Debra Richards Named Ausfilm CEO

She replaces Jackie O'Sullivan, who resigned last Sept. as head of the film and locations marketing agency.

SYDNEY -- Former pay TV industry lobbyist, Debra Richards has been named CEO of Australian film and TV locations marketing agency, Ausfilm, its chairman Alaric McAusland said Monday.

She replaces Jackie O’Sullivan who resigned last Sept.

Richards is a former executive director of industry organization, the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, who steered the sector’s policy objectives, built up the ASTRA Awards and annual conference and championed local production in the sector during her 12 years at the helm. She also spent 13 years with broadcast regulator the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

“We are extremely fortunate to have secured someone of the calibre of Debra at this critical time for the local and international screen production sector. Debra is a highly experienced CEO and executive director with experience gained in both private and public sectors. She is an acknowledged communications expert with a network that extends throughout the media industry and across the political spectrum," McAusland said, announcing the appointment. 

“Above all else Debra has a passion for our wonderful film and television production industry, her exceptional leadership and relationship building skills will be critical to Ausfilm’s capacity to further enhance Australia’s position as a leading global destination for screen production.”

Ausfilm is a partnership between private industry and government, with a membership of over 30 private-sector companies and federal state and territory agencies.

With offices in Sydney and Los Angeles, the organization provides the international film community with direct access to Australia’s screen incentives, talent and facilities. It markets the Australia’s Screen Production Incentive Scheme which comprises the Location, PDV (post, digital and visual effects) and Producer Offsets.

Tracey Viera continues as Ausfilm commissioner based in Los Angeles.

Richards’ appointment comes as Australia’s production attraction sector faces significant challenges, with the rise of the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar in the last 12 months making Australia a cost-prohibitive destination for U.S. and other foreign productions and a corresponding downturn in the volume of foreign production, particularly big budget studio films here. 

Nevertheless several high profile shoots are set for Australia this year.  

Fox Television’s big ticket sci-fi drama, Terra Nova, will go back into production in Queensland from May after the pilot was made here in December. 

Stephan Elliot’s A Few Best Men is currently in production in Sydney and the Blue Mountains; Anthony La Paglia’s latest project, an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge will be made in Melbourne while Toni Collette and director P.J. Hogan will reunite to make Mental here mid-year. 

In response to the contraction in the amount of foreign productions shooting down under, the federal government last year lowered the qualifying spend threshold  on its post, digital and visual effects location rebates from AUS$5 million ($4.9 million) to AUS$500,000. Ausfilm is now lobbying the government to double the level of its location rebates to 30 percent or align the value of the rebate to currency fluctuations.