April 1, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia (SPA), really gets the power of business events.

He’s the industry’s chief lobbyist and spends loads of time talking to governments about the importance of the screen industry to Australian life.

And right now, his is an industry with currency, especially in Queensland where both the state government and the Gold Coast council have invested hugely in attracting the prestigious Screen Forever event to the state.

After the interruptions and COVID-related postponement, the SPA annual gathering is wrapping up on the Gold Coast today.

The 36th Screen Forever conference sold out three weeks ahead of the event with its eager community chomping at the bit to get back together again in-person.

From March 28 to April 1 at The Star Event Centre, the association is delivering a conference, an awards ceremony and an online “marketplace” for brokering introductions.

Deaner says the event has 900 delegates, 55 sessions and 150 speakers. The industry couldn’t be more excited to be coming back together again, he told micenet.

He says his industry is a “risk-taking” business in which people work on creative ideas, so the networking afforded at the conference allows potential collaborators to meet and build trust.

“You need to create opportunities for them to come together. And there’s nothing like building trust and having the opportunity to meet over a drink at the bar. It’s a chance for people to get to know each other well. And those social opportunities, at the fringes of the conference, are really important,” he says.

The conference program is expansive with some big-name presenters.

In his opening address, Deaner said that seismic shifts had impacted the screen industry since they had last come together.

“Whilst the world around us has tipped on its head, our industry has certainly not stood still.

“While COVID raged, and lockdowns spread – the world still turned, with global entertainment behemoths launching into our market, broadcasters tearing down quotas, a COVID crisis in our industry and the government response, big money into footloose productions, existential threats to children’s content producers, an almighty fight on tax offsets, shifting sands underneath Screen Forever and the sharpening of the policy debate around Australian content on streaming services,” Deaner told assembled delegates.

The Screen Forever conference taking place on the Gold Coast this week

Securing the event for the Gold Coast was a major win for the city’s convention bureau. The event had previously been held in Melbourne for seven consecutive years.

Deaner says the local council and the Queensland government were hugely invested in the growth of the Gold Coast’s screen industry.

It’s the home to major industry facilities like Village Roadshow Studios, one of the largest studio lots in the southern hemisphere. This facility alone is estimated to have attracted $3.8 billion of film business – from motion pictures to television series and television commercials.

At the recent launch of Destination Gold Coast’s new business events campaign, Gold Coast – the Imagination Capital of Australia, it has identified the screen industry as a major pillar of the economy.

For SPA members there were benefits in taking the event to Queensland. It allowed the industry to experience the destination which offers so many varied locations, as well as post-production services and crews.

“There’s nothing like that physical experience of being in a place – it reaches into your head. It brings to life what is possible,” says Deaner.

He believes this immersion in the location influences decision-making about where industry operators choose to shoot their productions and with whom they partner.

Deaner says that over $100 million in business is driven from the industry coming together at Screen Forever.