Graeme Mason's appointment as chief executive of Screen Australia, replacing Ruth Harley, has been widely welcomed by the screen industry.
An Aussie, Mason has been CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission since 2009.
For months it’s believed the Screen Australia board was looking to hire an Australian with international experience, which made Mason an obvious front-runner for the position. He’s worked in international production, distribution and acquisition for more than 20 years.
It's a popular choice among the Australian screen industry because filmmakers and executives who know Mason say he's smart, personable and passionate about the business.
"Graeme is a very experienced executive with great knowledge of the distribution and production industry," said SPAA president Brian Rosen. "SPAA looks forward to working with him especially in constructing new financial paradigms to embrace the rapidly changing distribution model that the internet has instigated."
Said filmmaker Bill Bennett, "Graeme is a gentleman in an industry where there are precious few. He has the experience, the temperament, the taste and judgment, and the political nous, to lead Screen Australia adroitly through these difficult times we're facing."
StudioCanal Australia CEO Robert Slaviero said, "I’ve known Graeme for a long time so I believe it’s a great appointment. Very experienced and passionate about film and very open to exploring new ideas and methods."
Mason was chosen from a field of more than 250 candidates. Screen Australia Chair Glen Boreham said, “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.“
Boreham also paid tribute to Dr Harley, noting that she presided over the integration of the Film Finance Corp., Film Australia and the Australian Film Commission and overhauled screen development and funding of screen content.
Mason said, “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 worked in factual and entertainment TV programming in Australia before moving to the UK. He spent seven years with PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, rising to Senior Vice President where he acquired or oversaw the production of films to augment in-house projects including The Usual Suspects, Trainspotting, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Spice World – The Movie and When We Were Kings.
He was involved with the international licensing and distribution of films such as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Nell, Dead Man Walking and Four Weddings and a Funeral .
From 1998 to 2002 he was president of worldwide acquisitions for Universal Studios. In 2003, he joined Channel 4 as head of media projects where he provided a link between the broadcaster’s creative and commercial arms. He 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 including The Motor Cycle Diaries and Touching the Void.
Later he was managing director of rights for Channel 4. Before he joined the NZFC he was executive producer of London-based Scarlet Pictures, assisting with development on a slate of projects.
Mason starts his five-year term in November, when Dr Harley, a former CEO of the NZFC, steps down.