Amid unprecedented production shutdowns and job losses, Australia’s peak bodies stand united with the Australian Drama Agents’ Association (ADAA), Association of Drama Agents in NSW (ADA), Casting Guild of Australia (CGA) and allied businesses, today echoing the Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG), Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG), the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Live Performance Australia (LPA) and Screen Producers Australia (SPA) in seeking urgent Government support for the live performance and screen sectors.
While members welcome the JobKeeper package announced this week as much needed support for small businesses and sole traders, it does not appear to cover freelancers who work from short term contract to contract. Further, it is anticipated that the impacts on the industry will last for a significantly longer period than the next six months. A package targeted specifically to the Arts industry will be integral to enabling a strong rebound once restrictions are lifted.
The Arts industry, which depends on large groups of people to produce and present much of the content that it makes, has been ravaged by the ban on mass gatherings with productions grounded, cinemas closed and stage shows ceased. In the process, thousands of jobs have been lost, many of which were held by freelancers with no means of making an income.
“Bans on mass gatherings could be one of the last measures lifted so the arts community will be without income for a longer period than many other sectors,” said Catherine Poulton, President of the ADAA. “Our industry is very interconnected, with the work of businesses, organisations and individuals’ closely interwoven. It’s not just the actors on stage or screen, but, behind the scenes, the crews, the producers, the casting directors, the talent managers, the publicists, the post-production houses, the distributors, the exhibitors and the venues that are impacted.”
“If the Arts are the window into the soul of a Nation, it’s vital we find ways to support the very infrastructure that helps build the foundations of the Australian Arts community,” said CGA Acting President, David Newman. “Through the support for all aspects both in front of, and behind the scenes we will be in the best position possible for the Arts community to play our role, emotionally and economically, in the recovery from this crisis.”
In a joint statement on behalf of the ADA, Sharron Meissner and Monica Keightley said: “Our industry is a unique one. We work behind the scenes mostly, are often invisible and thus forgotten participants in the arts industry, even in a crisis. Our industry was built on the foundations of longstanding relationships developed and established over many years of hard work and challenges. To lose the key players now would be catastrophic to the Arts. Right now, people globally are self isolating, viewing television via various streaming services (Netflix, Amazon etc.), the very productions to which our Arts industry contributes.”
Arts and Screen Sectors punch above their weight in terms of revenue generated in Australia with Live Performance Australia’s 2018 data recording that 26 million people attended live events with a total revenue of $2.2 billion. That’s more than the combined attendances at AFL, NRL, Soccer, Super Rugby, Cricket and NBL in 2017 (Australian Sporting Attendances 2018, Stadiums Australia).
In 2017, Screen Producers Australia reported that $1.2 billion in revenue was generated by local productions in the independent screen sector and 20,000 jobs were supported. Forty-three percent of production business was exported, compared with 7.6 percent in the broader economy.
The ADAA, ADA and CGA are working with other peak bodies in the sector to obtain from the Federal Government a targeted and specific rescue package for the arts.