Tasmanian film company Wide Angle’s future in doubt after $80,000 Screen Australia funding cut

By Emilie Gramenz

The future of filmmaking organisation Wide Angle Tasmania is in doubt following a decision by Screen Australia to slash its funding by $80,000.

Screen Australia has been forced to defund seed organisations after the cut.

One of those is Wide Angle, which provides production equipment and mentoring to emerging filmmakers.

The $80,000 cut, a move the Tasmanian Arts Minister described as “regrettable”, represents a third of Wide Angle’s annual budget.

General manager Abi Binning said she was lobbying to have funding reinstated for what she said was a unique service.

“You can’t access production equipment in Tasmania unless you come through Wide Angle,” she said.

She said Wide Angle gave unproven filmmakers the opportunity to produce works that might then win them the support of Screen Tasmania or Screen Australia.

Emerging filmmaker Carmen Falk made three short films in Tasmania with the support of Wide Angle.

“To be honest, I don’t think I would have done anything if Wide Angle weren’t around,” she said.

She said the help with grants, gear and advice was invaluable.

“It’s a harsh world, filmmaking, because they only really take notice of you when you get to a point where you’re making films of a certain production value and your story’s good,” she said.

“But you can’t do any of that without support.”

Another Wide Angle alumni, Tom Waugh, now has his own production company specialising in filming with drones.

“For me, Wide Angle was very important because it gave me the transition between film school that I went to in Sydney,” he said.

“I probably wouldn’t have gone to film school in Sydney if it wasn’t for Wide Angle and the support they gave.”

Now Mr Waugh has worked on large Australian and international productions, including The Kettering Incident, which was recently filmed in Tasmania.

“If you haven’t cut your teeth on short films that have some budget you’re going to struggle on a big set,” he said.

Tasmania has played host to several large productions recently.

Lion, a biopic starring Hollywood names like Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Dev Patel, wrapped eight days of filming in Tasmania earlier this month.

Co-founder of local production company Blue Rocket Alicia Rackett, who is also vice chair of Wide Angle, said there was an unprecedented level of filmmaking activity happening in the state.

“It’s incredibly important to have a diversity of skills available locally,” she said.

Tasmanian Government seeks to keep Wide Angle running

In a statement, Tasmania’s Arts Minister Vanessa Goodwin described the cuts as “regrettable” but wanted to help keep Wide Angle operating.

She said she had written to the Federal Government, which funds the film industry via Screen Australia, to argue the case for restoring the funding.

“The State Government, through Screen Tasmania, will continue to engage with Wide Angle Tasmania to ensure its valuable services can continue, despite the withdrawal of federal funding,” she said.

Screen Tasmania has pitched in to help find a way to keep Wide Angle going.

Acting director Andrew McPhail said Wide Angle was a key part of Tasmania’s filmmaking success.

“We’ve embarked on a number of strategies to assist in grassroots filmmaking in the state, and we’ve also embarked on a number of strategies to attract outlying productions to come and film in the state, and we think there’s a balance to be met between the two,” he said.

“We’ve really worked and focused at building the skill sets of Tasmanian writers, directors and producers to be able to tell Tasmanian stories.

“What we want to do is to be able to build an industry here that enables Tasmanian screen practitioners to actually work and live here and earn a living.”

Wide Angle is currently aiming to raise $30,000 for a new short film project, the Step-Up Film Initiative.

The money will support two Tasmanian filmmaking teams to produce short films tailored for major international film festivals.

Ms Binning said the organisation would work hard to keep their services available, even as the funding cuts begin to bite.


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