Screen: Social films find philanthropic distribution

In an effort to help issue-based documentaries, Gil Scrine has launched a not-for-profit Distribution company which relies on philanthropy. Tracey Prisk reports.

According to scrine, cinema ventures has a number of initiatives which he hopes will benefit not only the individual filmmakers but the Australian film industry as well. One of the key strategies devised by Cinema Ventures is Community Targeted Distribution (CTD) which Scrine said “grew out of years of struggling to present issue-based documentaries in cinemas under a commercial paradigm”.

“CTD works by allowing ‘host groups’ in regional centres to run film screenings for their own benefit. Each ‘host’ is drawn from existing groups already formed around issues explored in the films. Under the CTD scheme, a ‘host group’ can keep 100 percent of the box office to further their work.”

Funded via money from philanthropists, for whom donating is a tax deduction, CTD will help ensure that everyone involved in distributing/exhibiting the films will be given a return for their efforts. “I fail to see why philanthropists wouldn’t get behind it,” said Scrine.

According to Scrine, it’s important that these films are seen by as many people as possible as they address a range of important social and ecological issues. “They weren’t made to make a profit and they weren’t made to stand alongside narrative feature films.”

In some cases, the exposure that the films get through being involved in CTD may create enough positive word-of-mouth to ensure the films eventually get a commercial television or DVD release.“There’s nothing like exposure to make people sit up and take notice.” The first film to be screened under the CTD mantle is Steve Thomas’s refugee documentary Hope.

Some $11,000 was raised from philanthropists to assist with distribution costs, and this will enable the film to screen in a minimum of six different locations primarily in rural Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. The funds also enable the filmmaker to present his film to the audience and engage in a Q & A afterwards.

Hope proved a perfect project to launch CTD, as the organisation was able to help promote the film and build audiences by tapping into some pre-existing community groups. The first screening took place on Phillip Island in Victoria on November 12, and it was hosted by the local chapter of Rural Australians for Refugees. Screenings are also planned for a number of other locations including Ballarat, Whyalla and Rosebud. Thomas says he’s really grateful for this opportunity. “Screening to cinema audiences and having face-to-face interaction with an audience is satisfying as a filmmaker but more than that, I get to see the film creating real change and I’m being supported to do it.”

Films slated for distribution in the future include A Well Founded Fear; The Burning Season and Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? Scrine expects there to be a wealth of documentary product to support under the CTD scheme and has several more in the pipeline. He clarifies that CTD is not limited to regional Australia. Despite a successful launch with the screening of Hope, Cinema Ventures hasn’t been without its detractors. Scrine said the “big end of town are looking at what we’re doing with contempt. “Basically, anyone who is not playing in their sandpit must be a loser. On the other hand the small end of town has applauded it..”


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