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Meet April Howard: Celebrating Women in Screen Business

To commemorate International Women’s Day 2024, we’re putting the spotlight on our incredible Master of Arts Screen: Business (MASB) alumnae, highlighting their achievements, their perspectives on leadership in the screen industry, and the impact of education on their careers as screen business leaders. 

April Howard is a founding partner of Rollingball Productions, who focuses on creating a work environment to express creativity and talent enabling colleagues to expand their path and skillset. April has previously produced the social impact short Catching Dragonflies and as worked as a report for Seven Network. 

Tell us a little more about your current role or focus area.

As one of the Founders and Producers at Rollingball Productions, I’m focussing on rebuilding the company to its position before 2020. We had to restructure our team and move to a remote working model in order to navigate the turbulent years. We are now starting to see more momentum and work coming in which is both exciting and a relief.  

Having completed the MASB during that time, I’m using the knowledge and opportunity to also reposition what we do as a business. We have since established a tech-division to Rollingball and are exploring the possibility of founding a not-for-profit sister company, Civility Films, which will focus on impact projects. I was able to explore the need and sustainability for both through the MASB. Interestingly, my Capstone project started out considering the feasibility of Civility Films but swapped halfway to developing a tech project off the back of the content we were delivering at Rollingball. That, coupled with the thinking provided by the tech and start-up lecturers. More to come on the launch of ‘Patched’ soon!  

How do you approach leadership in the screen industry, and what perspectives can you share about fostering inclusivity and gender equality within this sector? 

If I’m honest, it’s only recently I’ve looked back over the past 14 years and reflected on the fact Rollingball has always operated in a manner that fosters inclusive career paths from a regional base.   

Inclusivity has always been a part of our crew when it comes to; gender, LGBTQI+ and cultural representation, as well as the age of our team members. That happened organically and our work is richer because of the various life experiences and perspectives that come together to collaborate. It’s been a part of the fabric of how we do what we do from the outset.  

Prompted by this reflection, I have realised I have had to navigate gender stereotypes in other roles, including being told by a News Director I was too old to be a female television journalist at 25! I also experienced workplace bullying from female colleagues at a creative agency, so when I co-founded Rollingball, I was given the opportunity to uphold my own values. Over the years, we have had male and female lead creatives and we’ve worked hard to ensure the crew could include working parents with a business model that offered flexible employment terms and balance.   

In honour of International Women’s Day, could you elaborate on what tools and mindset you draw on to challenge traditional gender norms and advocate for diverse voices and stories in the screen business?

Because film is a medium which can entertain and inform, I view the fact that I can make content as a great opportunity and responsibility. Over the years, I’ve personally been drawn to topics and issues of injustice or under representation, and often my motivation comes from my maternal perspective, as well as a deep care for the earth and her creatures. I’ll be honest, it was more of an auto-pilot approach than a strategic one until I realised the pattern more recently.   

I can’t help but be greatly impacted by the issues we are all being affected by at a macro level, and good bad, or otherwise, I feel a sense of responsibility to attempt to do something about it. I’ve always seen myself as a very small part of the collective and honestly believe we can turn things around if we work together. Without question, film is a medium which can contribute to doing that and it’s a theme which underpins our tech project as well.   

Is there a female or female-identifying leader in the screen sector whose work you have found particularly inspiring?

There are many, but I’d particularly like to acknowledge two people who showed me what the sisterhood is capable of.  Both women supported me to explore my capacity as a Director instead of seeing myself as a Producer only. I will be forever grateful to Jen Peedom and Jasmin Tarasin for seeing something in me which I hadn’t yet seen in myself. My intention is to pay that support forward and always offer guidance as best I can. In other work environments I experienced the opposite which has had a lasting impact on my confidence, so my intention is to always lift people up where possible.  

Reflecting on your journey through the Master of Arts Screen: Business, how do see your leadership and the skills you developed advancing the screen industry?

In the past I have tended to lead from the back and one of the reasons I decided to enrol in the MASB was to develop my skills and network so I could confidently engage with the broader industry. Our production company is regionally based and since the world has shifted in recent years, my intention is to prove we can produce long-format and original content outside of the major cities, with a focus on regional stories and crew.  

What leadership skills do you see as being essential for the next generation of screen leaders?  

The skills I predict will be necessary for the next generation are not unlike the skills which are required now, however it would be remiss not to highlight the need to stay on top of the ever evolving digital landscape and developing capacities of AI. Memorable and impactful stories will always need to be told, whether that’s via a traditional long format of film making, or short clips. The main considerations to ask is who is your audience and how do you reach them? Do you have the budget, crew and equipment to realise the work? That to me is the recipe for content production of any size now and will remain the case in the future.  

What advice would you give someone considering studying the Master of Arts Screen: Business?

I’ve recommended the MASB to a lot of my industry colleagues because the study format is perfect for anyone who is already working and managing commitments. I’d say anyone who is wanting to evolve their professional trajectory, develop themselves and expand their network of collaborators should seriously consider the MASB. From my experience, the study model is delivered in a way which is manageable and flexible, so it’s available to mature age students and unlocks access to the privilege of education and development.   

Read more interviews here. 


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Mid-Year Applications Now Open for the Master of Arts Screen: Business

Apply now for AFTRS’ Master of Arts Screen: Business, Australia’s foremost screen business program, and succeed as a leader in the screen business and media sector.

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Master of Arts Screen: Business (Mid-Year)

Designed for a new generation of screen leaders, AFTRS’ Master of Arts Screen: Business is Australia’s foremost creative screen business course.

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Mastering Leadership: Celebrating Women in Screen Business

This year International Women’s Day coincides with the launch of our Master of Arts Screen: Business (MASB) mid-year application window – a course that champions innovation and acceleration for current and future screen leaders.