SPAA 2007 – THE WRAP
A COINFERENCE FOR THE NEW WORLD ORDER
There is little doubt that this year’s meeting of the many movie minds from
Australia and around the world was a genuine coinference. It was the watershed
gathering that ushers in the new world order of Australian screen production
assistance from the Government, the Producer Offset scheme, the world’s most
generous, uncapped device to stimulate production of film, tv - and indirectly -
new media. Andrew L. Urban reports.
‘Show me the money’ might have been the appropriate promotional tag for this
gabfest, where the Film Finance Corporation was the centre of attention. To be
precise, it was their new baby that everybody wanted to stroke and gurgle with:
the Producer Offset scheme, which changes the way the Government supports
production in the screen industries.
And show them the money the FFC did. Charged with administering the scheme, CEO
Brian Rosen and Offset manager Antonia Barnard repeated the details that they
had already rehearsed many time on a roadshow around Australia, talking to all
Film producers were busy grappling with how to make best use of the 40% (max)
rebate of the budget they will receive after completion of filming. (Unless of
course they owe money to the ATO, in which case the rebate will be reduced by
whatever they owe.) The primary criterion for eligibility is Significant
Australian Content – an assessment that will be arbitrated by the FFC’s team.
Guidelines and application forms are going up on the FFC website (by the end of
November 2007). All those to whom we spoke expressed optimism – a new sensation
"the sound of rustling banknotes"
The vortex also sucked in (but in a good way) a long list of international
program buyers whose ears have pricked up to the sound of rustling banknotes. As
one delegate remarked, there was an absence of the insecurity that marked the
last couple of SPAA conferences this year, and a greater a sense of confidence,
right across the film and tv spectrum.
Among the heavies breathing honeyed words were people like Bill Schultz, three
time Emmy Award winning producer whose credits include The Simpsons. Based in
Washington, Bill now runs Kabillion (among other projects), a new multiplatform
kids entertainment service, available both as free video on demand channel and a
free online broadband site – all driven by advertising. Through its cable
partnerships it reaches 13 million households on VOD and 50 million online.
Kabillion is looking for content and Australia is a highly regarded source of
That’s why Sebastian Debertin from German public service kids channel KI.KA was
also attending, as was Dea Connick Perez from New York, where she runs Discovery
William Weil, COO at National Geographic Entertainment was also upbeat about
content from Australia, ranging from feature film, kids entertainment and even
giant screen productions. The integration and distribution opportunities that
National Geographic offers across a range of platforms is staggering.
"tattoos on his arms"
Among the hot keynote speakers was Mark Herbert from Sheffield in the UK,
where he works in a small production team (Warp and Warp X Film) who have
developed a brilliant template for low budget, high return movies, all made for
about A$1.8 million. Their latest was This Is England. They specifically seek
out edgy material; nothing safe, nothing ordinary. They have a plan based on
economic research and hard work, and they are making a package of movies that is
calibrated to generate enough volume to make money – a statistical plan. Mark
wears tattoos on his arms.
Rex Wong was also in demand after his keynote, the Los Angeles based digital
entrepreneur behind DAVE Network, an internet-tv convergence enabling platform
that serves many international clients, including Disney, CBS and (shortly)
Australian distributors (Alan Finney from BVI, Paul Weigard from Madman, Sandie
Don from Hopscotch, Mike Vile from Rialto, Mike Selwyn from Paramount, John L.
Simpson from Titan, etc, etc) mingled with dozens of producers, writers and
directors – a happy sight.
Asia and Canada were targeted for co-production and distribution opportunities,
while kids entertainment and small screen content/commerce was another major
subject. Over 600 delegates attended, including Government agencies and lawyers
– the latter also stand to gain from the expanding activity around contracts and
rights that the rebate conditions will generate.
Adjacent to the main conference was the all-important SPAAMart, where producers
and directors met with potential financiers, distributors or buyers. This was a
precision run speed dating type of affair in the old Rolls Bar down in the belly
of the hotel … which temporarily became the Deal Dungeon.
This time next year, the conference will be assessing the first commercial
fruits of the new scheme, if not actually sampling the finished products. We’ll
be there to bring you the first biopsy.
Published November 22, 2007
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For details of the Producer Offset scheme, see last week’s
feature and related links in FORUM.
Screen Producers Association of Australia
Annual Conference, Sheraton Mirage, Gold Coast,
November 13 – 16, 2007