Thursday, May 21, 2009

State aid for screenwriting

The Federation for European Screenwriters (FSE) has published a leaflet entitled Effective State Aid for Screenwriting and Development (pdf).

The leaflet argues that "There is an urgent need for state funding agencies and related government policies to put in place structures – legal and administrative as much as financial – which will support the development and expression of creative talent, which will promote writing and writers."

The FSE leaflet points to campaigns in Ireland and Germany for writers gaining more access to development funding and concludes with the following recommendations:

1) Each country or region which provides financial support for film or television production should also have an active and appropriately funded policy of support for script and project development.

2) Where such a policy is being introduced, reviewed or amended writers should be consulted and their views taken into account through their representative organisations.

3) Taking account of the particular situation of individual countries or regions it is the view of the FSE that funding agencies should be prepared to provide support to the writer at a minimum of €15,000 per draft of a feature film screenplay.

4) Taking account of the particular situation of individual countries the size of the support system in each funding agency should be calculated on the basis that at least three to ten times the number of projects should be in development relative to the number of films which it is anticipated will go in to production.

5) Where development support is provided as a loan it should only be repayable from the production budget of any resulting film. Where not, it should be seen as a subsidy to the writer and not deducted from the writer’s fee.

6) Funding development exclusively through producers has not produced the beneficial results hoped for. FSE is strongly of the view that development funding should as a general rule be channelled directly to writers.

7) Where development funding is provided through production companies the companies should only have to provide evidence that they own or can acquire (option agreement or letter of intent) sufficient rights from the author to produce the film or television programme. Buyouts of all rights or concluded contracts are inappropriate and should not be a requirement for application for support.

8) The application system should be transparent and writers should be entitled to receive copies of readers reports or other written assessments of their work as well as financial and budget information even when the application is made by a producer.

9) Writers should be entitled to apply for support on the basis of a treatment for a film rather than necessarily a full first draft as well as on the basis of a short description for a treatment.

10) Where standard contracts are not in force funding agencies should not provide producers with financial support to cover legal costs of negotiating writers’ contracts without providing countervailing financial support for legal costs to writers. Where development support schemes are being introduced, reviewed or amended the FSE will be available to provide advice and support to member organisations or indeed also directly to funding agencies, especially on the international level, on the experience of other countries as well as on the best practice of effective state aid for screenwriting and development. Success in one country creates the possibility of success in another. Let us use our combined experience and efforts to better the environment for writers across Europe.

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