Screen Australia awards grant to former Harvey Weinstein associate for Gender Matters’ initiative

by | Jan 19, 2022 | Business

Screen Australia, the federal government’s key funding body for Australian TV and movie productions, has awarded over $2 million in funding to a company owned by a “clearer upper” for Harvey Weinstein. Callum Foote reports.

Screen Australia received $92 million in taxpayer funding in 2020-21. Like many arts and cultural institutions, it has been starved of funding by the government. However, an investigation of the financial statements shows, as in previous years, a large chunk of the public funding is awarded to a tight-knit community of Australian producers, in particular, many associated and controlled by the directors of Screen Australia themselves.

These conflicts of interest are disclosed in the notes to the accounts, and are understandable given this country’s small film industry and the expertise on Screen Australia’s board.

One transaction of interest, given the #metoo movement, which arose from sexual harassment and rape revelations surrounding Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, is a grant to production company Made Up Stories.

Made Up Stories is owned by South Australian producer Bruna Papandrea and her American husband Steve Hutensky. Hutensky, a film producer and former lawyer for Miramax, the Weinstein’s company.

Harvey Weinstein, the founder with his brother Bob Weinstein of Miramax Films, and formerly one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood, is serving a 23 year sentence in the Wende Correctional Facility, NY State for one count of criminal sexual assault in the first degree and one count of rape in the third degree.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

In 2017, when allegations of Weinstein’s sexual assult hit the mainstream media, the NY Times reported that Hutensky was nicknamed the “Clearer-Upper” by Miramax colleagues and helped write non-disclosure agreements for former Miramax employees. One of which was for a former  Weinstein assistant, Zelda Perkins, who was allegedly assaulted by Weinstein. The agreement “barred her from disclosing Mr. Weinstein’s name, even to a therapist”.

New York Times

According to the NY Times, Hutensky also “helped implement an unusually restrictive non disclosure agreement… that prohibited Miramax employees from disclosing any information about “Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein and their family members, friends and/or business associates,” without the written consent of the brothers.”

Hutensky was contacted for comment but was unavailable. There is no suggestion by Michael West Media of any impropriety by Hutensky or Screen Australia.

Papandrea and Hutensky’s company, Made Up Stories, champions women on the screen, Papandrea told the Daily Telegraph in 2015.

In recent years, Made Up Stories has produced Little Monsters, Penguin Bloom, The Dry, Wolf Like Me and The Nightingale

In recent years, the company has received $250,000 in funding from Screen Australia under the Gender Matters initiative. This was awarded in two tranches, the first in 2019 for their project The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. The second was to distribute The Nightingale, also in 2019. Hutensky was a producer on both projects.

In 2021, two of the three films promoted by Screen Australia under the Our Summer of Cinema campaign were produced by Hutensky. 

Screen Australia spokesperson told MWM that “Screen Australia under our Gender Matters Better Deals program provided $200,000 of funding towards the distribution of Jennifer Kent’s multi-award winning film The Nightingale to support marketing and distribution efforts”.

Penguin Bloom and The Dry are two of the three Screen Australia funded films which reached the top of Australia’s box office last year.

Since 2018, projects associated with Hutensky, through Made Up Stories, have received just under $2 million in taxpayer funding through Screen Australia.

Keeping it in the family 

Besides the grants awarded to Made Up Stories, Screen Australia, has a large number of grants disclosed to companies related to its ? directors

Screen Australia’s conflict of interest policy is that “Screen Australia recognises that individuals hold a range of legitimate interests outside the immediate workplace. It is the responsibility of Employees and Contractors to ensure that these interests do not create a conflict of interest or a perception of a conflict of interest.”

Following up from a previous investigation into the potential conflicts of interest in Screen Australia’s grant scheme, it has been revealed that the sister of Screen Australia’s Investment Manager Alyce Adams has been awarded just under $270,000 in funding over the past two years.

Alyce Adams, Investment Manager at Screen Australia’s Online Unit made a web series with her sister Hayley Adams in 2015. Alyce Adams was promoted to Investment Manager in March 2020. Since then Hayley Adams, or companies she is associated with, has been awarded five grants totalling just under $270,000 according to Screen Australia’s annual reports. Four of the five grants, Hayley Adams was acting as the sole producer or was operating through a company in her own name.

On the gravy train

It also seems to pay well to be a well connected Screen Australia alumni. 

Former head of development Martha Coleman has received $670,000 from 20 grants since she left the government agency in 2013, primarily through her production company Revolver Films.

Or for that matter a Screen Australia board member. Screen Australia disclosed that “in the ordinary course of business” it granted over $1.6 million to a project for which actor, producer and Screen Australia board member Claudia Karvan was the producer and more than $2 million to a company for which board member Joanna Werner is a director.

Callum Foote a journalist and Revolving Doors editor for Michael West Media.
Callum has studied the impact of undue corporate influence over Australian policy decisions and the impact this has on popular interests.

Don't pay so you can read it.

Pay so everyone can.

Michael West headshot

Get our newsletter

Once a week.

Unsubscribe anytime.

Thank you! We'll also confirm via email.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This