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APSA 2013: survives, the same but different

The Asia Pacific Screen Awards have been taken over by the Brisbane City Council, after being abandoned by Queensland`s state government.

Graham Quirk

Brisbane Mayor Graham Quirk

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The awards began life on the Gold Coast, but relocated to Brisbane as part of an arrangement that delivered closer ties with the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF).

According to the release, “Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk today announced Brisbane City Council would fund the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in the 2013/14 budget as part of the push to strengthen Brisbane’s position in the Asia Pacific market.”

The APSA move is part of a co-ordinated programme of artistic engagement with the region, which covers the Asia Pacific Cities Summit, the Australian Performing Arts Market and the Asia Pacific Triennial. It also aligns well with the Australian federal government`s recently-announced policy of greater engagement with Asia.

The APSA budget, previously AU$2.3m, has been set at AU$1.75m, with the City Council providing in-house support under the umbrella of Brisbane Marketing. APSA will also get a new board as part of the process.

The founding chair and driving force behind APSA, Des Power, will assist the transition. Power has been unwell for some time, and considers the chair should be occupied by someone younger and more dynamic. APSA`s Artistic Director Maxine Williamson will remain in post.

Power is happy with the outcome, having struggled for several months to put in place a plan to see the event continue after the withdrawal of Queensland state support.

He said on the phone, “This really consolidates our position – it enables us to go forward, so you can imagine we are delighted.

“The ceremony will now take place in City Hall, which has been the subject of extensive renovations, it is a beautiful building, which cost more than $230m to restore. Ours is a very grand setting and the awards will be held there on December 12th.”

The date, pushed back almost three weeks from the date of last year`s event, diminishes the relationship with the state-supported BIFF. Last year APSA ran during the festival, which this year finishes on 23 November.

Well over AU$1m was spent each year on the television broadcast, for which APSA made its own pre-ceremony programmes which were broadcast on CNN throughout Asia. That arrangement has lapsed, and Power is currently in discussion with a new Asian broadcast partner. The event will be webcast live with a delayed telecast on the ABC.

Brisbane Marketing CEO, John Aitken, has been a supporter of APSA for some years and was instrumental in its move from the Gold Coast to Brisbane. He noted strong economic drivers as the reasoning behind the city council`s decision to support the event. “APSA will provide Brisbane with an entrée into some of our key source markets: China, India, Korea and the Middle East through the industry’s high-profile individuals.

“APSA will introduce us to the Jack Thompsons, Jane Campions and Bruce Beresfords of Asia Pacific societies: powerful people with powerful contacts and influence.”

A mooted plan that would have seen the awards become a peripatetic affair, perhaps alternating ceremonies in the home city of Brisbane with cities across Asia has been abandoned. The model is fraught with difficulty from organisers` perspective, and the Asian events for which it does work successfully are mostly single-country focused, and have already developed national acceptance.

Less than a decade old, and spanning such a huge part of the globe, APSA is not in that situation. Last year`s event attracted entries from 264 films from 39 countries, of which 34 (from 18 countries) were nominated for awards.

The only similar event in Asia is the Hong Kong-hosted Asian Film Awards, which run alongside its film festival in March. A similar age to APSA, the AFA has been developed and grown successfully by the festival organisers.

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