Wednesday 24 July, 2013
Graeme Mason, currently the CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission, will be the new head of Screen Australia. He will start in November, and his term will run for five years.
Pundits have claimed for some time the job would go to an Australian who has worked overseas for some time, has strong commercial experience, and can work with government. Graeme Mason was an obvious possibility.
According to Deanne Weir, the new deputy chair of Screen Australia, Mason “brings strong and commercial experience of distribution. It will be great to have that perspective over the next five years, while there is such change in distribution models.”
That distribution focus shines through pretty strongly. Graeme Mason started in factual and entertainment television in Australia, before moving to the UK some twenty years ago. He worked for Manifesto and Polygram Filmed Entertainment, where he became head of acquisitions and senior vice-president.
Between 1998 and 2002, he was president of acquisitions at Universal Pictures, based in London and Los Angeles.
In 2003 he settled into Channel 4 Corporation, and “was involved in establishing a new Film Division, re-launching the Channel 4 Film Library and supervising the completion of production, sales and distribution of Film 4 titles,” according to the release from the office of the federal Minister of the Arts, Tony Burke.
Weir emphasised his experience in dealing with government, which extends beyond the New Zealand Film Commission. “Channel Four is a commercial organisation owned by government.,” she pointed out. “He was very much involved in the mix of balancing commercial and government imperatives”.
Deanne has been a member of the Board since it was first established in 2008, so she has a sense of the longer term direction of the agency. “All organisations have to change over time as their circumstances change and the world around them changes,” she said. “The last five years we have set up and integrated three agencies, and deal with the Global Financial Crisis and the changing dynamics of that. “
There is a pretty clear sense of change in the Screen Australia agenda, if only because the enormous amount of work in building the agency has been completed. Three agencies have become one, the emphasis has shifted from direct to indirect support through the Tax Act, television, games and transmedia are in the mix, and funding strategies have changed dramatically.
The changes are not over yet. Like Dr Ruth Harley, whom he now succeeds for the second time, Graeme Mason will be in for a bumpy ride. The fact that he has worked in the intersection between feature film and television could be very instructive.
However, Brian Rosen as President of SPAA has added a salutary coda. “Graeme is a very experienced executive with great knowledge of the distribution and production industry. SPAA looks forward to working with him,especially in constructing new financial paradigms to embrace the rapidly changing distribution model which the internet has instigated.”
The pressure is on to create new strategies for a changing future; utilising the lessons of the past in this context is a tough ask.