Newcastle creative industries: an ongoing discussion

By Gavin Banks

We recently had the great pleasure to attend a talk from Disney’s Frozen director Chris Buck.


Chris spoke on behalf of the University of Newcastle’s Distrupt UON public lecture series, lead by Jeff Julian. This inspiring seminar was followed by the Newcastle Business Club speech from, Professor Caroline McMillen, University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor. Here, Prof. McMillen provided an insight into the future direction of this region and the need for diversity in education in a post-industrial landscape. In her keynote address she said one area of huge economic potential is the development of creative industries.


More than an idea, the University has been proactive in starting discussions around what a focus on creative industry may bring to the region. But perhaps more importantly for this “university city” the University has walked the talk and invested in research that shows this to be one of the great opportunities.


In a sign of its commitment to the exploration of the creative space the University facilitated a presentation and interactive seminar with Academy Award-winning animator, screenwriter and director Chris Buck. Among his many other credits Mr Buck is the creator of Frozen and has a long history of successful projects with Disney and Sony.

University of Newcastle Director of Creative Innovation, Jeff Julian says Mr Buck’s visit is another major step in restructuring the entire creative industry locally as the region redefines itself from coal to culture.


Mr Buck presented to a packed house at the Civic Theatre on Wednesday night, giving an inspiring insight in to what it takes to make it to the top of your field. He quoted from an issue of Readers Digest that he had not so inspiringly found in a toilet: “People regret more of what they haven’t done than what they have.” The quote has been a driving force in his creative decisions ever since he read it.


Yesterday morning Mr Buck spoke at an innovative session at the University’s campus, providing inspiration to students, staff and the community.


For Newcastle it may well be timely advice. We either strive to create a new direction and invest in the belief that we too can be world leaders in creative industries, or we live to regret lost opportunity.


We have forgotten how to be collaborative. There are no new ideas, but when creative minds are allowed to work together they can generate ideas that are far reaching and insightful. This is not just talking about making films; this is about creating ways for people to do business, generating jobs and a sustainable region that isn’t afraid of its next chapter.


However, we must also understand the importance of overlaying a longer-term view and we were reminded by Mr Buck that creative projects require long-term planning and real exploration.

“Creativity without exploration leads to replicating things that have been done time and time again,” 

 – Chris Buck

In order to be innovative we must allow time to test new ideas, to push boundaries and to allow seeds of thought to evolve to their fullest potential.


The Hunter is brimming with talented people, who, given the right framework and resources could be playing on a much larger and more economic level playing field. Sydney and Melbourne have long been considered Australia’s creative hubs, yet the Hunter has the highest concentration of artists in the country per capita.


Our ability to lead is unquestionable. Now is the time to invest in that ability and let the rest of the world know that Australia’s true creative heart beats from the Hunter.