New agency manages the Producer Offset

SYDNEY — New Zealand Film Commission topper Ruth Harley has been tapped to run Screen Australia, the top federal job in Oz showbiz.

Harley’s surprise appointment was made six weeks after Screen Australia was formed from a merger between federal coin agency the Film Finance Corp., development and marketing org. the Australian Film Commission and doc producer Film Australia.

New agency manages the Producer Offset, which enables producers to tap a 40% rebate for film projects and 20% for television projects, introduced a year ago but beset by many still unresolved glitches.

Screen Australia also distributes $75 million in direct investment in production, development and marketing in films and television each year.

It has a significant policy role, runs screen culture programs and is intended to play a pivotal role in the Australian screen industry, but its inception has been mired by a lack of vision that’s causing deep concern throughout industry.

Appointed by arts minister and ex-Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett, Harley has run the top Kiwi screen agency since 1997.

She will join Screen Australia Nov. 15, taking over from temporary topper Lynne Maddock.

Biz reaction to Harley’s appointment was generally enthusiastic. Screen Producers’ Assn. prexy Trish Lake said, “I look forward to building a shared understanding of the Australian environment at a critical time in the development of a more sustainable Australian Industry.”

Australia’s screen production industry contributes more than A$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion) to the economy, and employs 50,000 people.

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