17/04/2020 - 11:20

Screenwest, industry repurpose resources

17/04/2020 - 11:20

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The state’s film and television industry has not been immune to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff cuts and hits to revenue already flowing through the sector.

Screenwest, industry repurpose resources
Willie Rowe says the pandemic could accelerate changes already occurring in the industry. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The state’s film and television industry has not been immune to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff cuts and hits to revenue already flowing through the sector.

However, with assistance from industry body Screenwest, local players are creatively adjusting their businesses to the restricted environment.

A Screenwest industry survey in March found 2,676 people had already lost their jobs in the sector in addition to $1.1 million in income, with an estimated $7 million of income to be lost by the end of September.

Fremantle-based Prospero Productions managing director Julia Redwood told Business News while some opportunities remained in the screen industry, particularly in the documentary space, overall it had been hit incredibly hard.

Prospero Productions was in post-production for its long-running television shows Outback Truckers and Outback Opal Hunters, which it will be able to sell, but had to cancel the filming of upcoming documentary Star Dreaming, which was to be shot near Geraldton with the Yamaji people.

The company had around 85 staff but had to cut this by 50 per cent due to the impacts of COVID-19.

However, Ms Redwood said Prospero was trying to keep jobs where it could and was seeking opportunities, including for the archival footage it held.

“We are also fortunate because we are talking to broadcasters about doing specials on those shows, one hour specials on ‘the best of’, and that’s where we can also look into our archives and see what can we make to get us over this period,” she said.

“Anyone who can produce something new in the sector [right now], you are going to have a much more valuable product that you can sell around the world.”

To offer some support to the industry, Screenwest has repurposed existing funds to create a $2.5 million sustainability fund.

Screenwest head of screen investment and strategic projects Matthew Horrocks said because the organisation was not able to pursue regular activities like funding travel or production, it repurposed the money.

“What we have done is looked at our own books and looked at what portions we could repurpose for the current situation,” he said.

Key elements of the package include the Bright Ideas Crew Capacity Initiative, which allows practitioners to innovate, a funding boost to Screenwest development programs, repurposing and boosting the funding of the On Demand Content Fund for projects that can be completed in the current environment, and a production company and producer support package.

Screenwest chief executive Willie Rowe said the industry was taking stock to ensure it was ready to get back to business when the pandemic was over.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic could speed-up changes that were already occurring in the industry, including moving from focusing on traditional broadcasters to online streaming services.

Mr Rowe said if people had good development ideas when production resumed, it could be a challenge for the industry to have the capacity to adopt those ideas quickly.

“I think there will be competition across the country for crews, for finance packages, so we have just got to wait and see what happens there,” he said.

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