The play Kill Climate Deniers has opened to mixed reviews, but where there can be no disagreement is in noting the production’s grant-funded progress from the mind and pen of a Canberra writer and expert in obtaining taxpayer funds. As he puts it, learn to play the arts game and “get wealthy”
Last week in Sydney a little play, Kill Climate Deniers, opened at the Griffin Theatre and left the critics somewhat divided. At ArtsHub, reviewer Ann Foo takes author David Finnigan to task for what, going by her summation of acting and plot, seems no better than a chaotic and incoherent exercise in authorial ego. At the Sydney Morning Herald, theatre critic Joyce Morgan reckons it’s a four-star triumph, an appraisal in which she airs her expertise as a climate solon by noting matter-of-factly how “as the reality of an environmental Armageddon approaches” it’s a great pity people are still wasting their time with cat videos. At the ABC, arts writer Hannah Reich provided some taxpayer-funded advance publicity for the production, informing readers that one of the characters is columnist Andrew Bolt, who the playwright explains brings “comedy value” to “everything he touches”. Given the impeccable politically correct archive of her other reports, one can easily imagine Ms Reich’s ABC head nodding in agreement with that remark.
Good or bad, leave that for the luvvies to thrash out. What might be of greater interest to those who would rather roll in dog dirt than endure 90 minutes of enviro agit-prop is how such productions come to fruition. The short answer: with lots and lots of other people’s money, mostly of the taxpayer variety. Consider:
- Playwright Finnigan scored a $19,000 grant to write Kill Climate Deniers, courtesy of the ACT government
- Playwright Finnigan next scored a $60,000 grant from the Australia Council, as detailed below.
So, we’re at $79,000-and-counting. But wait, there’s more.
- Playwright Finnigan in 2006 founded Boho, which he describes as creating “experimental cross-artform performances based on concepts from Complex Systems Science, Game Theory and Network Theory. Boho works in collaboration with research scientists from organisations such as University College London, CSIRO and the Powerhouse Museum.”
- Playwright Finnigan’s Boho has since received $36,700 from the Australia Council
Given that the Australia Council ended without warning or apology its small-change support for Quadrant — the journal that is home to Les Murray is of no account, apparently — it might seem like jealousy to further detail Mr Finnigan’s success at finding the taxpayer teat, but fortunately there is no need. At his website, the much-subsidised scribbler lists his artistic achievements and shares with other members of the Luvvie-Australian community how they, too, can write and file funding applications and “get wealthy”.
All that support, all those overseas trips detailed in his CV, the good will of the Department of Foreign Affairs in inviting him to share his art with Filipino players, the man must be a wordsmith without equal, the Ibsen of the ACT, right? Again, just like the disputed merits of Kill Climate Change Deniers, genius is in the eye of the beholder. Below is a sample of his writing, one which lays out how, as Finnigan puts it, fellow “practitioners” can get funding to be as transgressive as all get-go. It is a long post but worth reproducing in full lest it vanish, as embarrassments often do on the web. Oh, and apologies, too, for the salty language which Mr Finnigan has pioneered as a form of punctuation:
Some funding applications for you to read, copy, get wealthy with
This one’s probably a bad idea for reasons I’m not 100% clear on, but you know, fuck it.
Yolande Norris is going up to Crack in a couple of weeks to run a workshop on grant writing, which will be dope. She and I were having a chat over the phone about it, talking about what would be most useful for people to know, how best to communicate grant-writing practice for people who haven’t done it before. And the thing that I kept coming back to was: you need to see examples of other grants people have written.
My first grant application, Sylvie Stern sat down with me and basically helped me write it, paragraph for paragraph. Because she was fucking wonderful and had the time and patience to sit down with a wannabe theatre-kid and talk me through it line by line.
When Gills and I started the Crack Theatre Festival (see screen grab below) in 2009 I had no idea about festivals or anything to do with them. One thing that stuck out for me was Nic Low (National Young Writers Festival director at the time) showing me his budget spreadsheet for the NYWF – and it blew my mind. I had no idea what they were supposed to look like, and suddenly it all fell into place and I managed to fumble my way forward from there.
A year or two ago Bryony Kimmings kicked off her brilliant You Show Me Yours project where she started sharing her project budgets publicly, to open them up to discussion. It’s fucking scary sharing your budgets, because everyone’s a fucking expert, everyone knows what you’re doing wrong, and there’s no defending yourself against lazy armchair critics. But I thought it was a great initiative, and I wished then that I’d had the courage to share my own admin files.
It’s been said by heaps of people that signing up to be a peer assessor for one of the funding bodies is a great way to learn about grantwriting – you read hundreds of the things, and get an insight into what makes a good application and what makes one crash and burn. Being a festival director was similar, in that we were digesting and responding to heaps of applications and trying to glean the content out of the awkward grant-speak. But not everyone has the time or capacity to be a grant assessor. It shouldn’t be a requirement, should it?
With all that in mind, I decided it was probably time to share some of my old applications here, for anyone who might be interested, and particularly anyone who’s pretty new to the grantwriting game. They’re not necessarily any good (and they definitely didn’t all get funded), but maybe if you’re getting your head around the whole world of funding, these might be worth glancing at?
I really wanted to include a couple of the applications I wrote for Crack and the You Are Here (see below) festivals, but because there was a whole bunch of people involved in the writing of those, I don’t really feel I can share them.
Weird how personal some of this stuff, feels, hey – especially when you think you mail this shit off to some random strangers you’ve never met to read it over and give you a thumbs up or down. But there you go. So I’ve shared what I feel I can share.
Good luck all you motherfuckers we’re gonna be okay we’re gonna be okay
Helpfully, Mr Finnigan has made his grant applications public property. They can be read here, here, here, here, here, and here. While their perusal is free, attending a performance of Kill Climate Deniers will require putting down money at the Griffin Theatre box office, where adult seats are going for $60.
It is not a huge amount, but some might think it steeper than it should be in light of the millions of dollars the company has received over the years from the Australia Council. As money is fungible, those grants also helped make possible Mr Finnigan’s latest honour and $10,000 windfall.
Applaud, if you will, or get angry. That choice, unlike paying taxes to underwrite Luvvies Inc., is yours.
Roger Franklin, editor at Quadrant Online, is thinking of applying for a grant to write a play, “Burn, Money-Grubbing Warmists, Burn”.