There’s a joke going around between writers that “isolation” is business as usual for us. Working all hours on a laptop on the kitchen table, bingeing TV and only emerging to walk the dog or go to the bottle shop.
That said, most writers I have spoken to in the last few weeks are still working furiously, sending off funding applications to various state and national screen bodies and writing spec scripts and pitch docs. The difference, since COVID-19 hit, is that where once we were writing for a number of potential broadcasters and streamers, with the possibility of overseas interest, the pool has evaporated and, no matter how productive we are, there simply isn’t currently a market for what we are producing.
The recent removal of quotas for free TV, and the constant budget cuts forced upon SBS and the ABC, have reduced the potential market for Australian drama to a handful of series or mini-series a year for the foreseeable future. That’s not a sustainable film and TV industry.
State and federal funding bodies have been generously redirecting production and travel money that they cannot spend in the foreseeable future into script development. But without broadcasters or streamers being required to commission Australian series, those funding bodies are providing development support for many more shows than can possibly see the light of day.