'I have been in Australia for four years and now know it pretty well and this move means I can solely concentrate on Australian film,' said Sydney-based Luke.
He will use his international knowledge to stimulate growth and help filmmakers forge new partnerships with the wider marketplace and reach bigger audiences, in part through the use of alternative distribution methods. He will work across all FTO funding programs rather than being in charge of one.
'We are not only about funding but also about providing advice and being the co-ordination point for information,' said FTO chief executive Tania Chambers, who appointed Luke. 'With his market experience Ashley can talk up the talent in the state and help them better represent what they are doing.
'We need to find ways to do more with the resources we have and partnerships are critical in that. If Ashley can introduce people and that ends up kick-starting a film that is a better outcome than us investing a modest amount into that film.'
Luke has worked in sales at Jane Balfour Films, in acquisitions for Dendy Films and Channel Four and in development. He has not previously worked for a government agency.
Three Federal Government agencies were merged into Screen Australia on July 1 and a year earlier a 40 per cent tax rebate for Australian films was introduced. When the FTO released a strategic plan last month, Chambers described its fundamental role as investing time, energy and resources 'in the future of a robust, agile and varied' screen industry in New South Wales. She also acknowledged that the whole industry was going through a period of great change - and also opportunity. Luke will help find and take advantage of these opportunities.
Generally, state agencies in Australia invest small amounts of money in many films, in part because their political masters judge them by annual production levels not commercial or critical success.
'Some say the more films we make the more hits we make by the law of averages but I do not necessarily believe that,' said Luke, who describes himself as a very harsh critic. 'Quantity over quality is a big problem, including in Hollywood. A lot of films are not working but people will go and see films if they are good films. It is better to put in a process of proper development and be more careful in your judgements about talent.'
Right now he is very pleased at the response from Toronto to the Icelandic film Country Wedding, which he championed through Fortissimo: 'The most exciting thing is discovering a filmmaker that goes on and does something fantastic.'
The FTO invested $3.9m (A$4.8m) into 29 film and television projects with a combined budget of $82.9m (A$102.2 m) in 2007/08. Eight were feature films. It also put $634,200 (A$782,196) into project development. It runs the Aurora hothousing workshop, a young filmmakers fund, and a digital effects training scheme.
Luke's partner, Scott Meek, recently resigned from Screen Australia but is acting as a consultant on a number of feature films funded under his reign.