Screen Forever 2023: Matt Deaner: “A really crucial year”

Screen Forever 2023: Matt Deaner: “A really crucial year”

Members of Screen Producers Australia gathered on the Gold Coast for Screen Forever 37, the annual gathering of creatives and occasional network executives to improve production and business.

This year’s conference at The Star takes place against the backdrop of a new federal government, impending regulations, fragmented audiences, and even, this week, a US writers’ strike.

In his welcoming address to delegates, CEO Matt Deaner also took the time to remember Foxtel executive Brian Walsh.

“Brian has sometimes been a big part of Screen Forever in its many guises over the years and was set to play a big part again this year. There have been many tributes that will no doubt continue, but I want to honor Brian’s ability to navigate our industry and its complicated parts and in doing so achieve incredible results for Australian stories. He really believed in Australian stories,” Deaner said.

He also credited Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for being an advocate for the voice industry.

“I cannot think of another Premier – no other leader in Australian history – of your position and seniority who has taken direct responsibility for the portfolio and shaped it, building it, as clearly and directly as you have. And she didn’t just talk, she walked, driving the results of international manufacturing, infrastructure investment and local industry like no one she has ever seen in such a long and direct period. She is deeply personal.

Deaner drew attention to the American writer’s strike, without taking a stand, on the regulations passed in Canada to regulate streamers and the consultation on the long-awaited regulation of streaming platforms in Australia is currently underway.

“There has to be a place for all of us, big and small, for our industry to thrive. Because streaming is now such an important part of our lives, the advent of this new regulation makes this a truly pivotal year for our organization. You can rest assured that all our efforts are focused on getting the best possible result for you,” she said.

“And it’s not that there’s no money on the table, as our UK colleagues can share. Remember that our demand for our industry through this regulatory process is less than half of global streamer spending.

“And do not think my friends, we are alone in this discussion. With the passage of the C11 Act in Canada, there are now important guides on how Canadian industry will be regulated and provide guidance to Australia. These are on screen.

Despite the SPA’s push for regulation, executives from Stan, Paramount+, Binge, and Prime Video attend the conference.

Deaner also pointed to a lack of strategy in government.

“At the federal level, there is no shared strategic plan for the industry or its supporting agencies,” he said.

“There is no export or IP strategy. There is no co-production strategy. There is no search strategy. There is no genre-by-genre strategy. There is no interagency strategy. There is no overarching Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island strategy or for that matter a diversity strategy. There is no strategy. So where do the Government and supporting institutions want to take us?

“And here may be only part of the problem.”

He also spoke about diversity issues in storytelling, Australian voices and on-screen stories. These are highly visited talking points in SPA conversations, which never go unnoticed by delegates.

“We all need to be seen. For who we are. Storytelling achieves this goal. Either by telling and building the story or by seeing oneself reflected in a story. Our stories are a window into our lives and the lives of others,” she continued.

“It is why we must continue to push at all levels for the inclusion of our community in our industry. To keep opening doors to others. It’s why we all need to present ourselves to our industry as ourselves and be allowed to bring that to the screen. And on a macro level, it’s why we have to keep fighting to make it Australian.

“SPA and I will continue to, remove any measures or decisions that will help lift the gaze of our members and our industry, clear the air and allow everyone to move forward with confidence to move forward with the work that is the magic of creation.

“I want to conclude my comments this morning by once again celebrating everyone here and congratulating you on the remarkable work this industry has done. It’s always amazing to look back on what has been achieved.”