A leaked report into Queensland’s Pacific Film and Television Commission, the state government’s film and television investment arm, shows that industry concerns over mismanagement are justified. It also documents attempts by PFTC to prevent the industry consultants from addressing issues raised in submissions to the Review.

People from the Queensland film industry began expressing their concerns to Screen Hub in early 2006, calling the PFTC “Mordor for filmmakers” and citing interference by PFTC staff in the creative process. The review process was put in place to address those concerns. It reported in November, 2006, and the Pacific Film and Television Commission has since refused to release its findings.

The copy obtained by Screen Hub states clearly that the “creative management of projects should be a matter for industry practitioners. Skills should be developed within the industry, and reside within industry rather than the PFTC. PFTC staff should be skilled and knowledgeable about the industry, but they should not expect to exercise creative control of projects.”

“‘Creative management’ should not be able to be perceived by industry as a euphemism for a hands-on policy, especially in the area of short films,” the report says.

“Creative management” is the cornerstone policy of the PFTC, and its rejection by the consultants is a major slap in the face to CEO Robin James and Head of Production Henry Tefay.

The report also documents the PFTC’s attempt to prevent the consultants considering the Board’s structure and expertise:

The PFTC expressed the view to the Consultants that consideration of Board structure in the SPAA and AWG/ASDA submissions fell outside the terms of reference of this review and should therefore not be considered. However … it appears from interviews conducted for the review that the industry perception of Board expertise is impacting upon the respect the industry accords the PFTC decision-making process, and this in turn is impacting on the PFTC’s ability to engage with industry in a non-combative manner.

The bad news does not end there.

The report is also highly critical of the the PFTC’s dealings with the industry, and recommends a corporate renewal as a strategy to engage with industry, including:

PFTC branding, improved access, a shop front office, and increased interaction at industry events;

Structure of the Board;

Structure of management;

Mechanisms for more open interface with the industry;

Increased transparency in budgeting and reporting.

Importantly, it also recommends that the “Industry should have a direct voice to Government, independent of the PFTC”.

This would allow criticism of the Pacific Film and Television to be made directly to the Department and the Minister, and give the industry a role in developing policy that it does not currently have.

The findings bear out the concerns that the Queensland industry expressed to Screen Hub in 2006, and which were dismissed by the Pacific Film and Television Commission.

The Report was commissioned in response to widespread industry concerns raised in Screen Hub. An astonishing 81% of respondents to the original Screen Hub survey believed the PFTC decision-making process was unfair.

At the time, PFTC CEO Robin James said that he understood that “people who don’t work on professional day-to-day basis” can be resentful of the level of input that a funding agency had in improving the finished product.

It is clear from the report that the PFTC continues to believe that industry criticism is real and substantial. The report notes that:

PFTC staff interviewed for this review have characterised their involvement in creative decisions as being protective of the Government’s investment. Perceptions among industry members interviewed for this review are somewhat different, characterising the involvement as being more akin to usurping the role of the producer. Several respondents made the point that – if the purpose of the funding was industry development – this was better fulfilled through guidance than enforcement. These complaints were particularly strong in relation to short films, an area of minimal potential returns for the Commission that would therefore seem least likely to require ‘protection’ of the investment.

The PFTC rejected these views, and appears to believe they come mainly from less experienced filmmakers.

The PFTC suggested it would need particular instances, specific projects and applications, and concrete evidence to seriously consider the claims made and, if justified, for Government and the Board to have the substantial grounds required to revisit policy.

As the consultants conducted all interviews in confidence, it is not possible to identify individuals from industry or specific examples that would identify them, but the complaints from industry practitioners in relation to perceived creative domination by the PFTC were held by a wide range of interviewees, all of whom had been recipients of PFTC funding, and this range incorporated very experienced producers.

The report calls on the Board to “[separate] out contentious issues of personality from the more important task of effective delivery of services to industry.”

The consultants also support industry concerns over the conduct of the PFTC’s short film program, and make devastating comparisons with Film Victoria: “It is true that Film Victoria has the same rights, and yet Film Victoria has not attracted the same opprobrium for its short film program as the PFTC suffers in Queensland,” the report says.

“In discussions with Victorian industry members for this review, it appears the Victorian program is well regarded. In view of this, the conclusion must be reached that the difference is the manner in which these rights are exercised, a conclusion that does not reflect well on the PFTC.”

Based on interviews conducted for this review, it appears that the application of an “outcomes-based” approach to short films has cost the PFTC, and its staff, the confidence of a large portion of industry respondents. This is an unfortunate outcome, and must call into question the entire rationale for this approach to short film development and funding.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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