Find your screen industry collaborators with endless possibilities

AFTRS’ Master of Arts Screen: Business boasts a cohort of like-minded professionals who are on the same track to innovate, advance and lead the screen sector.
AFTRS Master of Art Screen: Business 2018 graduate and current Head of Commissions NITV, Marissa McDowell. Image: Courtesy SBS.

The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) welcomes mid-career professionals from all aspects of the screen media sector to apply for the Master of Arts Screen: Business 2024. 

Aimed at gearing industry professionals with in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience on creative leadership, the postgraduate program ‘pushed us to think differently,’ says 2018 graduate and Head of Commissions NITV, Marissa McDowell. 

McDowell came to the course after running a small independent film business and working across different aspects in the screen industry. She says Kyas Hepworth, currently Head of Screen NSW, and Neil Peplow planted the seed about the course. 

‘I felt the course could tie in nicely with my goals and where my trajectory was going to be within the industry,’ McDowell tells ArtsHub. ‘The Masters in Arts Screen: Business was the icing on the cake. Business and leadership were something I haven’t touched on in my previous study.’

She continues: ‘Even after graduating, for several years I’ve always leaned back on my Masters as a crutch that’s holding me up to all the things that inspire me, both within and outside of work.’

The Masters course offers flexibility of study, with options to study on-campus, online or a combination of both, and choice of one to four subjects per semester. 

In her final year, McDowell travelled with her cohort to Infinite Studios, Singapore as part of the course. The students were broken into small groups and presented business plans to the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive and Creative Officer, who provided invaluable feedback. The cohort also visited Batam Island, Indonesia to see the animation studio and large film sets where the Australian film Serangoon Road (2013) was produced.

‘Having the opportunity to travel overseas to do a live business case study would have to be one of the biggest highlights of this course,’ says McDowell. ‘The tools that we had learned while studying served us well – they had given us insight to business planning and strategy, looking at where there might be opportunities managing growth on a global scale and where the weaknesses are.’

McDowell continues: ‘AFTRS lecturers Peter Herbert [Head of Screen Business and Producing, AFTRS] and Gerard Reed were instrumental in supporting me through every step of the course. The students were also each allocated an industry mentor. I was fortunate to have Kim Dalton as mine, who was very generous with his time and it was such an inspiration to have someone of his calibre supporting me.’

Like anything, studying alongside juggling family and work commitments can be difficult, and McDowell has first-hand experience of this. Yet she says, ‘The struggle was absolutely worth it. I graduated alongside an inspiring, fun bunch of friends whom I’m forever grateful for having the opportunity to get to know. 

‘After jumping into study again, I found my tribe. Angela Bates, who is now Head of First Nations Department Screen Australia, and Lucas Conway – two amazing fun, like-minded people. We all had the same goal to successfully complete this course, so it’s that feeling of “We’re all going to cross the line together; no one gets left behind”.

‘My advice for anyone wanting to do this course is say “yes!”and that applies to everything, because you never know where things can lead to from jumping in the deep end and giving it your all,’ concludes McDowell. 

Ready to join the ranks? Applications for AFTRS’ Master of Arts Screen: Business close on 27 November for the 2024 intake; find out more and apply.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. She took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs and was the project manager of ArtsHub’s diverse writers initiative, Amplify Collective. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram @lleizy_