A mendicant model threatens to hold back the Australian screen industry, says SPA boss

Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner has told a room of film industry execs that the government’s bureaucrats wield much more power over the industry than they realise.

Deaner compared the Australian screen industry’s relationship to the government with that of sport’s, admitting “our industry’s relationship with government is more complicated.”

“Bureaucrats often wield more power over our industry than they realise,” he told the audience at the Screen Forever conference today. “A resentful, mendicant model is emerging where applicants must jump through more and more hoops to get access to government support.

“This is done often with little empathy or thought to small businesses affected in the process. This is not setting us up for long-term success and opportunities to succeed on a global scale.”

Deaner’s address also touched on Hollywood’s recent slew of sexual harassment accusations, Deaner told the room how scandal proves the “perverse power in silence”, and that the SPA has a “zero tolerance for sexual harassment”.

“This abuse of power hurts and harms people – in particular, women,” he said. “The accusations against Weinstein has brought front and centre the issue of sexual harassment and abuse of power in our industry.

“SPA and MEAA put out a joint statement at the beginning of the month stating we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in our industry. We are working together on bringing in tougher policies and procedures to stamp out sexual harassment in our industry. Everyone deserves a safe workplace.

“It’s not just SPA and MEAA working towards this shared goal and to defeat this scourge we must all work together, united.

“There is also a perverse power in silence. The Sicilian mafia draws power from omerta – the code of silence. Silence can promote and protect perpetrators. This coercive power stops people from speaking up, ostracises whistle-blowers, drives talented men and women out
of our industry, to our collective detriment.”

Commenting on the importance of diversity within the Australian screen industry, “both in representation and also importantly, supply”, Deaner said that “to truly understand ourselves, we need to see ourselves”.

One third of Australians were born overseas, he told the audience, while one half of Australians were either born, or have a parent that was born overseas.

“This Australia deserves to see itself on screen. However, this Australia is not represented fully on our screens. This diverse Australia is represented by an exception, rather than the rule. We have the power as Australia’s story tellers to strengthen this wonderful diversity by telling its stories. We have the power also to help reconcile our country’s relationship with indigenous peoples through their stories.

“But we must have strong commitments to making this happen. We can’t allow our industry to abandon parts of our society, diverse Australia, regional and remote Australia, Australian children.

“All our broadcasters – whether government or commercial – all of them – have public service obligations.

The Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network was formed this year to address greater diversity in our industry. Australia’s incredible diversity produces incredible stories, we just need to find them and put them on screen.”


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