SCREEN PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA
The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) represents the interests of Australian ‘independent’ producers of film, television and new media programs, along with services and facilities companies. It has around 350 active members producing programs across a diverse range of genres.
Members pay a joining fee and a production levy. The Association is governed by a council elected from five divisions—Animation and New Media, Documentary, Feature Film, Television, and Facilities and Services.
The current SPAA has evolved gradually from its beginnings in 1956. Independent producers joined together for two main reasons: to lobby federal and state governments to support Australian content on television and in the cinema through regulation and subsidy, and to strengthen their bargaining power in industrial relations negotiations with actors’ and technicians’ unions.
The Australian Film Producers Association (AFPA) began in the late 1950s, made up mostly of cinema advertisement producers who lobbied successfully to limit the importation of television commercials. This campaign was followed by a decade-long campaign to establish higher levels of Australian content on commercial television. The most significant lobby group of independent television producers came out of radio.
The policy advocacy of these producers provided a model for screen producers’ associations of the future—small business entrepreneurs lobbying for Australian content. Crawford Productions (still a member of SPAA) is the longest surviving independent television production company.
AFPA became the Film Production Association of Australia (FPAA), which was formally registered as a federal employer association in 1972. The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the producer association have had a complex relationship, often joining forces in policy debates and campaigns for the protection of Australian industry and content, and often clashing—particularly on the issue of foreign actors in Australian films.
The early 1970s also saw the emergence of direct subsidy funding for Australian feature films, which led to the formation of the Independent Feature Film Producers Association (IFPA) in 1973. The founding members included Hal and Jim McElroy (Picnic at Hanging Rock) and Margaret Fink (My Brilliant Career). Difficulties in negotiating agreements with Actors’ Equity led to IFPA merging with the FPAA in 1976 to form the Film and Television Production Association of Australia (FTPAA).
By 1985, the FTPAA was losing membership and short of finance. With John Daniell and John Weiley at the helm, a renewal operation was launched. The FTPAA changed its name to the Screen Production Association of Australia (SPAA) and organised a conference to drive membership and earn income. In 1994, the organisation changed its branding again to the Screen Producers’ Association of Australia (SPAA). SPAA is a member of the International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations (FIAPF). Since the late 1950s, SPAA and its predecessor organisations have been a consistent voice lobbying for Australian content regulation. Industrial relations, policy and conferences and events continue to be the main focus of SPAA.
REF: H. Crawford, Commercial Television Programmes in Australia (1959).