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5 Questions with Grainne Brunsdon

Grainne Brunsdon

Grainne Brunsdon recently stepped into the COO role at Screen Australia after two years as Director of Content, leading production investment and development, distribution support and business initiatives. She has worked in the creative industries for more than 25 years, including senior roles at Screen NSW and Arts NSW, and leadership positions in international cultural relations with the British Council and arts organisations in Sydney.

Q1. What’s been your best career move?

I always think it's the one I've just made – because otherwise, why would you do it? Two years ago, I moved to Screen Australia from Screen NSW, and I've recently moved from Director of Content to Chief Operating Officer, still running content. I've enjoyed working at a different scale than just at the state level. And I love working with creatives. I originally went to art school and did jewellery design in Dublin many years ago. I felt my skills were really in that spotting of opportunities for other people. Screen Australia supports people, projects and businesses, so we have funding programs for film and TV and online – Instagram, TikTok, Facebook – and games. We’re looking at how we can support the making of Australian stories for Australian audiences. There's so much opportunity out there, but so many creatives haven't done business training. We’re trying to fast-track that progression so they can build a sustainable career path and not just lurch from project to project.


Q2. What do you think the media industry will look like in 10 years?

If you could predict what audiences were going to want, you could be very rich. Being able to predict that TV linear audiences would fall off a cliff and how to monetise things on either FAST channels or online channels and platforms – that would be wonderful. If we look back 10 years, we didn’t even have Netflix, so it’s only within the last decade that things have changed utterly. And for feature films as well. We don't go to the cinema as much. We've got access to everything from anywhere at any time. And the competition is not other content, it's what people are doing with their time. There are a lot more demands on people's time, and that's only going to accelerate. Everybody wants that sticky show that's going to bring viewers in or drive subscription to their channel.


Q3. Do you have a professional hero?

Not so much, but I was so pleased to see Sam Mostyn get the GG job. She's an extraordinary person. She's been a fantastic chair of Ausfilm and of other arts organisations, and she is an exemplary leader. She leads with kindness, grace and humour, and she’s such a decent person. I think she's going to be fantastic for the country.


Q4. What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

One is, “You don't have to attend every fight you're invited to.” That means if somebody's trying to pick a fight, you don't have to engage. Just take the time to sit back and consider. The other one is, “What people think of me is none of my business.” I can't change other people's behaviour. All I can change is my response to it. Sometimes it's a mantra, like “Feedback is a gift.” It always is, even if it feels unwarranted and overly critical at the time. There's always a nugget of truth in there.


Q5. Have you noticed any improvements in gender equality?

We have a Gender Matters Taskforce at Screen Australia, and our new KPI for everything we support is: of the key creatives – that's producer, writer, director – at least 50 percent should be female-identifying or gender-diverse. That's been in place since 2016 and you’d think, is there still a need for that? Every year, we look at our stats and we’ve met that target, but when we look at projects where we’re not involved the numbers are terrible. Women are still not getting those jobs, and their stories are still not being told authentically by women. So there’s still a job to do there, which is disheartening, but also galvanising. So we just keep going and double our efforts. We know that women control the remote control, and women control the ticket buying. Every time there's a female-led film that does well at the box office, there's this, “What a surprise! Who knew?” Well, we knew.


Interview by Susan Horsburgh


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