing department will be replaced with a new ‘Business and Audience’ department. The new head count means that Screen Australia is nearly half the size it was when it was established in 2008 and had 180 staff.

The ceiling for direct investment in film productions and project will be lowered from A$2.5 million (US$2.36 million) to A$2 million (US$1.89 million) in order to make funds go further, while saving A$2 million-A$3 million per year. And funding support under A$500,000 (US$472,000) will in future become non-recoupable grants, where previously the grant ceiling was $A$200,000 (US189,000). Screen Australia will no longer hold any copyright in productions receiving less than $500,000 and only a 1% share above that.

Other cost savings will come from reductions in P&A support, professional development programs and support for ‘screen resource’ programs.

“We have recently reviewed our funding programs to adapt our approach to both the evolving needs of industry and shifts in audience behaviour. The Enterprise Program now supports three strands – People, Stories and Growth – with a focus on industry attachments, the creation of original IP through high-level writing initiatives, and new business development models to extend the capacities of our industry,” Mason said.

“We will back our creative talent to capitalise on opportunities and take more Australian stories out to the world. We will grow the pie for Australian production by facilitating international collaborations, using advantages such as our talent and our world class production reputation. We will reduce process as much as possible and step out of the way of industry, providing more funding as grants, with no copyright interest, so that producers keep more revenue from their productions. We will encourage new models of digital production and distribution that ensure our industry continues to evolve with its audiences.”

Where Screen Australia has previously been criticized for some of its production funding choices, Mason says there is now a clear policy line.
“Production funding will sharpen its focus on stories that matter: innovative, risk-taking projects that identify and build talent; culturally significant, intrinsically Australian stories that resonate with local audiences; and high-end ambitious projects that reflect Australia to the world,” he said. And to speed decision making, letters of intent for production funding will be signed by Mason as CEO, rather than the Screen Australia board.

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