Screen understands that children’s television executive Deirdre Brennan, currently based in Canada, is the preferred candidate to replace Graeme Mason as chief executive of Screen Australia.
It is understood the only barrier to Brennan’s appointment is sign-off by the Cabinet, which approves candidates for the top job at any significant Federal Government agency.
Brennan, who is Australian, has worked at Canadian content and brands company WildBrain since January 2020, the last two years as chief operating officer. WildBrain produces, distributes and licenses children’s entertainment and family content, and trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
She was previously general manager of Universal Kids, at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment in New York, and has held senior roles at Corus Entertainment, Australian public broadcaster ABC and Nickelodeon Australia.
Brennan also worked for four years at BBC Worldwide Australia from 2010 to 2013, where she went from director of television to becoming general manager/director of channels and branded services Australasia.
Her significant experience in the children’s sector might be seen as too narrow by some in the industry, although children’s drama is one of the formats Screen Australia supports. Others will see targeting younger audiences as a crucial goal for any incoming executive.
Even though she lacks feature film expertise, Brennan’s global experience is likely to be applauded and it could be argued that she is not “captured” by any of the local industry’s powerful interest groups.
Mason announced in January that he would exit Screen Australia in November. The role was advertised soon after with an application deadline of February 24. Employment firm SRI has been overseeing the recruitment process.
Upon his departure, Mason will have led Screen Australia for a decade. In the 2021-22 financial year, Screen Australia contributed more than A$60 million ($38.7m) – mostly in the form of investment – to the production of projects for the screen.
The biggest slice, nearly A$24 million, went to television drama, with A$14.5 million allocated to features, A$13 million to online production including games, $6.2 million to First Nations stories and A$6 million to children’s drama. Another A$6 million went to development.
SRI, Australian arts minister Tony Burke, and Screen Australia all declined to comment. Screen Australia chair Nicholas Moore and Brennan did not respond.