Meet Debbie Lee, Former DARTS Chair 2019 – 2023

Debbie Lee is the Director of Scripted Development for Matchbox Pictures and comes to us with a wealth of experience in the screen industry where she has worked across the commissioning, developing and production of well-known shows such as Wilfred, Upper Middle Bogan, The Family Law, Barracuda and most recently Safe Harbour, to name just a few.

Tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and why you chose this career path?
I’m an ABC*, Sydney born and bred.  I grew up in the suburbs – Penshurst, in a strict Chinese family when there were very few Chinese people in the area.  How times have changed! I guess I always felt like an alien, so at age 15, the day I saw a shaggy bunch of outsider looking teenagers on stage in the middle of the main shopping drag of Hurstville doing a 50-hour Act-athon– it was like a bolt of lightning. I felt an unmistakable magnetic pull and to my parents’ horror I started attending the Shopfront Theatre For Young People which held play building workshops leading to collaboratively created theatre pieces with a radical, “youth power” bent.  I was totally hooked. I’d found my people and discovered the power of storytelling, its’ ability to give voice to different kinds of world views.

So many things have obviously happened in between and I’ve zig-zagged my way through different jobs and roles– but in the end, it was that moment that led me to the sorts of jobs I’ve had and what I do now.   I started out wanting to be a director but when I was asked to direct some arts pieces for SBS and discovered that you could reach (at that point) really big audiences even doing obscure experimental arts pieces on late-night TV on Eat Carpet – I knew it was the place for me!  I pretty much begged them for a job. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have people be advocates for me in getting jobs that I wasn’t sure that I could do. It was as much about taste and sensibility as anything else.

* Australian Born Chinese (ABC)

How do you think your background and experience will contribute to DARTSvision and values?
I’ve been on the inside of big organisations where conversations around diversity, inclusion, representation have been happening for a very long time with varying degrees of success.  I’ve now also been on the outside of those organisations, so I hope that some of that experience and the challenges faced on both sides of the power divide might be useful in contributing to DARTS’ vision and values.

Based on your experience, how can we create greater inclusion and equity in the creative sector?
It’s a very big question and there is a lot of work through targets and quotas happening in the screen industry which are starting to make a real difference.  I do think having a greater diversity amongst people in decision making roles or in positions where they can be of influence is a real element in creating greater inclusion.  Change needs to happen on the inside of key organisations so that the conversations being had around vision effect policy.

What is your hope for your new role?
I hope that I can offer a perspective from my experience in the screen industry and be a good sounding board for Lena and her team in the great work that they’re already doing at DARTS. I’m looking forward to getting to know the rest of the board to see what else can be done to further the vision of DARTS. And it would be great to find ways to secure some recurrent funding for the organisation.