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Film Corp boss sees the Light and leaves

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SA Film Corp chair Peter Hanlon will walk away from the board to pursue a business partnership with city-based arts and entertainment hub Light Adelaide.

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Hanlon, who was appointed to the role in December 2018, chaired his final board meeting this week, and will step down at the end of his three-year term – despite having been invited to continue.

Light, the brainchild of entrepreneurs Sophie and Nick Dunstone, seeks to “support artists and spur creative innovation through the Light Cultural Foundation and Social Enterprise”, with Hanlon set to become a financial partner after being wowed by Light’s vision – using emerging technology to reimagine the arts and entertainment.

He told InDaily Nick Dunstone, who he hadn’t met, initially approached him seeking a philanthropic collaboration, but the conversation quickly turned to a prospective business partnership.

“I realised, given they have their virtual production studio in there, that there was going to be a conflict of interest – being the chair of the Film Corp and being involved in a business that owns a virtual production studio [so] unfortunately for me I’m stepping off the Film Corp board, which normally I wouldn’t have done,” he said.

“The Government had approached me six months ago about doing another term, which I was at the time – this has only come about within the last few months… it’s all happened pretty quickly, but it’s good timing because I’m not leaving mid-term – I’m leaving at the end of my term.”

Hanlon, a former Westpac executive and BankSA chair, is also a documentary filmmaker who remains involved in two film production companies.

However, he believes “virtual production” is the way of the future, along with broader “immersive entertainment”.

Light bills itself as a “new home for innovation, creativity and hospitality” whose purpose is “to equip performers and artists with access to ever-evolving immersive technologies, facilitate unique collaborations and underwrite the risk inherent in trying something truly new”.

“It began with a significant injection of philanthropic capital from its founders and aims to be self-sustainable in perpetuity,” its site declares.

“Revenue generated from the bars, restaurant and private events will be folded directly back into supporting artistic development and projects.”

Hanlon says: “This is the emerging future, if you like – so that’s exciting for me.”

“This whole social enterprise Nick and Sophie have created becomes a self-perpetuating beast, as it were – the profits that come out of essentially an entertainment business get fed into broad immersive entertainment… it’s got a social enterprise quality that really attracted me.”

He explains virtual production as the digital extension of the old ‘green screen’ technology.

“The technology has advanced so much – years ago you could sort of tell it’s being faked [but] now you literally can’t tell the difference between being on a virtual set and a physical set,” he said.

“So rather than flying to South-east Asia or the Antarctic, you can create that image on the screen.”

But the “broader issue”, he says, “is this immersive entertainment world”, which he describes as like “a 3D image all around you”.

“The only limitation in that is the limitation of the creativity of the artists who create it,” he said.

“The established industry is looking at moving down that path.”

Of his time at the helm of the Film Corp – much of it spent grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – he cites two major legacies.

“I’ve been the chair of boards before [and] the most important thing a chair can ever do is select the CEO,” he said.

“That’s my proudest outcome – to appoint Kate Croser, a high-quality and very established and well-respected film producer, which has been a boon for the industry as a whole.”

His longer-term achievement, he says, was to extend the one-off ‘FilmLab’ program, which provides professional and career development for fledgling and mid-career SA filmmakers, into an annual event.

In a statement today, Croser said Hanlon had been “a passionate, dedicated and highly effective SAFC Chair” who had “overseen growth initiatives including the introduction of Australia’s first video game development rebate and extension of the PDV [post, digital and visual effects] Rebate, the rapid establishment of a consistent pipeline of screen production activity during COVID-19 extending to our current record levels of production, and the reboot of the successful Film Lab program to escalate the careers of the next generation of SA writers, directors and producers”.

The Film Corp said options for a replacement “are currently being considered” and would be “announced in due course”.

Nick Dunstone said Hanlon was “the perfect fit for Light as it continues to make use of immersive technologies beyond virtual production and into creating entirely new experiences for artists and audiences”.

“Peter’s expertise in the film industry, as well as his extensive corporate and board experience, will be invaluable as Light continues to support the performing and visual arts, and revolutionary screen practitioners, and to look to replicate its immersive performance model beyond Adelaide,” he said.

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