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SAFC CEO Kate Croser and Head of Production and Development Beth Neate

CORONAVIRUS

SA Screen Sector Virtual Town Hall

On Thursday 2 April, 2020 SAFC CEO Kate Croser and Head of Production and Development Beth Neate held a special Virtual Town Hall meeting for the SA screen sector to discuss the SAFC’s response to COVID-19.

You can find a full transcript of the hour-long event below. An easy read version will be available soon – please check back for updates.

Other resources

Transcript

KATE CROSER: Hi everyone, I’m Kate Croser of the South Australian Film Corporation, and I’m joined today by Beth Neate, who is our Head of Production and Development.  I’d like to start by acknowledging that the land we meet on is the traditional lands of the Kaurna people, and that the SAFC respects their spiritual relationship with their country.  We also acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the Adelaide region and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still as important to the living Kaurna people today.

I want to thank you all for joining us today.  There is quite a few people that have registered, which is fantastic to see.  In fact, probably more people have registered than we would have been able to fit in our screening theatre, so I guess that’s one silver lining of getting everyone together in this way.  Obviously this is all new for us so, please, bear with us. It’s a bit of an experiment and hopefully this is a way for us to continue to connect over the coming months as we, sort of, deal with some of these impacts of COVID-19 on our lives.

The purpose of today’s session is really to consult as much as we possibly can in a time of social distancing.  It’s a chance for us to connect with the broad South Australian screen sector, and it’s a chance for us to communicate our thinking at this time so that you as an industry have a heads up on where our focus is as the state’s lead screen agency, and we also want to take the opportunity to hear from you.

A whole bunch of people have sent through questions in advance and we thank you for those.  We will be addressing questions at the end of the session.  And also, please feel free to add comments, add questions as we go through.  Whilst Beth and I aren’t monitoring them as we speak – that would get too confusing, I think – we do have people on our team who are looking at those and are going to be feeding us questions that arise at the end of the sessions so, please, do interact as much as you can with us in that way.

The important place to start is for us to acknowledge that where we find ourselves is a place that probably we could have never predicted we’d be at a few months back.  I know for me that the real impacts of this global pandemic really hit home in terms of how it was going to hit our screen sector just a few weeks ago, when we were facing the reality of several of our major productions having to actually postpone indefinitely.  I absolutely understand the disappointment, the devastation and the sadness, I suppose, that that has created for a lot of people in our sector.  I think it’s fair to say economy wide there are so many sectors that have been impacted by this and our screen sector is one of those.  We’re in the middle really of the first stage of this crisis.  We’re still trying to work out what are all of the impacts are going to be.  The impacts are still emerging, and if you’re like me I think I’ve been – felt so overwhelmed with all of the changes and the information that has been emerging, so I think we just all need to acknowledge that a lot of people have been and are still going through a grieving process, and dealing with massive amounts of change.  That’s sort of a starting place for us as the SAFC is we want to acknowledge that that’s where industry is at.  That’s where people are at on an individual level.  That’s where society is at.

The other thing to acknowledge is that first and foremost this is a health emergency, and so as the SAFC, whilst we’re very focussed on positioning the industry strongly for coming out the other side of this, we will also be paying mind to the health and safety of everyone in the industry and of our own staff in terms of when – what kind of support we can deliver and what kind of outcomes we can support in the industry.  Right now we’re facing pretty severe restrictions in terms of travel and social distancing, which is obviously having a massive impact on physical production and other areas of our production sector.

I just wanted to share with you some of the engagement that I personally have been doing with the industry and with government.  I’ve been really just getting on the phone and speaking to a lot of people.  We have a very broad range of people and businesses that have been and are continuing to be affected by this crisis.  I’ve been talking with cast and crew, key creatives, production companies, our PDV – post production and digital visual effects companies – are also affected and will also have continuing effects as the delayed pipeline of production impacts upon those businesses.  There’s all the service companies that service around the physical production sector, and there’s also our games companies.  This year we’ve been really happy to pilot the Games Innovation Fund and bring the games community in the fold and so I’ve been speaking with all of those different parts of the sector to work out, “What are the impacts for you?  What are the impacts for your businesses?”  I’m going to continue to do that, and we also have a system set up whereby people can be communicating with the SAFC, either through just phoning us through the production and development department or through sending e-mails to our production and development team.  The e-mail address for that is programs@safilm.com.au.  We’ll have someone pop that into the livestream feed.

But we really do encourage you to share your experiences, and to share with us the impacts that you and your businesses are feeling right now.  The other thing – the other, sort of, level of engagement that I’ve been really focussed on is with government and with our partner screen agencies.  On a daily basis I’ve been talking directly to government, to our minister, Minister David Pisoni, to the Premier, to the Department for Innovation and Skills which funds the SAFC, and my approach has been to just be advocating for industry – for what industry is experiencing and what the needs of the industry are at this time.  The more that you can be feeding me that intelligence, the more that I can be representing the needs of industry to government right now.

We’ve also started a set of weekly phone conversations with Screen Australia and the other state agencies, and so through that we’re sharing information about what is happening in the screen sector across the country, and we’re sort of looking to the future of where do we think this is going to end up, and how can we all, as screen agencies, best help our individual states and our parts of the sector?

At a time like this, I thought that it could be helpful to share with you where we’re headed as the SAFC in terms of our organisational values.  We’ve been undertaking a strategic planning process and through that – we’re not at the end of that yet, and obviously the recent changes are going to have an impact on our strategic plan moving forward, but one of the really important areas that we have clarified as a team is what our commitment is to the South Australian screen sector.  And these are our values, and I think at this time it is helpful for everyone to – for us to share these and for us to, sort of, undertake to you that we will be delivering our programs and our services within these values.

These will guide all of our actions and all of our interactions with industry, and also with each other as a team.  Obviously there’s several there that immediately pop out as being crucial at a time like this:  For us to be supportive of the sector, for us to be can do, and flexible, and agile and say “yes”.  For us to be trustworthy, for us to be open.  Being open is what this session is all about.  We want to have a really open dialogue with the industry and even though we can’t get in a room together, we can do this.

For me the supportive aspect of it is something that I think people can really help us with.  You know, how can we best support the sector?  We’ve got to mindful of the fact we have an incredibly broad sector, so there’s a lot of different types of businesses, there’s a lot of different parts to the production process.  Our approach is that we’ll be directing our funds to where they can strategically make the most difference to the most number of people.

I think that in recognising that where we’re at is the first phase of what is going to be a long path to a new environment, really, out the other side of COVID-19.  Right now we’re still in the crisis phase.  We’re still responding to the health emergency.  What will come next is the recovery phase, and at the SAFC we want to be really well positioned, and we want to position the industry really strongly to be ready to step up at that point.  To be ready to contribute to a full recovery when we’re able to out the other side of the health emergency.  Within this particular phase, I think we’ve recognised that our federal government and our state government are best placed to provide that safety net in terms of living wages, the very base level of how do people live and how businesses survive.  That’s where our federal and state governments are stepping in.  We definitely want feedback from you about where industry people are falling between those cracks.  That’s something we can advocate for.  That’s something we can assist with.

For the SAFC funds that we have available, we’ve identified every available dollar and we’re channelling it all into our COVID-19 response, but our approach is to be really strategic, to spend those funds in a way that’s going to benefit a maximum amount of people.  At this point I might hand over to Beth.  Beth’s going to run through the support measures that we’ve already identified and talk to you about some proposed measures that we’re seeking your feedback on.  Thanks, Beth.

BETH NEATE:  Thanks, Kate.  Good afternoon to everyone out there.  It’s really nice to still be able to connect with you in this socially distant way.  Usually when we’d have these kind of events we’d follow them with a delicious grazing table and drinks outside in the atrium, but today it’s going to have to be hand sanitiser and cups of tea.

What I want to say up front is that we absolutely recognise that this is a very challenging and disruptive time for everyone.  We are listening to you, and we are here to support you in whatever way we can.  What’s also been really heartening for us to see is the incredible way that the industry’s already rallying around each other, so whether that’s Kirsty Stark’s amazing mega document or all the dozens of individuals who are feeding into that resource, or the fantastic suggestions that are coming through from the HOD working group and the SA producers group, or even the way that Adelaide Studios tenants are looking out for one another.  Everybody is thinking about everybody else, and I think that’s testament to all of you, and to the kindness and the resilience of the South Australian screen industry.  So, thank you.

What I’m going to do now is I’m going to speak through the measures that we’ve already put in place, as well as some proposed activities for your feedback.  All of this information will be online after this presentation, so don’t worry if you don’t get all the details now, and the information page will include links and contact details for the people you can follow up with.

As Kate has mentioned, we’re using our resources in the most strategic way we can.  We haven’t received additional funding at this time, so we have to be smarter and more resourceful with what we have.  Our response has been guided by your feedback and suggestions so, thank you, and please continue to send through your ideas.

I’m going to start with business resilience training and business mentoring.  This is something that we have available to everyone in the screen sector, so that’s crew, cast, freelancers, key creatives, independent producers, production companies, PDV companies and games companies.  What we’ve done is we’ve identified specialist companies with expertise in screen business support, so there is an opportunity for you to take advantage of training that will help you get through this very difficult period right now, as well as support strategies for how to prepare for the recovery phase and be in the best position to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

I would strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity by registering your interest at the expressions of interest page on our website.  In that form you can indicate the specific areas where you would like more support and information, so that we can tailor the business support resilience training to meet your specific needs.  Now, I’d like to step through the measures by each industry area and if you listen and you think that there’s a gap or something that we haven’t addressed yet, I would really encourage you to reach out to the production and development team.

I’m going to start with freelance crew.  For freelance crew, cast and service providers, what we’re doing right now is that we do have business resilience training on offer.  Please, take advantage of that.  We’re also upgrading the Crew and Services Directory.  Now, this is a free online service that is utilised by producers and production managers, and it’s so important to be listed on there and to have your details up to date, because this is the way that we can champion you to industry in the recovery phase when productions get back on board.  So if you’ve never registered before, if you have any difficulty updating your current profile, SAFC staff are available and very willing to help you to do that right now.

As well as those two things that are happening right away, we have four measures which we’re proposing.  The first is that we’re going to partner with the Media Resource Centre to explore a master apprentice program, and that’s for experienced crew to mentor emerging crew.  We’d love to hear from experienced crew who would be interested in taking up this paid opportunity.  The next thing that we have is that we’re investigating subsidies for technical training and licenses which are relevant to the screen industry, and the third thing we’re doing is we’re making outreach to universities and training institutions to see if there are opportunities for paid guest lecturing and guest speakers from HODs.

Finally, we’ve been in discussions for the last few months with the HOD working group, and one of the ideas we were exploring was having a technical open day as a way of attracting new talent into the industry, in particular crew areas.  We’re looking at now doing a virtual HOD  – open day, and we’ve got Julie Byrne who is already looking at how that might happen and costing it out for us.  That’s what we’re doing in those areas, but if there are other suggestions that you have, please, continue to send them through.

Now, I’d like to move onto what we’re doing for producers.  What we’re doing right now, as well as business resilience training which is available for producers as well, is that we’re being far more flexible with our milestones, our reporting requirements and our delivery deadlines.  We’ve been, as a production development team, reaching out to all the producers who have current projects with us and we want to know if your project is affected and how we can help.  We promise we will be as agile and responsive as we possibly can be.

Importantly for producers right now, we have increased the funds available for development.  We will be really transparent about the types of activities we can fund and the budget caps for each item line, and we’re hoping this will make application processes much simpler for producers and enable us to turn around decisions far more rapidly for you.  On the production side, Screen Production Investment is continuing to accept applications.  We just extended the last round, and the next round closes at the end of May.

That’s what we’re doing right now, but I’d like to introduce the way we’re thinking about approaching development.  The end goal for everyone at the other side of this is a return to local production as soon as possible.  The way we are proposing to approach development is to take a far more focussed approach.  We’re thinking of temporarily putting on hold Early and Advanced Development, and instead having a single stream called Targeted Development.  Applications will be accepted for any genre or format under the terms of trade, but they’ll need to have a South Australian producer or South Australian co-producer attached, and they must be intended for production and post production in South Australia in the next 12 to 18 months.  We’ll be looking to support projects with SA key creatives, and projects that can employ significant numbers of South Australian crew, cast and screen services.

The other proposal we’re thinking in terms of development is to reintroduce Matched Market Funding, and this is to give South Australian producers certainty in their negotiations with the market.  It’s such a difficult and uncertain time, but we’re hoping that this guaranteed match funding will empower South Australian producers to approach market partners with confidence that the SAFC is behind them.  That’s our first thoughts around development.  We’d love to hear your thoughts so, please, send through your comments.

I’m going to move on next to South Australian key creatives.  South Australian key creatives can also access business resilience training.  We will be prioritising projects which have SA key creatives attached, but we will also continue to provide specific opportunities for SA writers and directors.  What we have available now is the Lottie Lyell Award, the No Ordinary Black Short Film Initiative, which is a Screen Australia fund that we’re delivering together with the MRC, and there’s also the Games Innovation Fund.  We’ll continue to work with industry partners to find whatever opportunities we can for key creatives across this period.

Next, I’d like to go to the production and PDV companies.  There is business resilience support available for companies as well in a one on one style so, please, do reach out if this is something of value to you.  We are currently speaking very closely to all the producers who have productions on hold, and we’re working to ensure that wherever possible they can be in a position to return to production once restrictions are lifted.  That’s a real priority for us.  We’re also in very close communication with the PDV companies, who are some of our biggest employers, and we’re continuing to administer the SA PDV rebate.

Next, I’ll talk about Adelaide Studios.  Adelaide Studios is continuing to be open and operating.  We’re still running reception services.  We’ve immediately applied a 20 per cent discount rent relief for Adelaide Studios tenants, and in the event of a site shutdown, full rent relief will be provided.

Finally, I wanted to just talk about the Games Innovation Fund, which is part of the pilot program we’re running in games.  We’ve just opened round two, so this is a fantastic opportunity for teams developing games to apply for funding, but also this time we’ve provided an added level of engagement, which is having a specialist games consultant available, Vee Pendergrast, to give an information session next Thursday (April 9, 2020) to talk about the fund and the specifics of the fund, and also to be available for one on one mentoring for teams that are thinking about applying.

So that’s currently the work that we’re providing in the different areas.  We do know that the needs and the pressure points of the industry are not going to be the same for all areas and that circumstances are going to change over time, so we really do want to encourage you to stay in contact with us and to let us know where the gaps are as they emerge.  Thank you.

KATE CROSER:  Back to me?  Thank you, Beth.  That’s a lot to get through and I really appreciate the work that the whole team is doing.

BETH NEATE:  Thank you, Kate.

KATE CROSER:  We do have a very committed team at the SAFC.  Everyone is working around the clock to make these changes, and to be as flexible and responsive as we can be, and I also want to acknowledge our Board at this time in that respect.  The South Australian Film Corporation Board has made themselves completely available, and are being as responsive as we could wish them to be at this time.  We’ve been holding regular extraordinary Board meetings just to talk through what we can be offering as an organisation so, please, continue to feed that intelligence through to us so that the team, and the Board, and I, can all be aware and acting in the interests of the industry.

What we come to now is the question and answer section of the event.  We have been monitoring questions.  I have already had quite a few flicked through to me, but what we’re going to probably start with is the ones that were submitted in advance, and thank you to those people who did provide their questions in advance.  I also want to just mention that if we don’t manage to get to your question today, if we run out of time, we will be updating our COVID-19 frequently asked page on the website with the answers to the questions raised today, so if you haven’t checked that out already, please, do so.  We’re going to, sort of, take the information that’s up there already as being read, but also if we don’t answer your question to day or you have a question that has arisen or a comment out of this session, then you can also send it to us via email at the programs@safilm.com.au email address.

Okay, so questions.  Bear with me.  The first question today comes from Oriana Merullo.  Thanks, Oriana. 

“Will South Australian HODs be approached first and go through interview stage, before producers look interstate and beyond, especially when productions are SAFC funded, to ensure employment for SA crew?  How then do we guarantee an all SA crew when HODs are from interstate, as they bring their own teams over from interstate?”

Thanks for the question, Oriana.  This is definitely a major focus for the SAFC.  Since coming into the role of CEO, I’ve actually been working with industry to establish a Heads of Department working group, and we’ve been meeting monthly.  I want to thank everyone that’s been involved in that and has given up their time on a Saturday morning.  It’s been a great opportunity to the SAFC to have a much more direct connection with crew, and to hear the ideas and suggestions that crew have for how we can better support that part of our sector.  This has definitely been a topic of conversation that’s been discussed at length in that forum, and one of the first steps that we’ve taken to be able to support an outcome here is to bring on to staff an experienced line producer in the fantastic Julie Byrne.  We’re really lucky to have Julie on the team at the SAFC, and what – having someone with that really current knowledge of the crew base of South Australia has done, is it has enabled us to work really closely with productions and be able to make sure they’re aware of the expertise and experience that’s out there in our crew base.

The thing to note is that the funding that productions get from the SAFC is directly linked to their South Australian spend, so the more South Australian crew they engage, the more funds they get from the SAFC, so that’s obviously a direct incentive for productions to be hiring the maximum number of South Australian crew and HODs.

Another question from Oriana:  “If there isn’t enough South Australian crew for as many productions, what training is being put in place so that we can train SA crew and heads of departments respectively?”

So again, this has been identified through that HOD working group as a real focus for the SAFC this year.  We’re working with that group to review the SAFC’s attachment initiative and how that can be more effective, and we’re also exploring different pathways for developing crew, whether it’s through education and tertiary providers, or whether it’s through initiatives such as the ones that Beth was talking about today, like the technical open day and mentoring.  The on the job part of the training is something that we’re going to be focussing on a lot this year.  Obviously it will have its challenges with production being delayed at this time, but it will remain a focus for us.

A question from Simon Tait:  “Is the SAFC able to access funds through a mental health initiative, given that this is a time of extreme stress on people who are traditionally very active?”

I think, Simon, this is a really important question and I think we all need to be aware that the challenges and impacts of the Coronavirus are going to have a massive impact on the mental health of our community.  At the SAFC we are really aware of the stress and pressure that businesses and individuals are under, and we want to just remind everyone to be aware of this with yourselves and with each other in your community, and just to make sure that you’re encouraging people to reach out and seek help where they need to.  There is help available.  The South Australian government has announced a COVID-19 mental health hotline that you can ring at any time, and the federal government has also injected a whole lot of additional funds into existing mental healthcare providers who are experts in this field at delivering mental health services.  So rather than the SAFC get involved necessarily in a mental health initiative at this time, what we want to do is encourage people to seek that support from the experts at the moment.

Another question from Simon:  “Can the SAFC lobby government for extra funds to run film specific initiatives?”

Absolutely, and that is what we are doing, so I want to assure everyone that as I said before we’ve been – I’ve been meeting regularly with our Minister and the Premier, and with the Department at this time, in order to feedback and escalate the needs of industry and the needs of businesses, and to request specific support from government to support the survival and the recovery of the screen sector.  So the more that you can be feeding information back to us, the better that we can do this part of what we see as an important part of our jobs in terms of advocating for the whole sector.

Okay.  A question that I’ll get Beth to handle.  “Would the SAFC consider a fast track, quick response funding initiative as Arts SA have done for visual artists?”

BETH NEATE:  Okay.  Well, essentially the answer is “yes”.  We are doing this already in the sense that our development and production investment funds are open, and we will be fast tracking applications and making the process simpler so that applications can be streamlined and turned around faster, and that the reporting process can be simpler for everyone.

KATE CROSER:  Thanks for bearing with us, guys.  Back and forwards a bit, but we have a question from David Donaldson.  David asked, “Is this a time to highlight what South Australian movies are available on streaming?”

This is a fantastic question, David.  “Yes”, is the answer.  This is something we very much want to do more, so if you’re a subscriber to our mailing list you would have seen that on Friday our last newsletter went out, and we included a list of South Australian movies and TV shows in that.  We’re also regularly sharing links through our social media channels, and just watch this space because this is going to be a focus for us over the coming weeks, so we’re going to jump on the national Aussie Made campaign, and just make it a whole lot easier to find South Australian content and watch South Australian content online at this time when we’re very much housebound.  That’s definitely something we can assist with.  Thank you, David.

Another question here from Carolyn Johnson:  “If Screen Australia is targeting late stage development, could the SAFC target earlier and mid stage development?”

This is a really good question, and I think that the best way to answer that is for us to say that with the – with a pot of limited funds, what we’re trying to do is be as strategic as possible with those funds, and we’re trying to make sure that the use of those funds is going to benefit the maximum number of people in the sector once we hit the recovery phase of this pandemic.  With that in mind, as Beth’s already talked about, we’re going to be having a focus of targeting our development towards production that has a high likelihood of going into production within the next 12 to 18 months.  We think that’s going to deliver maximum benefit for the broader industry over the next phase when we move into recovery.  I think it’s a matter of – we want to make that really clear so that business knows what they are working with and what they have to work towards and we encourage creative proposals.  This is – we have an incredibly creative and resilient industry.  We’ve seen that many times before, and we believe that by providing you with our – with knowledge of our intentions and the way that we want to focus our funds, that you’ll then be empowered to go out there and come up with proposals that are going to deliver, so we look forward to those proposals.

A question now from Edoardo Crismani:  “As a freelancer with no income other than my film-making or photography, business has dried up.  Are there any ways I can get income support over this period?”  Beth?

BETH NEATE:  Sure, so the SAFC can’t provide any direct income support, but we are continuing to list useful sites on our FAQ page which has links to federal government and state government support and what we can do, though, is advocate for South Australian crew for any employment opportunities during this time, and prioritise development applications for projects that will be post produced and produced in South Australia and that will employ local workers.

KATE CROSER:  And also, if you’re finding that the existing federal government measures that are in place to provide that safety net to individuals – if you’re finding that they are not working for you or if there’s some problem where they don’t work for the sector as a whole, please be feeding that information to us.  We are actually already getting some of that feedback, so we’re collating all of that.  Crew and freelancers have told us in some cases that they are falling through those cracks so the more that you can share that info with us, the more that we can assist to escalate that through government channels.

A question from Geoffrey Reed.  I’m paraphrasing here, which Geoffrey asked me to do, so I’ll just say that, but – the question is around whether or not the SAFC would follow the suit of other commercial landlords who have recently announced a full rent relief package for tenants.

That is something we’ve considered very carefully, as Beth already went through the rent relief package that’s been offered to Adelaide Studios tenants at this time.  The difficulty with the SAFC fully waiving all rent for Adelaide Studios tenants at this time, is that that rental income is a really key source of revenue that directly goes into our industry support funding streams, so if we were to completely cut off that revenue source, that would have a pretty substantial impact on the amount of funding that we could put out through our other funding measures.  So at this time, we are – we have offered the 20 per cent discount, but it’s something that obviously – this is a very fluid situation.  Things are changing daily.  We will be very happy to continue to monitor that and we’ll also be continuing to represent the needs of tenants, Adelaide Studios tenants, as we have done to government to see if there is any opportunity for us to assist in that way.

A question now from Bettina.  A couple of these questions – so the next questions from Bettina and Jess came through just before this session started, so I don’t have the exact wording.  But basically – both Bettina and Jess have flagged the possibility of utilising the Adelaide Studios lockup, so the car park lockup area, as truck storage to assist businesses, service companies and crew with trucks to save money on storage facilities at this time.

That is absolutely something that we can consider, so we’ll take that back and look into that and come back to you all with a response on that.  Also, both Bettina and Jess have flagged that this could potentially be a good time for the SAFC to be investing resources into updating our location galleries, so we could have location scouts going out and taking photographs whilst everyone’s in their homes and the landscapes are available and open.  Whether or not we could actually hire people to get out there and take some more location photos.  Again, a great suggestion.  I just want to say there’s no ideas too small or too big for us to consider.  A lot of the measures that Beth talked through before are actually ideas that have come from people who are out there doing the work and working in industry.  And we’re very, very happy to follow up on any ideas.  So both of those, Bettina, we will be very happy to explore further.  Thank you for raising them.

Jess’ other question was around helping individuals who can’t access the JobKeeper package, safety net, that’s been announced by government – federal government.  This is a good example of this is some feedback we’ve been hearing since the JobKeeper package was announced, is that for production freelancers and casual crew, that there is obviously a difficulty in them accessing – or their employers accessing these funds to be able to pay them.  We are feeding this up through our government channels and, please, continue to share those instances with us.

Okay.  Willie Hind – sorry, there are some more on this other page.  Willie Hind has asked:  “Is early development funding still available for script development?”  I think we’ve covered that, haven’t we?

BETH NEATE:  Yep.

KATE CROSER:  Okay, thank you for your question, Willie.  And Kath McIntyre asks:  “Have you considered a time critical business fund to support other ways of doing business and creating revenue for South Australian production companies during COVID-19?” 

So the short answer to that, Kath, is thank you for that suggestion, and that is – that specific suggestion is not one that we have yet considered, but we’ll be very happy to consider it.  I might actually give you a call, because I want to understand better what that would look like.  I guess to take it back to the general – we are wanting to support initiatives right now that can demonstrate that they are going to have maximum benefit to the maximum number of people.  If there’s a business initiative that demonstrates that, we’ll be very happy to look at it.  Right now we haven’t got business or slate funding as part of our proposed measures, but we’re going to be meeting with producers and productions companies next week to get some specific insight into the needs for that sector, and that’s something that we can consider if that’s feedback that we’re getting from the production company part of the community.  I just should also note that we’re going to be meeting with our Head of Department working group as well next week following the live town hall event to look at some specific feedback that’s coming from that particular crew and cast section of the community.

I’m just going to just take a moment to check my phone, because there are some questions.  Thank you, very much everyone.  There’s a whole bunch of questions here.  A question from Sharkie:  “Has the SAFC been talking to the MEAA?”

At the moment, I guess because of my strong connections into the crew part of the industry, I’ve been going out direct to people I know and we’ve been obviously utilising the head of department working group as well, to be feeding back advice and suggestions into the SAFC at this time, and as I mentioned, we’re catching up with that group next week.  The MEAA does have a representative that is part of the HOD working group as well.  Aaron Connor sits on that, but in addition we’ll absolutely take that on board and be very, very happy to connect directly with the MEAA just to continue that discussion that we’ve been having with them.  Really quite productive discussions with the MEAA for the last six months, and that’s been a fantastic development in recent times.

A question from Luana Audio:  “What about temporary visa holders working in the sector?  There are no grants or support packages to cover us.” 

Okay, that’s great information to have.  We’re going to make a note of that, Luana, and feed that back.  So I don’t have an answer for you right now, but we’ll be able to escalate that on your behalf.

And then another one from Luana:  “What about helping professionals connect through the crew and services directory?  Will the SAFC connect companies who might still need some jobs done with professionals through the directory?”  Beth, I might let you answer that, because I’ve been talking a lot.

BETH NEATE:  Well, we do.  We use that crew and services directory all the time.  We’re constantly asked for names of people for various aspects of the industry, and that’s the first place we go to share information, so that’s why I’m really encouraging you all to update your profiles and make sure that you’re on there so that we can use that service to link people to you as quickly and easily as possible.

KATE CROSER:  A question from Chloe:  “Are the specific criteria for the new development requirements on the website currently?”

BETH NEATE:  No.  We thought what we would do  first of all would be  to present this approach to you and take on board your feedback and then offer guidelines for further consultation.

KATE CROSER:  I think the thing to remember is that the purpose of this event is for us to share the thinking with you.  It’s not to say that we’re set in stone on any of this.  I think being supportive is a core value for us, but we also want your input to how we can be most supportive for you at the moment.

A question from Peter Ninos that I’ll get you to answer, Beth.  “Is there a plan for a dedicated LGBTQI+ funding initiative?”

BETH NEATE:  We’re always looking to support under-represented groups in the industry, and we like to do that with market partners so they can be really meaningful initiatives, so we will absolutely explore all kinds of opportunities, so thanks for bringing that up, Peter.

KATE CROSER:  A comment from Mario Andreacchio:  “It may be best to separate SA production and on set crew from PDV spend, more incentive being given to crew spend.”

I think it’s true, Mario, to say that the needs of production and on set are very, very different from the needs of the PDV sector.  So – and I think that the major impacts of this pandemic are going to be felt in each segment of the industry at – probably at different times.  We don’t want to prioritise one over the other.  They’re both really crucial parts of us delivering a world class production sector internationally so we need both parts of the industry to be healthy and to get through to the recovery phase intact for us to be able to continue to deliver world class production out there globally.  I’m not sure if that fully answers Mario’s comment, but more than happy to have a chat with you direct as well, Mario.

A question from Anne Tsoulis:  “If you already have something funded in development that you have to put on hold, can you still apply for development on another project?”

BETH NEATE:  Yes, and please do talk to us, Anne.  Really happy to speak to you about that other project.

KATE CROSER:  Yep.  I think as well we just want to be very open, so the production and development team is there to answer questions.  We’re in an unprecedented time, and I’ve had people say that’s a very overused phrase at the moment but it’s for good reason, because it is, and the best thing that we can do is just be flexible to your individual needs as much as possible, so please just talk to us.

A question from Kukubara – maybe I haven’t said that right.  “How about creating a hub for screen creatives who would like to use this isolation time for creating new projects?”

As I mentioned before I think that we all just need to be cognisant that this is a health emergency right now, and so what we’re trying to do is really encourage the industry to be following the government advice about the social distancing and basically self isolating as much as possible.  If the question here is about whether or not we can open up parts of Adelaide Studios for creatives to come in here – we really want to be primarily focussed on making sure that Adelaide Studios is a safe and healthy place for people to come.  I mean, we have 26 businesses already based here.  All of the offices available are fully tenanted, so it’s something that we can certainly look at and especially for the other side, once the health restrictions do start to lift, we can certainly have a look at that but for now I think most people are working from home in the main.  Anyway, we’ll take that one on notice.

A note here about “Kirsty Stark’s Google doc.”  We’ve provided a link in the chat comments.  Kirsty Stark, as Beth said, has pulled together a whole bunch of resources that can be helpful to industry and it also includes suggestions for how to catch South Australian content online, how to meet up with fellow industry members and stay connected.  I should note that Kirsty’s pulled that information from a whole bunch of emails that sprung up organically amongst freelancers and crew and members of the industry, so it’s kind of like what Beth was saying before, it’s fantastic to see the industry rally and get together to provide support to each other, and we really encourage that, and well done everyone.

Question from Sally Clarke:  “What will happen with the three projects put on hold?  Assume they will recommence with their current crew, which includes a lot of interstate crew.”

BETH NEATE:  Hi Sally, we’re working really closely with all of those productions. They are all going to have different challenges that will affect their schedule into the future, so the best we can say at the moment is that our intention is to support them to go into production when it’s safe to do so, and then to encourage them to look at crew that are available and utilise our ability to champion SA crew with all the productions that come here.  But we’re really hopeful that those fantastic projects will be moving into production on the other side of this.

KATE CROSER:  Question from Tom Goldblatt:  “Is the SAFC looking at increasing funding for smaller productions during the recovery phase to increase work for less experienced crew?”  So, I think the answer is, yes, we’re looking at increasing funding for productions in the recovery phase.  I think actually the recovery phase is going to represent a moment of huge opportunity for the industry, so I just also want to put that out there for producers and businesses and creatives.  What’s going to happen when the health restrictions are lifted, is there is going to be – depending on the order in which they’re lifted, first of all might be the social distancing requirements, international travel requirements – we don’t know, so in that interim phase there very well might be an opportunity for us to look at targeting our funds towards really domestically focussed production.  That’s just going to have to be something we wait and see on, and just continue to monitor the environment and the opportunities as they arise, but I would say that’s absolutely something we’ll look at.

A question from Karena Slaninka at the MRC, or at the Mercury:  “Given the government’s position on social distancing, what is your policy around production activity at this time?” 

BETH NEATE: Thanks, Karena.  We’re very much reinforcing the public health messages that state and federal governments are clearly communicating so that’s really our first point of call.We must ensure that productions are aware of their obligations to crew about health and safety, and we’re working really closely with the productions that are currently being managed by SAFC.  Very few of them are in a position to go ahead for so many different reasons, but our priority is to really loosen up any delivery expectations, take away all the pressure and really encourage people to work remotely and – and self isolate and maintain social distancing as we’re being encouraged to at this time.

KATE CROSER:  And looking at whether or not there are aspects of pre-production that can be going ahead if they are actually adhering to those requirements.  Locations scouting could still be happening.  Scheduling could still be happening.  A whole lot of early pre production work – casting.  So there are some parts of pre-production that we can be assisting with, so we’re working closely with affected productions to see what we can support with.

Carolyn Johnson, another question:  “Is development funding only for high crew dramas that are close to production?  Is there early development funding for scripts?”

As mentioned before, the approach that we’re taking with the targeted development funding that we’re proposing today is that we focus our development funding towards projects that have a higher likelihood of going ahead within the next 12 to 18 months.  Having said that, that doesn’t preclude early development.  I mean, I think it’s about making the case.  It’s about making the case, “How likely is this production to proceed within that timeframe?” and also, “What is the broader industry benefits of the production going to be?” and that’s how we’ll be proposing to assess development applications as they come in at the moment.

I think that’s got us through most of the questions from the feed.  Thank you so much everyone, and please don’t consider this as the end of the opportunity to ask questions.  From here, as Beth mentioned, we’ll be providing a full rundown of the current measures and the proposed measures on our website, and that will give you an opportunity to review them in a bit more detail and also to provide any further comments.  And as I said, we’ll be speaking directly with our producers working group and our heads of department working group so, please, feel free to feed questions back through those groups as well.

Just to wrap up, I think that we just need to acknowledge that the world as we know it is changing.  That there will be bigger changes to come, and I think the thing that’s really challenging at the moment is there’s no end date yet to the impacts that we’re feeling, and that we’re all experiencing.  At this time we just want to reiterate we’re open, we’re listening.  There’s no idea too big or too small, and that we need your feedback.  We need that intelligence from the industry to be able to advocate on your behalf to government to be able to best focus our resources at this time.  Just to reiterate that what we all want is a strong sector once we hit the recovery phase.  We want businesses to remain intact.  We want freelancers and practitioners to survive this, to get to the other side where we can really position ourselves fully and strongly for the opportunities that are going to arise out of the recovery phase of this pandemic.

Really we are all in this together, and we just want to express to you guys, we’re in this with you and, please, take care.  Please, be kind to each other.  Please, look out for each other, and we look forward to being in touch again soon at the next one of these events.

Main image: SAFC CEO Kate Croser and Head of Production and Development Beth Neate

SAFC courtyard, photo by Kelly Barnes

CORONAVIRUS

COVID-19 FAQ

Read answers to some frequently asked questions about the SAFC’s response to COVID-19, find links to support resources and more.