Feedback on Screen Tasmania's draft Program Guidelines

Wide Angle Tasmania responded to Screen Tasmania's invitation for feedback on the agency's Draft program guidelines with the following submission provided on August 21, 2017.

Wide Angle Tasmania feedback on Screen Tasmania Draft program guidelines

Background to Wide Angle Tasmania’s feedback

Screen Tasmania was instrumental in the establishment of Wide Angle Tasmania when it provided a grant of $50,000 to the Salamanca Arts Centre for the operation of the Mobile Media Access Facility in 2004.  The intention was that “The Facility will provide workshops and screen culture activities for emerging filmmakers around Tasmania.”  The establishment of Wide Angle brought Tasmania into line with other states where similar screen resource organisations had existed since the 1970s and had played a vital role in developing the skills of screen practitioners, personnel essential to the growth of screen industries in other states.

Screen Tasmania’s early investment has created an enduring institution that has, and continues to be vital to the Tasmanian screen sector.  

Incorporated in 2005, Wide Angle Tasmania went on to be supported by both Screen Tasmania and Screen Australia to provide development activities for screen practitioners in Tasmania.  Funding from Screen Tasmania averaged $60,000 per year. This arrangement was formalised through triennial, tripartite agreements 2009-2011 and 2012-2015, and acknowledged in Screen Tasmania’s previous Strategic Plan and program guidelines.

After budget cuts in 2014, Screen Australia announced that it would cease direct funding of the nation’s screen resource centres including Wide Angle Tasmania from Dec 2015. 

After the loss of federal funding in 2015, Screen Tasmania responded to our request for 18 months support with an offer of 6 months operational stop gap funding of $30,000 to provide time to align WAT’s activities with the Screen Tasmania Strategic Plan and additional funding opportunities within State government.  This offer was declined by WAT as it was insufficient to enable WAT to continue operating in a manner consistent with its constitution and statutory obligations.

Through an extraordinary sequence of events, Wide Angle Tasmania has successfully transitioned to a fully independent organisation, operating without government support since January 2016. 

Feedback on what is missing from the Guidelines

1.  The guidelines do not include a program of direct support to Wide Angle Tasmania
In 2016 WAT secured philanthropic support to prevent our closure and continue our work in the screen sector.  It is disappointing that Screen Tasmania has not sought opportunities to work closely with WAT to leverage the significant private sector finance secured specifically for the development of the Tasmania screen sector.

Instead, Screen Tasmania’s plan and guidelines propose to duplicate much of the role and mission of our organisation: 

  • “Screen Tasmania will focus on the emergence of developing Tasmanian practitioners
  • Screen Tasmania will assist in the delivery of training and professional development to support the development of creative businesses and individuals in the screen sector.”

(Screen Tasmania’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021 p. 15)

Aside from the obvious duplication of resources, this policy shift ignores the experience, goodwill and reputation that WAT has accumulated over more than a decade of involvement in training and career development of emerging screen practitioners. 

WAT is one of Screen Tasmania’s notably successful investments and it is extremely concerning that public funds may be directed towards duplicating WAT’s current activities.

Recommendations:

  • That Screen Tasmania outlines the rationale for this policy shift, and outlines in greater detail, how its intended programs will be distinct from those delivered by WAT.
  • That Screen Tasmania work with WAT to ensure that resources earmarked for professional development and emerging practitioners are used effectively to achieve strategic outcomes.  Such resources should preferably be applied within Tasmania where they not only serve to develop local talent, but also increase industry activity.

 

2.  Screen Tasmania’s strategy around ‘Special Initiatives’ and partnerships

The Guidelines do not provide detail around the ‘Special Initiatives’ and partnerships that Screen Tasmania intends to pursue to realise their Strategic Plan.  Experience and recent discussions indicate that Screen Tasmania is seeking to establish national partnerships that deliver opportunities that Wide Angle Tasmania was established to provide, and that continue to be part of WAT’s core strategic approach to working with the screen sector in Tasmania. It is perplexing that Screen Tasmania is actively pursuing these opportunities, yet it has not sought to initiate similar with Wide Angle.

 

Recommendations:

  • That Screen Tasmania articulate the strategy and purpose of ‘special initiatives’ and indicate the program strand that will be used to fund these initiatives
  • That Screen Tasmania form a genuine partnership with Wide Angle Tasmania to access Federal funds and leverage the resources of all partner organisations in any professional development activities

 

3.  Screen Tasmania’s strategy and process around ‘Production Initiatives’

Wide Angle Tasmania has a long and successful model of practitioner development based on mentored production initiatives.  WAT has successfully negotiated the complex area of volunteerism versus unpaid work in the Tasmanian screen industry and has established an appropriate model of practice and management of volunteers.

 

WAT is concerned that Screen Tasmania does not have the expertise, resources or capacity to engage directly in production initiatives.  Screen Tasmania’s Terms of Trade state that

“Screen Tasmania also expects all successful applicants to act fairly and reasonably to all third parties involved in their project. Fairness and reasonableness includes:
2.4 a) paying at least award minimum rates for all work performed by third parties on their project, including cast and crew fees, and/or by offering deferrals or revenue participation”

We understand that producers funded under Comedy Concentrate (Screen Tasmania’s production initiative) were not expected to pay award minimum rates, but to rely on volunteers. WAT is concerned about the encouragement of volunteering or revenue participation as legitimate industry professional practice.

 

Recommendation:

  • That Screen Tasmania provide funds to Wide Angle Tasmania to deliver a programme of practitioner development that is based on mentored production initiatives and with access to WAT’s resources and expertise in this area.

 

4.  The guidelines do not include a program to support Film Festivals

Screen Tasmania has historically supported the development of a Tasmanian screen culture by providing funds for film festivals.  Wide Angle Tasmania notes that support of festivals provide a range of benefits beyond audience development including professional development of practitioners, connections and networking opportunities with the broader industry and fostering curatorial and entrepreneurial activity.  WAT has traditionally supported festivals via sponsorship, auspicing and provision of advice and referral.  The removal of this program from Screen Tasmania’s guidelines increases the sector’s ask and need for support from Wide Angle Tasmania.

 

By way of demonstration, Screen Tasmania provided a $10,000 grant to stage the Tasploitation Challenge in 2016.  In 2017 WAT stepped in to ensure the continuation of this event without Screen Tasmania funding – recognizing its importance as an event that encouraged participation in screen production, generated strong audiences and supported the professional aspirations of our local filmmakers staging the broader festival.  The outcomes were noteworthy - 22 teams completed the Challenge, representing over 70 crew from around the State. The screening was attended by around 200 people and the films continue to be screened online.  WAT’s support included staff resources, insurances and equipment provision to filmmakers.  The event was run at a small cash loss (without accounting for the cost of resources allocated to the event). 

 

Whilst WAT recognises the value of festivals and events such as these, WAT does not have the financial capacity to resource the demand for support from our community.

 

Recommendation:

  • That Screen Tasmania provide funds to Wide Angle Tasmania to deliver a programme for local screen practitioners to have access to screening events. 

 

Feedback on the Capacity Program

1.  The Capacity program preferentially favours Screen Tasmania and interstate providers to the detriment of Tasmanian providers of professional development activities
WAT notes several concerns arising from the proposed Capacity – Professional and business development program, including:

  • Practitioners can only access subsidies to attend professional development activities conducted outside the state (or at matched funding initiatives provided by Screen Tasmania)
  • Screen Tasmania has an opportunity to strengthen the business model of local providers of professional development activities by either limiting eligibility to Tasmanian companies or requiring that interstate companies work in genuine partnership.  Failing to do so opens the market to direct competition to local providers by federally funded organisations such as AFTRS etc.
  • Screen Tasmania risks competing with private sector providers on unequal terms.  The “competitive neutrality principles, under the National Competition Policy, require that all significant government business activities should be corporatised or, if full corporatisation is not feasible, a 'full costing' model must be applied to offset any competitive advantage arising from public ownership.” (from the website of the Office of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator).

 

Screen Tasmania recently sponsored a one-day workshop entitled SPA Business Essentials.  Presented by SPA and AFTRS, Screen Tasmania sponsorship allowed these organisations to offer the course at a reduced price of $200.  Screen Tasmania then provided a direct subsidy of $150 per attendee (ie. Tasmanian participants were able to attend for $50 each.) Meanwhile, Wide Angle Tasmania is currently advertising a weekend workshop for Screen Producers at $220 per attendee.  WAT approached Screen Tasmania to offer a similar level of direct subsidy for local participants but was advised that Screen Tasmania would not provide subsidised places for attendees.  At this stage numbers are low and WAT faces the option to cancel or provide the course at a loss. 

 

It is concerning that Tasmanian public funds are subsidising national organisations at the expense of Tasmanian organisations.

 

Recommendations:

  • That Screen Tasmania review its practices to align with competitive neutrality principles
  • That the guidelines be revised to provide measures that will aid the long term sustainability of Tasmanian providers of professional development activities
  • That the guidelines be revised to provide equality of subsidy for practitioners seeking locally provided professional development activities
  • That Screen Tasmania invests direct support to Wide Angle Tasmania for a range of professional development activities

 

2.  The Capacity Program references the Workforce Development Plan

Alignment with the Screen Industry Workforce Development Plan is a selection criterion for assessment under the Capacity Program guidelines.  Stakeholders involved in the formation of the WDP have acknowledged that the document is not a strategy, that the Action Plan is nascent, and that it needs further work.

 

Recommendation:

  • That Screen Tasmania clarify the status of the Action Plan.  Is this Plan accepted and supported by Screen Tasmania as a key criterion on which professional and business development activity will be assessed 2017-2021?

Additional requests for clarification/rationale across the Guidelines

  • WAT requests greater detail on how the total STAS budget is allocated for each program
  • What is the rationale for including expatriate Tasmanians as eligible for Capitalise and Originate programs?
  • Which (if any) festivals are recognised by Screen Tasmania for eligibility assessment?
  • The criteria by which entry level practitioners need to demonstrate a ‘commitment to a career in the screen industry’.
  • Screen Tasmania to clarify what ‘exceptional circumstances’ might lead to Screen Tasmania varying the Guidelines, or setting requirements aside
  • What is the rationale for individuals and companies having the same overall cap on funding applied each year for travel under Capacity strand B and C?
  • What is the rationale for Originate and Capitalise Program specifying that the project team must include a female as a key creative?
  • Does WAT qualify as a larger organisation under Capacity programme?
  • Why will applications to the Capacity and Emergence programs generally be considered by the Executive Manager without reference to STAB?

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