Just six days into his job as CEO of Screen Australia, Graeme Mason has identified piracy, release windows, the viability of Australian films and making the agency more accessible as among the top priorities.
In his first public address at the Screen Forever conference on Tuesday, Mason heralded a new era of engagement with the screen industry.
Referring to his background in film and TV sales, acquisitions and commissioning at Polygram, Channel Four and Universal, he said, “I am very much of the industry. I can’t bear the idea of it’s us and them.”
Piracy is so rife, he told producers that it’s “almost impossible for you get a return on your IP.”
The former CEO of the NZFC described most Australian films as art-house or speciality, “the toughest thing to crack” at home and around the world.
Asked by SPA executive director Matt Deaner how he will approach the problematic issue of release windows in Australia, he pledged to work with industry to figure out how best to deliver films to audiences.
Mason characterised Video-on-Demand as pivotal to the future of distributing films globally, pointing to digital distributors such as Distrify which aggregate content for German-speaking territories, which Australian films may not be able to access via traditional licensing deals.
On an optimistic note, he said the visibility and profile of Australian actors, directors and films are higher than any other country outside the US except the UK. “We have the opportunity to tell Australian stories with Australian stars,” he said.
He said Screen Australia would continue to support “ambition and aspiration” without losing sight of its cultural remit to help content creators tell local stories for local people.
He lauded Screen Australia’s Enterprise Program, which has provided funding to 29 screen businesses in the past five years as “fantastic, a game changer.”
Mason acknowledged the agency faces constraints in its rules and guidelines and suggested some would need to be remedied by legislative changes.
He told producers that the agency and the industry need to present a united front in dealing with the new Federal Government as it faces economic challenges.
But one thing won’t change given the constraints on Screen Australia’s funding. He told producers that 80% of the time when they seek funding, the answer will be no.