03/07/2007 - 22:00

ScreenWest taking the reel world to a younger audience

03/07/2007 - 22:00

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The state’s peak film industry body, ScreenWest, has made a number of recent management changes on the back of a string of successes in the local film industry.

ScreenWest taking the reel world to a younger audience

The state’s peak film industry body, ScreenWest, has made a number of recent management changes on the back of a string of successes in the local film industry.

In the past two months, the organisation has named Nova Energy chair, Erica Smyth, as its new chairperson and has appointed entertainment lawyer Ian Booth as its new chief executive officer, following the departure of former CEO Tania Chambers earlier this year.

A former Talbot Olivier lawyer and previous employee of ScreenWest, Mr Booth spent just more than a year with the ABC in Melbourne as business affairs manager for drama and comedy, negotiating with independent producers on productions such as Kath & Kim and WA-based mini-series, The Shark Net.

Having established his own private practice in Perth, specialising in film and television law, Mr Booth has returned to his former employer and a markedly different organisation.

Mr Booth said that, in the five years since his departure, ScreenWest’s budget had doubled from about $4 million to around $9 million, and the value of the state’s production output had increased from about $15 million to $35 million.

“There’s a lot more work being done at a higher level,” he said.

One of these projects is the Baz Luhrmann historical epic, Australia, part of which is being filmed in the Kimberley region.

The WA industry has also had a number of recent successes in its traditional areas of strength – documentaries and children’s programs.

Environmental reality series Eco House, which screened on SBS last month, attracted a strong audience and traffic to its website, while children’s series Lockie Leonard, based on Tim Winton’s novel, was also filmed and produced in WA.

ScreenWest is now in the process of implementing a new strategic plan, which outlines a number of critical success factors for the agency.

One of these priorities is to engage with younger audiences by investing in digital content and technology.

“It’s about investing in the future audience as much as it is in the practitioners to tell those stories,” Mr Booth said.

“Our traditional markets are going very well, our funding program is well-managed – it’s really about how we engage with those new opportunities that I’m trying to look at in the short term.”

Mr Booth said ScreenWest had historically invested heavily in interstate and overseas travel and marketing, which had stimulated the local industry’s recent growth.

“That’s something we’ll need to continue to do,” he said.

Mr Booth said the WA industry continued to demand a significant share of federal government funding through the Film Finance Corporation.

“Compared to other states, and particularly in documentary and children’s, we actually do really well,” he said.

However, while the organisation receives financial support from the state government and LotteryWest, Mr Booth said extra funding would remain a priority.

“We’ll continue to push for more in a targeted way, to get more bang for our buck,” he said.

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