Change Ahead for the AFI

Undergoing a reinvention, the AFI is, among other things, looking to change its name and the running of its main event – the AFI Awards.

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Now in its 53rd year, the Australian Film Institute (AFI) is announcing "a period of consultation with its constituents and the wider community" as it reviews its strategic aims and programs, and prepares to embark on a period of significant development.

Ultimately, these changes will result in the establishment of an ‘Australian Academy'. The idea behind this Academy is to adapt successful elements from some of the world's leading screen organisations.

"We thought a better way to engage with the industry would be to try and improve our professional membership structure," AFI's CEO, Damian Trewhella, told FILMINK yesterday about the proposed changes. "Our proposal was to transform the longstanding AFI membership structure to a more ‘Academy model' that both the Brits and the Americans have."

So how will this structure work exactly? All the specifics and technicalities haven't been nutted out yet but Trewhella says that, "We're proposing an Honorary Council that helps govern this new entity and it's made up of representatives from each of the different guilds. There will also be a mix of people from film, television, documentary and there will be a gender, age and geographical balance among them."

One of the significant changes in this process will be to move the awards ceremony from Melbourne to Sydney and crucially, it will take place in late January rather than December. It's a move that attempts to pull the Australian ceremony in line with the "Awards Season" - the period when the Academy Awards and BAFTAS take place - and will also allow the industry to include many more projects from 2011.

While this move undoubtedly hopes to see the AFI awards considered more seriously within an international context, Trewhella was also conscious that this change in date would see the Awards take place closer to Australia Day, and he was keen to see local films more closely associated to our national identity.

Obviously, this change in date will mean that this year, there will be no awards ceremony, with the first to commence in late January, 2012.

Over the past few years, one could argue that the AFI's role as a cultural institution and hub has diminished so that now it is recognised almost solely as the host of the annual AFI Awards. Trewhella hopes that the awards are just the first change in an overall strategic reinvention for the institution.

"It's about trying to get a more broad based structure behind us, so each year, when we try and think about what is really important, all of the industry will be very well represented," Trewhella explains. "It's quite a big improvement on the way the AFI does things. I think we've seen the Brits and Americans develop structures that have been more successful so it's trying to move in line with things people recognise and understand."

For more information about these changes, visit the AFI website, which has just launched the Industry Consultation.

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