Apr 8, 2011

Has Film Victoria Given Up On Emerging Filmmakers?

I'm not one to cast aspersions (ha!) but I have a pressing feeling Victoria is not the place to be if you are an emerging filmmaker who wants state government support.

I'm not a massive fan of government bodies as sole funding mechanisms for film, but I do understand that as an emerging filmmaker with an unconfident private sector, finding money to get that first project off the ground can be hard. If you can scrape together some money from business, matched funding from government can be useful to push the film further. Over all though, there aren't many choices for young ducks. Thus, I've been exploring funding opportunities through Film Victoria.

I was at the Australian Writers Guild conference at the start of the year. They had breakfast speed-dating. We moved from table to table, getting in 10 minute chats with officers from places like Film Vic, Screen West, Channel 10 and Sticky Pictures. QLD and WA's reps were super keen to get us younglings over to their state and fund emerging projects. New people. Fresh blood. I moved over to Film Vic's table for the home-ground advantage.

Last year, Film Vic ran an initiative called Catapult. Writers could submit feature films that had no producer attached. No previous experience (two hours of nationally broadcast TV or a theatrically released feature film) was necessary. The initiative simply aimed to uncover new raw talent. I had missed the deadline last year, so I asked about it for this year. I was told they probably wouldn't be running it, but maybe next year in a different format, we'd get something else. I asked why they weren't running it this year. Was it not successful? "Oh no," she replied. "We got over 100 scripts. It was just too many." So they won't be running it again this year because they had too high a response? I was very disappointed by this answer. Surely getting a huge response is a good thing? Doesn't that mean there's a lot of budding talent out there, who could stand to be nurtured by the state body established to do exactly that?

I went back to the Screen West table and started thinking about stories I could tell in Perth.

Fast forward to now. We have a short film that's at an advanced stage of development. The script is tight, a slick animatic with sound effects has been done up by our director. There's funding interest from the private sector. As producer, maybe I can find further funds from Film Vic to help realise this puppy? I go to their site and click 'Funding'. Hmm, no short film funding there any more. OK, let's type 'short film' in their search bar. Nothing? What the hell? I could not find a single stream dedicated to shorts. The best I could see was the slate funding option.

Short films are odd. They're difficult to sell and make money from, but can be a useful tool to get seen and promote talent. As a product, they're difficult. As a marketing device, they're brilliant. The private sector struggles to see the value in dropping $30,000 on a project that has few tangible financial benefits. If any one understands the value of a short, it should be Film Victoria. I swear I remember a time when Film Vic were about short films. Am I wrong, or have they abandoned this important stepping stone?

Please, tell me I'm wrong and point me in the right direction.
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