Advocating for appropriate policy reform to support Australian stories on screen will be among the chief priorities of the new Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) executive director, Alaric McAusland.
Further, he hopes to support directors of underrepresented backgrounds through diversity and inclusion initiatives, and uphold the ADG’s now almost 40 year tradition of protecting the creative and economic rights of its members and their teams.
McAusland’s appointment was announced by the guild today, as well of that of Ana Tiwary, who will take on the new position of strategy and development executive.
Starting November 16, McAusland succeeds Diana Burnett, who departs to take up a new role as a studio manager at Animal Logic.
McAusland was most recently chief operating officer at Grace – A Storytelling Company in LA, and prior to that Deluxe Entertainment Services Group ANZ MD for some nine years. He has also been the general manager of Atlab, served as chairman of Ausfilm and has been a council board member of Screen Producers Australia.
In announcing his appointment, ADG president Samantha Lang said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have Alaric join the ADG to lead our team. Alaric’s drive and ambition for the ADG will help the guild expand on the great work we’ve been doing for Australian directors over the past few years. He is highly regarded both here in Australia and internationally and has a significant depth of knowledge and range of experience across the industry.”
With the industry still recovering from the impact of COVID, and grappling with the government’s recently announced media reforms, McAusland acknowledges he steps into the role in an important time.
He regards much of the reform package as not just a step backwards, but “a step backwards off a cliff”.
Speaking to IF, he affirmed the guild will remain strongly behind the Make It Australian campaign, and hit out at the government’s reduction of the Producer Offset for film, the scrapping of the fixed content quota system for FTA television, and its policy inaction on regulating SVOD platforms, as well as previous cuts to ABC and SBS.
“Our industry was hit harder than most by COVID. It’s going to be a long recovery, and like most sectors, we’ll need help from government. It’s absolutely essential that we have a legislative and policy framework that supports not only the recovery, but better supports Australian stories ongoing,” he says.
“Whilst the government’s rhetoric is one of strongly supporting Australian stories, it’s completely at odds with their policies.”
Beyond the professional, McAusland has a personal passion for Aussie content and storytellers. A UK native, he was drawn to Australia after seeing Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock at London’s Barbican at age 14. He was shocked to learn of Fremantle’s decision, back in 2016, to hire Canadian director Larysa Kondracki with local director Michael Rymer to helm the Foxtel series ‘reimagining’. The move was opposed by the ADG, and later local director Amanda Brotchie joined the production.
“It made me angry. From there I thought really I couldn’t sit back and be a passive bystander. I had an obligation to get involved. I wanted to stand up and protect the interests of Australian storytellers. And I wanted to be part of a campaign for change.”
He’s also a single dad of two young children, and during lockdown found, much to his chagrin, he could occasionally detect an American twang in their role playing.
“Screen content reflects who we are as a culture. It’s a way we tell our Australian stories and it’s the predominant way… that we pass on those stories to our kids.”
In taking up the role, McAusland acknowledged the work of his predecessor Burnett, noting that under her leadership the body’s membership has increased significantly growing from about 700 to now more than 1,200 members worldwide. This includes more than 200 from diverse backgrounds.
Tiwary’s role will see her responsible for deepening engagement with the director community and broadening the guild’s membership base.
This will include an emphasis on diversity, inclusion and regeneration and optimising benefits and professional development opportunities for ADG members. Tiwary runs her own company indiVisual films and also serves on the board of WIFT Australia.
McAusland says her appointment is critical: “We have an obligation, as do all organisations and guilds in the industry, to continue to evolve, develop, protect and support underrepresented directors and their rights in a really changing global landscape.“
Tiwary said: “I am thrilled to be working with Alaric and with the ADG’s expanded membership to build upon the brilliant work that the outgoing ED Diana Burnett has done over the past year. Besides diversity and engagement strategy, my focus will be to ensure that all current and future ADG members across Australia receive benefits, support and new opportunities to further their craft and careers.”.