Screen Australia Looks to New Zealand to Find Its New Boss

Graeme Mason

Australian native Graeme Mason will replace Ruth Harley as CEO of the national film and TV agency in November.

SYDNEY – New Zealand Film Commission CEO Graeme Mason has been named the incoming CEO of government agency Screen Australia, Australian Arts Minister Tony Burke announced on Wednesday.

Mason will replace Ruth Harley, a New Zealander and also a former CEO of the NZFC, who elected not to renew her five-year term. SA said Mason was chosen from an extensive field of over 250 international candidates and will take up his role in November for five years.

Mason, an Australian, has had a 20-year career, spanning production and distribution roles in the U.S., UK, Australia and New Zealand. He has been CEO of the NZFC, the New Zealand government arm for financing and international sales of New Zealand film and TV, since 2009.

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“This appointment will help strengthen Screen Australia’s important role in the rapidly diversifying screen environment,” Burke said.

Screen Australia chairman Glen Boreham added: “The Board was extremely impressed by Graeme’s extensive commercial experience and his unique perspective on the need for a screen agency to create a bridge between industry and government, and a balance between culture and commerce."

“After so many years away I am delighted to be coming home to Australia to take on such an exciting role and to build on the great work of Ruth Harley and her team. I am really looking forward to working as part of the Australian screen industry to help tell our stories to domestic and global audiences and to continue to build a vibrant and sustainable screen sector,” Mason said in a statement.

Mason spent part of his early career involved with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, culminating as senior vice president for more than three years.

He was also the president of acquisitions at Universal Pictures for three years, based in London and Los Angeles.

In 2003, Mason joined the U.K’s Channel 4 Corp, and was involved in establishing a new film division, re-launching the Channel 4 Film Library and supervising the completion of production, sales and distribution of Film 4 titles.

NZFC chairwoman Patsy Reddy says she accepted Mason’s resignation with mixed feelings.

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"Graeme's leadership has been a driving contributor to the growth and recognition of our industry, which has seen more than 50 feature films made with NZFC investment during his time in the role," Reddy said. "The commission has been very fortunate to have him."

Burke and Boreham both paid tribute to outgoing CEO Ruth Harley.

“I want to extend my appreciation to Dr. Ruth Harley for her leadership in ensuring the success of Screen Australia, particularly in developing the agency from its foundation,” Burke said. “Dr. Harley has successfully overseen the transformation of the programs and systems inherited from the three former screen agencies into a cohesive, well-run organization.”

Boreham added: “The results are there to see in some of the outstanding and diverse Australian content we have supported in recent years, from The Sapphires to Redfern Now, and from Once upon a Time in Cabramatta to Big Stories, Small Towns. We are very grateful for Ruth’s contributions to Screen Australia and to the Australian screen sector."

Perhaps most importantly, Harley has overseen the implementation of the Producer Offset as a mechanism for financing local film and television.

A recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that production businesses in Australia recorded total income of ($2.34 billion), an increase of 38 percent since the last survey in 2006-07. Total employment also grew by 23 percent to 13,414. 

The announcement of Mason’s appointment comes just one day after Screen Australia announced several new appointments to its board.

Former pay TV executive and founding board member Deanne Weir was elected deputy chairwoman, replacing Ian Robertson, a lawyer whose term had expired.

The Sapphires producer, Rosemary Blight, and Perth-based media lawyer Joan Peters have also joined the board, bringing the agency’s board to its full capacity of nine members.