Poppy Montgomery (L) and Tracey Vieira at the ‘Reef Break’ premiere (Photo credit: Alister Rendell)
Outgoing Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira reflects on the challenges and milestones of her career at the agency and why she is heading in a new direction.
Q: So, after 17 years dealing with US studios, Australian and international producers and governments (Screen Queensland, Ausfilm, Pacific Film and Television Commission), are you looking for new challenges?
I’ve had the incredible privilege of working for 17 years across so many aspects of the industry due to the roles I have had. I’ve had the benefit of working with international filmmakers and studios, local producers, writers and directors, agencies, guilds and unions, local councils, state government and the federal government and also across both international production, local production and screen culture events.
It’s been absolutely incredible to be exposed to so many sectors of the industry but I’m at a point where I feel that to continue my own learning and growth, I want to explore the industry and where I can add value from a different vantage point.
Q: You said you did not want to be a “lifer” at screen agencies: Is that because you think there should be a healthy process of renewal at government bodies?
I really genuinely feel that great ideas come when you are uncomfortable and looking at solutions through new lenses and so for me that means making a change. I do think it’s healthy for agencies to have renewal across the company as the industry continues to evolve and change and if you are not changing as an agency then you are falling behind. I’ve always felt strongly that bringing new people in results in new perspectives and that is what drives great outcomes and that has certainly served us well at Screen Queensland.
Q: When you joined Screen Queensland in 2014, you said it was a tumultuous time for the organisation and industry in Queensland. How so? What were your immediate and longer-term goals?
When I joined the CEO role either with acting or permanent CEOs had changed hands five times in five years. The total production expenditure generated by Queensland screen projects was $33 million, which was down from $160 million seven years prior to that. The local industry and screen agency didn’t have a great relationship and so there was a lot to do very quickly both internally and externally.
The immediate goal was to steady the ship and build trust with the staff, industry and stakeholders, and that meant being transparent, open and honest. I chose to be forward looking rather than trying to fix things that happened before and therefore focused on delivering outcomes such as television series, increasing both local and international production, opening the door to emerging practitioners, building market partnerships, developing initiatives that were focused on building credits for practitioners and becoming screen agnostic by embracing global facing content for all platforms (making content that will reach its audience wherever they are).
Q: Among the milestones were launching the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy; opening Sqhub, the first entrepreneurial start-up space for the screen industry; backing The Second as Stan’s first Australian feature and striking a development deal with Stan for premium drama series; and establishing the Screen Queensland Studios. Which ones are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of all of them. There is no favourite child as each was unique in building towards having a viable industry in our State. Partnering with industry, whether with SBS and the VR series we did as part of Australian Untold series 2, with Stan on The Second or with high end drama development felt right and is what agencies should be doing.
Our most recent announcement, the RIDE Film Fund, is the one I am most proud of as it brings everything together: diversity, inclusion, film, multi-platform, new pathways and partners outside of government such as Media Super. That’s where I think we should all be headed.
(L-R) ABC Studios’ International’s Keli Lee, the ABC’s Sally Riley, Ioan Gruffudd, Hoodlum’s Tracey Robertson and Tracey Vieira at the ‘Hoodlum’ premiere (Photo: Screen Queensland).
Q: There some big “gets” for Queensland during your tenure, including Harrow, Tidelands, Reef Break and Dora & the Lost City of Gold. I assume each took some wrangling as well as SQ’s financial support?
Many of these have been years of wrangling and some have been at super speed but ultimately, they come down to great relationships, trust and transparency and of course funding. What we’ve done differently is look beyond spend for reasons why we should support a project.
Economics are definitely part of it, but so is the training opportunities as well as the ability to open the production to the community which we have done through hospital visits, major premieres in the State and taking teachers onto set. For tourism as well, we have taken A list actors to key tourism locations or worked with them on great experiences in Queensland that we can then share with the world.
Q: Are there any or many big “fish” you tried to land but couldn’t?
Of course, but often because of things outside our control such as broadcasters wanting a production to film in another State or federal funds not being competitive.
Q: How beneficial was securing the 10 per cent PDV offset?
We’ve already had four projects come through the door since it was announced and one of those is the largest PDV project to be done in the State. It’s been a game changer.
Q: You will continue as The Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network co-chair. How would you describe its progress and what is the agenda for the next year or two?
The first announcements on focus will be made later this year and I believe will be really important for bench-marking our success in this area. The most incredible thing is having all of the broadcasters and agencies etc in the room for this. There is an absolute industry commitment to ensuring our content on and off screen reflects the community we live in.
Q: You told me you do not have a specific job to go to after you step down on August 24 but are looking at a number of options. How soon before we know your next gig?