Letters to the Editors

The National Cinémathèque

Dear Editors

I refer to Mick Broderick’s article in last month’s RealTime, “Screen culture: be alert, be alarmed” (OnScreen p15). Mr Broderick states that the AFC has “devolved many screen culture responsibilities onto state agencies, particularly those emanating from Victoria.”

The AFC has not devolved any of its responsibilities to state agencies. Where the AFC provides funding to events or activities that are now coordinated by a State agency, such as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Victoria (ACMI), now coordinating the National Cinematheque, this is a funding partnership, not a devolution of responsibility. This partnership came about because the AFC wanted to save the national tour of the Cinematheque.

The funding that the AFC provided to ACMI for the National Cinematheque tour was not “earmarked for the AFI’s national exhibition program”, but was offered specifically to the AFI for the Cinematheque national tour. It was only offered to ACMI once the AFI decided not to run the tour. AFC screen culture funding is not generalist organisational funding, but is for specific programs and outcomes.

The AFC was aware of the very low audiences for the National Cinematheque achieved by the AFI and FTI in WA and the consequent decision by the FTI not to continue with the Cinematheque program. ACMI have reinstated the WA tour for this year and are confident that audiences will improve.

Mr Broderick states that “for nearly a decade the AFI has been suffering death by a thousand cuts.” This is not factual. The AFC’s funding of the AFI has steadily increased for the past decade, from an initial funding of $379,878 in 1979 to a peak of $1,000,734 in 1991 and throughout the 1990s averaging $871,147 annually. Fluctuations in AFI funding have been due to the AFI applying for different projects each year. In 1999, the AFI’s request to the AFC was for $994,400 representing 38.5% of the AFC’s screen culture budget.

In 1999, the AFC provided the AFI with $803,000 and gave the AFI 2 years notice that it would no longer support Research and Information and Distribution specifically. The AFC provided transitional funding for these services until 2002, thereby giving the AFI 2 years to pursue alternative strategies for funding them. This is not a picture of “death by a thousand cuts over a decade.”

Also to clarify, the AFC did not withdraw funding from the AFI’s exhibition infrastructure as stated by Deb Verhoeven in the article. AFC funding cuts to the AFI were for Research and Information and Distribution only. The AFC stated to the AFI and publicly that it would continue to fund Exhibition and the Awards. In 2000, the AFI received $157,000 for Exhibition, which increased in 2001 to $244,899. In 2002, the opportunity existed for the AFI to receive at least the same allocation for Exhibition as it had in 2001. However, the AFI chose not to continue with it’s exhibition program, including the Cinémathèque tour.

Since 2000, the AFC has increased its funding support to the AFI for the AFI Awards by 63%.

Yours faithfully,
Sabina Wynn

Manager Industry and Cultural Development
Australian Film Commission

Reply from Mick Broderick

Dear Editors

I’m heartened to learn from the AFC’s Sabina Wynn that ACMI have “reinstated” the WA Cinémathèque tour. Things were looking grim when I first contacted the AFC in late November of 2001, having learned that the Cinémathèque would not run in Perth the following year. At that time the AFC expressed concern at the loss of Perth from the national tour, but flicked the problem/explanation to the AFI and FTI. It is reassuring to see that the situation has now been salvaged.

In her letter Ms Wynn provides financial statistics in an attempt to refute my suggestion that the AFI was subjected to a series of cuts over the past decade. Curiously, though, her own figures clearly validate my assertion.

According to Ms Wynn the AFI’s “peak” funding was more than a million dollars just over a decade ago in 1991. Since then the funding decreased to just over $800,000 in 1999. But the consistently diminishing appropriation in real terms is further evidenced if one considers the diminishing dollar value from the 1991 peak in funding to what the AFI receives today. The metaphor I invoked spoke not to a massive pecuniary blow (which came later with the AFC’s withdrawal of support for Research & Information and Distribution) but a series of smaller funding attritions which left the AFI greatly compromised in its capacity to remain viable, except for running the annual national Awards. Regardless of the AFC’s motivation and rationale (some of which I’m deeply sympathetic to in this instance) the facts speak for themselves. Interested parties can visit the financial appendices of the AFC’s Annual Reports at the AFC website for details.

As for the issue of discriminating between “devolution” and the professed move to a “funding partnership”, I’ll leave the semantics of such euphemisms to the RealTime readers to adjudicate upon.

Dr Mick Broderick
Murdoch University

RealTime issue #54 April-May 2003 pg.

© Sabina Wynn & Mick Broderick; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2003