17 July 2023

Lights, camera, action: It's the Trueman show at Screen Canberra

| Ian Bushnell
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woman standing in office

New Screen Canberra CEO Holly Trueman: Canberra is a city of innovation with plenty of stories to tell. Photo: Screen Canberra.

Location. Location. Location.

That’s what Canberra has to offer filmmakers always looking for ways to save time and costs, according to the new CEO of Screen Canberra, the not-for-profit organisation supporting the development of the screen industry in the ACT.

Holly Trueman told Region the natural scenery and the convenience of the city’s streets were things Canberra could exploit better as the industry continued to mature.

“That drive where you go along Lady Denman Drive in the afternoon with the lake and the Brindabellas in the background, some of the scenery in Canberra is spectacular and really underutilised,” she said.

“We’ve got all these different locations that are only 10 minutes away from each other.

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“When you’re making movies, it’s expensive, so any way you can cut the travel time and those sorts of complications to the actual filming, that’s something we should be promoting.”

Dr Trueman comes into the role at a pivotal time for the industry in Canberra, which in recent years has been the stage for political dramas for television and cleared its streets for the international action thriller Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson.

At the same time, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Watson continues to expand, introducing game-changing technology that Dr Trueman sees as a sign of a maturing industry in Canberra.

It’s a great platform to start with and she acknowledges the work of outgoing CEO Monika Penders in building the organisation almost from scratch over 15 years.

“I’m very lucky. Monika has done the hard work,” she said. “I’m really happy to be coming in now.”

Dr Trueman said she was excited at the prospect of supporting the telling of Canberra stories and the up-and-coming filmmakers and crews behind them.

She brings a long history of working in the industry: overseas with the BBC, in Australia with the ABC, and in Australia and New Zealand with documentary maker Wildbear Entertainment.

But film was not her first calling, studying science at the ANU after growing up in Armidale, then completing a PhD in designing malaria vaccines and working as a post-doctoral fellow at the CSIRO.

Film was a distraction that turned into a new career.

“My brother likes to say I’m a Gemini so I go from one thing to another,” Dr Trueman said, but it’s a breadth of experience that she believes will serve her well at Screen Australia.

truck and car in movie shoot

Filming in Canberra City for Blacklight, starring Liam Neeson. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

She said Canberra had become much more than a public service town and was now a centre of innovation that the industry could leverage.

“There is an amazing innovation network coming out of Canberra, companies like Seeing Machines and wonderful innovative work coming out from the private sector,” Dr Trueman said.

“There’s the opportunity to boost up that private sector and find ways to get people engaging with Canberra and Canberra stories.”

Dr Trueman said training grounds such as the University of Canberra continued to pump out talented graduates and the challenge was to keep them in the ACT.

That means creating and finding jobs for them by supporting and bringing film projects to Canberra so they can develop further, and growing the already excellent post-production facilities in the city.

Dr Trueman said the actual filming was only a small part of the overall process.

“There is so much more behind the scenes and we do have great post-production facilities here,” she said.

“There are clever smarts we can put into the industry as well. There are so many elements to making a movie.”

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Screen Canberra offers funding to local filmmakers and financial incentives to producers to bring their projects to Canberra, but they must meet certain criteria and spend enough so that they will benefit the ACT.

It receives ACT Government funding, which Dr Trueman said was “quite good” for now but she envisaged that in a couple of years that would need to be renegotiated.

“The ACT Government has been supportive and can see the benefits of Screen Canberra, and that it’s good to get our stories up on screen and to promote Canberra through the screen industry,” she said.

Dr Trueman will start in the role on 18 September.

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