Screenwest In Focus: Scripted Development Fund
Join us for a special Screenwest In Focus with Screenwest’s Development and Production Executive Franziska Wagenfeld and Drama Development Barbara Connell all about the new Scripted Development Fund.
In today’s episode, Franziska and Barbara discuss what the Scripted Development Fund is, who is eligible to apply, as well as share some quick tips to help you strengthen your application.
Applications for the Scripted Development Fund close Monday, 7 September 2020 at 5:00pm AWST.
The full guidelines, application materials and eligibility criteria are available on the Development page of the Screenwest website.
You’re listening to a special Screenwest in Focus all about the new Scripted Development Fund, which is open for applications now. In today’s episode, Screenwest Development and Production Executive Franziska Wagenfeld and Drama Development Manager, Barbara Connell have a chat about what the fund is, who is eligible to apply, and some quick tips for strengthening your application. This is Screenwest in Focus.
My name is Franziska Wagenfeld. I’m the Development and Production Executive here at Screenwest. I’m in conversation with Barbara Connell, the Drama Development Manager. We’re here to talk about the new Scripted Development Fund guidelines because of the changes that have been made.
So, Barbara, would you like to start talking and letting us know what changes have been made to the Scripted Development Fund?
[What is the Scripted Development Fund?]
Sure. Thanks Franziska. So the new Scripted Development guidelines are out and we wanted to talk a bit about some of the changes we brought to the program because in essence it brings together what we used to have in the Small Screen Initiative and what we had in Feature Track and puts it all together under one drama development initiative that we now call Scripted Development.
And the goal of this new funding initiative is to provide funding for all scripted projects, regardless of where they will be broadcast or distributed. So, in that respect, we have gone screen agnostic and are looking at projects that are for scripted series or for scripted feature-length projects. We think this better reflects how and where scripted content is being consumed, and that we’re really taking a screen agnostic approach to project development.
So just to be clear, Barbara, when you say all projects, does that include short films and web series?
It doesn’t include short films, but it does include web series.
And so, in that case, exactly it would include maybe one-off dramas for television as well?
It would include one-off dramas for television. So, something that’s feature-length that’s going to be broadcast on an ABC or an SBS perhaps, or something that is feature-length that would go to a streamer.
And so, when you say screen agnostic, is that the same as platform agnostic?
That is the same as platform agnostic.
Great. And can you maybe explain why we’ve done this?
We’ve done it for a couple of reasons. The new program gives us more flexibility in terms of what types of activities and projects Screenwest can support as well as who can apply. We think it provides us with the best of the elements from the Small Screen Initiative and also from the Feature Track Initiative. And that’s the reason why we’ve created this sort of Stage One and Stage Two approach to this funding.
[Stage One Funding]
Can you tell us about the Stage One approach?
Sure, Stage One is what we call Concept Development and this is for early stage concepts where the applicant is seeking funds to develop early stage materials like pitch documents or sizzle reels, perhaps a treatment, or even a first draft screenplay or a series bible. Applicants can request up to $10,000. To be eligible you have to be a WA resident key creative or production company, and you can receive Concept Development funding only once for the same project.
[Stage Two Funding]
And where do you go then? What’s Stage Two funding?
Then you can go onto Stage Two funding, which we call Project Development. And this is for projects that already have an existing pitch bible or a treatment or a screenplay. So, we think of Project Development Funding as funding for projects that are further along and have already completed early development.
Funds can be used for a wide variety of development activities, depending on what’s needed for the project at this stage. This can include writing a new draft of an existing screenplay, doing a writer’s room, working with a casting agent, that sort of thing.
Applicants for Project Development can request up to $20,000 per application. For feature-length projects, successful applicants may also apply for an additional round of funding within a 12-month period of time, once the original funding is acquitted.
Right. Okay. So that’s fantastic. Do you have to have got and received Stage One funding to get to Stage Two funding, or can you go straight for Stage Two funding?
You can go straight to Stage Two funding, but in order to do that, you have to again be a WA key creator or production company. But additionally, if you’re going to go straight for Stage Two funding, you need to include someone on the project team who has a commercially distributed or released feature series or equivalent credit in the last five years, or if you don’t have someone on the team who has that credit, you would need to supply us with demonstration of market interest. If you have successfully completed a Stage One project, however, you are then eligible to apply for Stage Two.
[What does “Small Screen” mean?]
So, we keep speaking about “small screen”. What does that term mean, small screen?
Small screen, I think is a term we’ve used for a long time to refer to television.
Does that include streamers?
It does include streamers. I think it’s funny, we call it small screen now because everybody’s got 85-inch televisions. But yeah, so small screen is typically been something that’s referred to as television broadcast / streamers. And I think because of how the changes in how we consume content has really shifted the focus from small screen versus feature film. And feature film has always been the term we’ve used to describe the film that you see theatrically distributed.
Now because people are watching movies in their home or on their phone, those two designations don’t really work anymore. So we’ve moved our thinking to thinking more about scripted series, which again could be consumed on a phone, or on your computer, or on a television versus a scripted feature-length, which would be a project that could be consumed on all those places, but also in a theatrical distribution setting.
[What Assessors Are Looking For]
I understand there’s always a panel of assessors. So, projects here at Screenwest are independently assessed. What are the assessors looking for?
The assessors are looking for a number of different things. The first of which is I think standout projects that have a clear audience that really know what they are and know what they’re trying to be. If it’s an animation project, for example, assessors would want to get a feeling for what style of animation it is, what the artwork would look like… If it’s a comedy, materials really need to reflect the flavour of the comedy and hopefully the application would make the assessors laugh or at least smile. What else are assessors looking for? They really want to get a sense of the world of the characters. What the dramatic question is being explored in the series if it’s a drama. The thing with our assessors is that the only material they have access to is what’s in the application, and so good applications really help bring assessors into the world of the project and really give them a feel for what it is.
Another thing they look for is, is the format right for the project? So if somebody is pitching a TV series, but the assessors feel that it doesn’t have enough content for that, then perhaps it’s better as a web series or if somebody’s pitching a feature, but the application reads more like a scripted series, then there’s a disconnect for them, and that would be something that the assessors would want to have addressed by the applicant.
If a project’s been previously submitted and was not successful, then assessors need to see that there’s been significant change in the project. And that’s more than if it’s just moved from a pitch to a draft for instance, more that if there was a problem with the concept that the applicant has addressed those issues in the concept.
We say, “The adage in writing is write what you know” and I think that is absolutely true. I think the other thing we need to say about that is that assessors are always looking for projects where the writer is perhaps exploring something that’s familiar to them, a topic or a story that’s perhaps drawn from their personal experience, but they’re also doing it in a way that brings a new perspective that we haven’t seen before.
So, Barbara, what are some quick tips for strengthening your application?
Clarity of what you want to make and understanding that, as I said before assessors can really only understand your project from the materials that you put in, so those materials have to be really top flight. So, think about what you’re sending us from the perspective of: it’s strangers.
[How to Apply]
So, Barbara, I understand that the applications close on the 7th of September, but we’ve got this new system called SmartyGrants, do you want to just talk us through that for a sec?
So, SmartyGrants is our new online application system, and this will be the first time that we’re using it for this program. So, to the best of our ability, we’ve matched the new guidelines to the new online forms. And the idea is that this will make the application more streamlined and easier to submit.
Of course, as with all first-time things, there may be some little wonky bits in the system, so please get in touch with us along the way. We really, really encourage you not to wait to the last minute, but to start your application as soon as possible.
The system makes it really simple: you can do a few pages, save it, go away, come back another day. So, don’t wait until the last minute to submit because there’s always going to be a challenge with anything electronic at the last minute.
Always is. So, we want your applications. We want to have some brilliant WA projects. Please submit and we really look forward to getting the applications in. So, thank you very much, Barbara.
Absolutely. Thank you so much, Franziska.
This has been Screenwest in Focus, featuring Franziska Wagenfeld and Barbara Connell. Applications for the Scripted Development Fund are now open at screenwest.com.au and close on Monday the 7th of September 2020 at 5:00 PM Australian Western Standard Time. Make sure you get in touch with us well before the deadline if you have any questions about your application or eligibility.
This podcast was brought to you by Screenwest. Screenwest wishes to thank Lotterywest for their continuing support of the WA Screen Industry. This episode was edited by XB Studios with music by Andrew Wright and produced by Barbara Connell and Gillian Stephenson for Screenwest.
For more information about the Scripted Development Fund, please contact:
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