Maureen Barron has been appointed chief executive of Screen NSW and will return to her hometown of Sydney from Brisbane to take up the role on Feb 27.
“I’m excited by the job, it is a place I know well and an industry I know well,” she told ScreenDaily, noting that the state government film agency appeared to be in good shape.
She said she was not going in with a grand vision: “The way to ensure you do what is needed is to talk to people about how things are for them, see how individual businesses are travelling, what people have on their slates. That’s what I’ll be doing. There seems to be a lot of activity — large scale production, local companies achieving a lot through enterprise money (funding from federal agency Screen Australia), television and features are strong — and it is something I would like to be part of.”
For cultural and economic reasons, each state in Australia has an agency that invests inproduction and development in projects by local residents and vies for interstate and international projects. The chief executives often move from state to state: Barron took over Screen Queensland in July 2009 and will now replace Tania Chambers, who left ScreenWest five years ago to join Screen NSW — Chambers is now back on the west coast consulting to the creative industries and working as an executive producer.
Barron has been in the private sector for most of her working life, principally as an executive with television production group Southern Star, although she was long-time chair of the board of the now defunct federal government agency the Australian Film Commission.
NSW is the most populous state and, according to Screen Australia research, hosted 41 percent of all national drama production in the 12 months to June 30, 2011. Barron said the level of resources under her management would stay much the same, however, because Screen Queensland has a strong cultural remit that includes the Brisbane International Film Festival. In all the other states festivals and the agencies operate independently.
In addition, a $20m fund aimed at attracting production to NSW — including the big Hollywood films that are staying away because of the strength of the Australian dollar — is available directly from the Department of Trade and Investment not Screen NSW. Barron said it was too early to have a view on where that money should sit in her opinion.
In 2010/2011 Screen NSW spent about $10.4 (A$10m) on project production and development. Most recently it has agreed to invest in two French/Australian co-productions, The Grandmothers from director Anne Fontaine and Almost French from Kate Dennis, as well as 2.22 from Paul Currie and Devil’s Dust from Jessica Hobbs.