On a summer afternoon in 2009 at the Australian Film Television and Radio school, Production Designer, George Liddle, stood from his position in the audience to address an auditorium of screen designers gathered to discuss the future of production design. “If anybody is interested in forming a guild for stage and screen designers please meet me in the foyer after this meeting”.
A handful of people gave George their contact details and word got round. Then, on the 4th of June a meeting of about fifteen people was held. It wasn’t the first time a guild for stage and screen designers had been initiated; member numbers had not been sufficient to sustain earlier incarnations. In 2009 designers were the only sector of the Australian media and entertainment industries without a representative body.
In this first meeting a core group volunteered to meet regularly and act as the founding committee. In this meeting was George Liddle, Peter Sheehan, Annie Beauchamp and Kate Wills.
The founding committee formulated some basic alternative structures and organised a second general meeting in June, attended by about 50 people. At this meeting it was decided to call the organization the Australian Production Design Guild and adopt the acronym APDG as our identity. Over the following five months many founding committee meetings were held and many interested parties attended these meetings which helped structure the guild. By August the founding directors were established:
- George Liddle (secretary)
- Virginia Mesiti (public officer)
- Peter Sheehan
- Annie Beauchamp
- Kate E Wills
- Charlie Revai
- Kim Buddee
The founding directors drafted the Aims of the Guild, designed an accreditation process, formulated an awards event and began to design a website. In order to raise funds to commission a website builder the founding directors sought the financial backing of seven high profile Australian designers, who then became the founding members:
- Michael Scott Mitchell
- Steven Jones Evans
- Catherine Martin
- Ian Gracie
- Colin Gibson
- Owen Paterson
- George Liddle
In October the founding directors commissioned Thomas Hofmann to build a website and Belinda Bennetts to design the APDG logo.
By December the basic structure of the guild was in shape; the awards categories were defined as was the awards entering process, judging process, membership levels and accreditation criteria. Because the guild did not yet have any accredited members that might serve as assessors of accreditation applications four APDG directors – Peter Sheehan, Annie Beauchamp, Virginia Mesiti and Kate Wills – voted in April on a special resolution to invite all of the founding members to become the first APDG accredited members. For propriety George Liddle, who was both a founding member and a founding director, was excluded from this resolution.
On May 18th 2010 George Liddle declared the guild open to new members and the website was launched. Despite the torrential rain on the roof of the AFTRS auditorium a collective sigh of relief and excitement could be heard from the 100 designers and design associates gathered for the launch. Roger Ford and Kerrie Brown then presented the first ever APDG event, an insightful talk about their production design and set decoration collaborations on their many productions.
The inaugural APDG Awards were held Wednesday 21st September 2011 in Sydney at NIDA’s Parade Theatres. Renowned film critic and presenter Margaret Pomeranz hosted the evening. Karla Tatterson was the event producer.
- The Victorian committee was established in 2011.
- The Queensland committee was established in 2012.
- The Western Australian committee was established in 2013.
- The APDG Designers for Live Performance Philosophy and Practice Guidelines were launched in 2014 by the Live Performance subcommittee, led by Julie Lynch APDG and Stephen Curtis.
- The MENTORAPDG program was launched in 2016 led by Diaan Wajon and Tobhiyah Stone Feller.
- The APDG Manual for Screen Design Practices was launched in 2017 by the Screen sub-committee, led by Tim Ferrier and Fiona Donovan APDG.
- The annual APDG Awards event was held for the first time in Victoria and the APDG Live Performance Standard Agreement for Design was launched in 2017.
- The South Australian committee was established in 2018.