/News 18.04.23


Nick Herd has played a crucial role in monitoring and reporting on government policy and has assisted in government relations and advocacy programs for Ausfilm for the last ten years. His contributions to the screen industry have been immense, and his expertise and knowledge have helped shape the industry in Australia.

Nick’s retirement signifies the culmination of a distinguished career in the screen industry, and his valuable contributions to the field will be appreciated. On behalf of the screen industry, Ausfilm extends our heartfelt congratulations to Nick on his retirement and we wish him every happiness and success as he embarks on this new chapter of his life.

In this Q&A, Nick Herd talks about his career and achievements at Ausfilm, memorable projects, love for ocean swimming, favourite films and TV shows, and advice for those starting out in the screen industry.

Hi Nick, are you able to give us a brief rundown of how you came into your role at Ausfilm?

“I had worked closely with Debra Richards for an extended period as a broadcasting regulator. It was around 2013, she was serving as CEO of Ausfilm at the time and the person who held the previous position of Policy and Research had recently left Ausfilm. So Debra called me and asked if I could fill in for a few months… well that was over ten years ago! (laughs)”

L-R: Barbara Stephen: Managing Director of Flying Bark, Emma Drummond: Head of Legal & Business at Animal Logic, Nerissa Kavanagh: Executive Producer & Managing Director at Blackbird VFX, Annie Lucas: Ausfilm, Nick Herd: Ausfilm, Ashlee Sang: Ausfilm

For a snapshot of Nick’s career, click here (or scroll down)

Can you tell us about a particularly memorable project or highlight from your time at Ausfilm?

I would say that the most memorable project was when we successfully convinced the government to change the guidelines for the PDV (Post, Digital and Visual Effects) Offset to include television. It all started when Ian Robertson, the managing partner of Holding Redlich and former chair of Ausfilm, approached Debra and I with concerns that the legal interpretation of the Act was incorrect. This was about five or six years ago, during the beginning of the streaming boom. Our VFX members were getting job offers, but the guidelines stated that television for streaming platforms was not eligible for the PDV offset.

Nick with Debra Richards

Upon Ian’s recommendation, we hired a QC to provide a legal interpretation that demonstrated that streaming television could qualify for the PDV offset. This was a huge win for our members as they have been receiving much more work over the last five years.

Outside your work, you’re an avid ocean swimmer. How does that fit into your life and what do you enjoy about it?

As an ocean swimmer, I have two outlets: one is swimming in the early morning with a group of men and women who gather Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We do laps around Clovelly Bay, which includes a swim. I no longer run, so I just do the swimming part. The other part of it is my commitment to winter swimming through the Clovelly Eskimos winter swimming club, which is on Sunday mornings. After swimming, we have a few beers and some soup with mushy peas (laughs).
I’ve been a proud member of the Clovelly Eskimos for 11 years now. It’s an amazing club that has been going for nearly 70 years.

As somebody who has dedicated their career to the screen industry. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the field?

Just give it a go. It’s an industry which, for better or worse, depends on relationships. So talk to as many people as you can. There are so many opportunities these days to learn about the industry in so many forms, whether you go to a tertiary institution or take advantage of the increasing number of programs offered by the Commonwealth and State film agencies. You could even seek out people who are willing to mentor you. Get out there and meet people.

Do you and your wife Sandra, have any upcoming plans for retirement?

My wife has already retired, so our immediate plan is we’re flying to Bali for a holiday!
I would also like to do some more research and writing in my retirement, hopefully get something published.

What are your favourite films or TV shows?

Whenever I get asked this question, my mind goes blank (laughs). My favourite TV show at the moment is Ted Lasso. In terms of films, when I think back, my favourite directors include Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Francois Truffaut, I love all their films. I also have a bit of a penchant for Hollywood musicals from the 50s, like Singing in the Rain and High Society.

Do you have last words to mention as part of your retirement outro? Or any sage advice for us?

“I feel blessed that I started out all those years ago, coming out of university with no plan, I followed my passions and I’ve been able to pursue a career in the screen industry, and I’ve worked with some amazing people over the years.
And most of all, I’ve had fun.”

Life is too short to be working at a job you don’t enjoy!”

Early 1970s: Nick attended Sydney University. At the time there was no option to study film, communication or media – so Nick studied Arts with a major in History. Pursuing his passions, he joined the Sydney University film group, eventually becoming president. He also joined the Film Society, a group of students interested in making films.
Late 1970s: Following Uni, he became a small-time cinema entrepreneur, programming screenings and dealing with distributors. Advocating for release of films such as Badlands – which did not have a planned Australian release without Nick’s intervention.
Late 1970s: Nick worked at the Sydney Filmmakers Co-op, initially in distribution, then as the administrator and finance manager. He worked there for four years.
Early 1980s: Nick joined the Australian Film Commission in marketing, helping Australian filmmakers get their films into film festivals around the world.
1981: As SBS television was starting up, Nick gained employment in Program Acquisitions and Scheduling. As stated by Nick, an exciting time, as it was the only station in Australia that provided programming in languages other than English with subtitles, reflecting the multicultural nature of Australian society.
Late 1980s: He joined the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and Authority (the predecessor of the Australian Communications and Media Authority) and stayed for 10 years in various positions as a Broadcasting Regulator.
1997: Nick became the Executive Director of the Screen Producers Association, where he stayed for roughly four years.
Early 2000s: Nick Herd completed his doctorate at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) along with teaching part time at UTS. His PhD was on the History of Commercial Television in Australia, which was published as a book.
Nick went back to work at The Australian Film Commission during the time it was merging with Film Australia and the Film Finance Corporation to form what is now Screen Australia.
Director of Research, Australia Council
2013 – 2023: Director of Policy and Research, Ausfilm

Images above: 1. Ausfilm earlier days L-R: Annie Lucas, Megane Puillandre, Rachelle Gibson, Caroline Raffan, Debra Richards, Michelle Sandoval, Vivienne Flitton, Kate Marks, Nick Herd
2. At the Tin Shed exhibition, in front of a historical poster from the Filmmaker’s co-op.
3. Nick Herd holding a swimming Award