10 Ways For Emerging or Foreign Talent To Score With Agents

Los Cabos Film Investor Summit debates the ins and outs of attracting Hollywood talent or sales agents

The biggest panel at the Los Cabos Film Investor Summit was also the most practical. Execs at two Hollywood agencies – Paradigm’s Nick LoPiccolo and United Talent Agency’s Bec Smith – four sales agents – Voltage Pictures; Nicolas Chartier, FilmNation’s Karen Lunder, Alex Walton at Bloom and Sierra-Affinity’s Jonathan Kier – debated how a relatively unknown director, or their producer, can grab their attention, and persuade them to take a chance on them. The repartee was sometimes jocular. That said, the panelists were talking about a subject very dear to them. Of LoPiccolo’s 63 clients, 39 are from international, he said. As the panel’s moderator, AG Capital’s Laura Walker, observed, the number of stars which sales agents can sell overseas markets on, is finite. And the task of accessing them has grown. The challenge of breaking through is not just one these days for the talent itself. Selling relatively unknown talent to the U.S. domestic or international markets has become one of the lifebloods of the independent sector. Here are ten tips aired in a lively session:

1.The Screenplay And Director’s Vision

If you’re unknown, it will come down to your screenplay. “It comes down to the director and the script. If the script is there and you believe in it and the director’s vision for it, that’s all you need,” said Kier. He added: “I think you have to assume that almost always you won’t have cast for those smaller films. It has to be the script.” Lunder, FilmNation EVP, production, concurred, citing “Room.” “What we drill down on is the script. The script and the filmmakers. It’s about storytelling and that is where you begin. Lenny had made films nothing like ‘Room.’ Brie Larson had been in ‘Short Term 12.’ and was a buzzy actor in Hollywood but no where else. It was only because it was such wonderful execution that people started to notice.”

2. For God’s Sake, Be Brief If You’re Emailing An Agent

When pitching an agent, Chartier instanced a best practice email. “Just say: ‘Dear Nicolas, I’m a filmmaker. This is my trailer and the link to my movie.’ Don’t tell me the movie is great and you’ll want to see it.”

3. Get Your Foreign Language Movie To A Bankable Actor

Nathalie Portman was attracted to “Jackie” after seeing Larrain’s “The Club,” a searing putdown of the Catholic Church, yes, but a movie whose half-dozen lead characters are portrayed with a compelling psychological complexity. When signing foreign directors, LoPiccolo observed: “For agents, you need to look for filmmakers that have a voice, a smart take on material, that can execute first in their own language and then can translate to the point that you can show a movie in a foreign language to an actor who has some bankability and they are gonna say: ‘I need to work on this film,’ – which is the director’s next title. That remark brought general agreement at the Winston Baker organised Summit.

4. Be Original

It’s a necessity these days, not a virtue. A director’s vision needs to be “singular, interesting, and unique” so that it will “stand stand out in a marketplace flooded with a lot of ordinary or mediocre films,” said Smith, a literary agent at UTA.

5. Make A Short

“When we developed ‘Animal Kingdom,’ people said: ‘There are so many crime dramas already and what’s special about this one?’ Smith remembered. “Even though David Michod is smart and articulate, it wasn’t landing. In the end, the best selling tool he came up with was to make a short. It was not a piece of the film, it wasn’t a scene, it was a standalone short film that had characters and a similar world and look and feel. That short was when people said: ‘Oh, I get it.’”

6.Adapt A Property Which Is Already Out There

Said Bloom’s Walton: “The marketplace is big and tastes vary, so choosing ideas strong enough to have the ability to translate is crucial. Basing your film on an established IP gives you a bit more stability.”

7. Attract Talent That Endorses Your Vision

“It can help to have producers who have a strong established track record attached to your film. It’s a sign to the marketplace you are an exciting filmmaker,” said UTA’s Smith. She added: “Obviously attaching actors that are meaningful and well known is great, but even attracting a high-end director of photography or production designer or editor can indicate that this is a filmmaker who needs to be taken seriously.

8. Use Festivals

“All the people on this panel don’t have weeks and weeks to go to festivals and they really go to Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, and that’s where you get feedback from people like this,” said Lunder. That said – and it’s a sea change in Hollywood which impresses international filmmaking communities – it’s extraordinary how connected some of Hollywood’s talent agents are becoming internationally. And their ability of some of them to keep a vast range of events on their radar. Paradigm signed up Isaac Ezban, the singular Mexican sci-fi director, off Los Cabos. He is now directing “Mr Robot’s” Martin Wallstrom and “Vice Principals’” Georgia King in “Parallel.”

9. What Not To Do?

Choose the wrong American movie, said Chartier. “If your first movie in America is a $60 million-$70 million dollar movie that is bad, you go back to France.”

10. Get Some Friends

Many passed on “Dallas Buyers Club.” Chartier financed it, but he didn’t want to take credit for it, he said. “I passed three times. I did it for a friend, producer Cassien Elwes who called me and asked me for help, not for the material. When I was a janitor, he got me my first job as a writer. 20 years later, I gave him $3 million. But it wasn’t because of the material. I’m not that smart. Friends: That’s a great way to make films,” Chartier concluded, maybe only half-joking.

John Hopewell – Variety – November 11, 2016

Google co-funds four Oz web projects

Screen Australia and Google are funding four online projects – two half-hour comedies, a 45-minute documentary and an animated series.

The projects will share A$725,000 (US$550,000) in funding from the third edition of the Screen Australia/Google initiative Skip Ahead, which aims to support the next generation of Australian creatives by enabling the recipients to make longer and more ambitious narrative content.

The money is intended to fully finance each project but producers are free to raise additional funds. The 10 projects supported in the past two years have collectively clocked more than 5.5 million YouTube views and helped creators such as Aunty Donna and Mighty Car Mods to reach bigger audiences and build their brands.

Skip Ahead backs narrative-driven films that can either be a one-off work, a pilot for a series or proof-of-concept for a feature, on the proviso that each is a standalone piece of entertainment.

Adelaide brothers Danny and Michael Philippou – known as Racka Racka, whose Marvel VS DC video last year racked up more than 37 million views on YouTube – will deliver RackaRacka: Live (working title), a live-stream vlog that follows the wannabe filmmakers on a rampage through a haunted abandoned theatre. Triptych Pictures (The Babadook) will produce.

The Superwog Show (working title) will see brothers Theo and Nathan Saidden, aka Superwog, tell the story of Superwog and his best mate as they navigate adult life and Superwog’s dysfunctional family. The show will be produced by Princess Pictures (Summer Heights High, Jonah from Tonga, It’s a Date) and Century Entertainment.

In Mutant Menu, science educator and communicator Vanessa Hill will explore how genetic manipulation can create superheroes on YouTube channel BrainCraft, produced by Serendipity Productions’ Margie Bryant (Who Do You Think You Are?).

Sisters Charli and Ashlee Kelly, who star in popular YouTube kids-only baking show Charli’s Crafty Kitchen, will make the animated series Crafty Kingdom, short narratives totalling 30 minutes, in partnership with Brisbane animation studio Like A Photon.

Screen Australia investment manager Mike Cowap said: “These successful creators have great instincts for filmmaking and engaging with large audiences. They have earned this opportunity to make longer, more challenging narrative work, and we’re excited to see the result. We’re sure their audiences are going to love it.”

Kristen Bowen, head of top creators at YouTube Asia Pacific, added: “We’ve been consistently impressed by the projects from the talented alumni of Skip Ahead and we’re sure that this year’s crop of creators will continue to make projects that delight and inspire.”

Don Groves – 11-11-2016 – C21Media

ADG launches shadow directing initiative for female directors in TV drama

The Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) is offering up shadow directing opportunities for female directors on Australian TV dramas.

Thanks to funding given to the organisation through Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Careers initiative, up to six female directors over the next year will have the opportunity to direct an episode of a show while being ‘shadowed’ by an experienced TV drama director.

The first two shows to participate will be Playmaker Media’s Love Child and Seven Productions’ Home and Away in early 2017.

ADG CEO Kingston Anderson said this was the first time a scheme of this type – directly targeting female television directors – had been developed.

“It will provide real job opportunities for experienced female directors to enter the television industry,” he said.

Screen Australia’s head of production Sally Caplan said it was thrilling to see the ADG already putting their Gender Matters: Brilliant Career funding to work to offer high-profile opportunities to the next generation of female directors.

“We congratulate the ADG and all the partner production companies involved in shaping this program, and encourage those applying for the Shadow Directing roles to give it their all.”

Other shadow directing opportunities with participating production companies and shows will be announced in 2017.

To be eligible, potential applicants need to:

• Have directed TWO short drama films that have been selected for public screening

or ONE feature or short drama film that has screened at Sundance, Berlin, Venice, Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand, Busan, Rotterdam, SXSW or Telluride.

• Have completed a directors’ attachment on a feature film or TV drama show or have significant experience in the film or television industry in a related field, for instance as a First AD or editor or have significant experience as a director in other media such as documentary or commercial content.

Applications close December 16. For more information and an application form, email development@adg.org.au or call (02) 9555 7045.

Media Release – Thursday 10 November 2016

Baz Luhrmann marks Romeo + Juliet 20th anniversary with behind-the-scenes secrets

The director’s been delving into the film’s ‘unpublished archives’ on Instagram.

Even 20 years after its release, Romeo + Juliet maintains its magnetic pull.

Not only did the film cement the matinee bankability of boy wonder Leonardo DiCaprio; create a fresh appreciation for The Bard’s stodgy words; and leave a generation cooing to Des’ree’s tearjerkin’ Kissing You – but schoolkids forever will be indebted to director Baz Luhrmann for giving their lazy English teachers a more colourful classroom-viewing alternative to those black-and-white oldies with Laurence Olivier. Shakespeare’s famous play is updated to the hip modern suburb of Verona still retaining its original dialogue.

Now, Luhrmann himself has taken to Instagram to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary – it was released in the US on November 1, 1996 and on Boxing Day in Australia – by sharing a behind-the-scenes treasure trove of pictures, trivia and gossip from the film’s “unpublished archives”.

“Many doubted the preposterous ambition of setting Shakespeare’s beloved tragic romance in a heightened creative world, with a then relatively unknown Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. But we did make it, overcoming incredible odds shooting entirely in Mexico,” Luhrmann wrote in a post announcing the week-long nostalgia trip.

Chief among the tidbits are tributes to the dedication of his fresh-faced star, who was still a year removed from the widespread LeoMania (and ‘Pussy Posse’ antics) that would greet his role in James Cameron’s mega-blockbuster Titanic.

“When I was trying to get the film made, Leonardo agreed for the price of two plane tickets to come with his wonderful father George DiCaprio to explore the idea in workshop form all the way down in Australia,” Luhrmann recalls, describing the young star as “a great artist and collaborator”.

The film, which came with a $14.5 million budget undertaking for Luhrmann, was his biggest at the time; following on from the ridiculous worldwide success of the lil’ indie Strictly Ballroom. But it was beset by on-set catastrophes, including cast members nearly being run over in the street and tropical hurricanes blowing away complete sets, the director revealed.

He also walked through the inspiration and logistical difficulties behind some of the film’s most memorable shots, like the scene where the lovers first catch a glimpse of each other through the hazy glow of a fish tank – apparently captured after a post-work jaunt at a Miami nightclub (“I was younger then,” writes Luhrmann).

“When I came out of the bathroom to wash my hands, I looked up and saw a woman combing her hair with a brush through a fish-tank. It was a brilliant device to get guys and girls to connect through the sitting rooms, while protecting each room’s privacy. Obviously you can see where this moment lead…” Luhrmann wrote.

He also shared a selection of images of the cast at work (is that a young David Blaine on set?) and the collage boards – largely created by his artistic director and partner Catherine Martin, who earned her first Oscar nomination for the film (she lost out that year to The English Patient’s Stuart Craig, before taking out the prize for Moulin Rouge! in 2001) – that defined the film’s distinct visual style.

Besides film nerds and ’90s kids, Luhrmann’s memory trip has earned the attention of his “good friend” Humberto Leon of fashion label Opening Ceremony, who announced an impromptu exhibition of the film’s artifacts – including DiCaprio’s iconic Hawaiian button-up, “sourced from the backstreets of Sydney”, Luhrmann wrote – at their flagship store in New York.

See Baz Luhrmann’s behind-the-scenes Instagram treasure trove of pictures, trivia and gossip here:


Rob Moran – SMH – November 7 2016

YouTube Channel Film Riot Picks Up Steam for Wannabe Filmmakers

What do you get when you combine the massive distribution platform of YouTube with the DIY digital revolution that makes filmmaking tools accessible to the masses?

Meet Film Riot, the channel about filmmaking techniques that has garnered almost a million subscribers while producing its own content. And most recently, that content was pretty frightening.

Building an Audience

Founder Ryan Connolly designed Film Riot as the go-to destination for wannabe filmmakers, complete with tutorials, gear lists, and post-production tips. “All I ever wanted to do for as long as I could remember was make films,” says Connolly. “But I had no resources despite having gone to film school. So I figured, if I were to build my own audience and my own stage, I could make films the way I wanted.”

Halloween Theme

This month, Connolly and his team debut the six-minute short film “Ghost House” — part of the channel’s Halloween-themed series. “I’m a big fan of the horror genre,” Connolly says. “I love its ability to so firmly grip the audience. It was a great opportunity to take a few typical horror tropes and put them in a different light.”

No Red Tape

When Film Riot creates a show, it doesn’t go through the bureaucracy that’s typical of TV production. “With TV or any high-level project, you have multiple levels of opinion to sift through and keep happy,” explains Connolly. “In certain ways, we are trying to create a new Hollywood, with a more economical and personal approach to storytelling.”

TV and Not TV

Because Film Riot creates all of its product and distributes it directly to audiences, “it’s sort of like a giant living room, and everyone is invited for movie night,” Connolly says. Yet during production days, the similarities to a traditional physical production are more apparent. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Connolly says.

Choice of Gear

On past shows, Connolly has shot with the Canon C500, the Canon C100 Mark II, and the RED Epic. For “Ghost House,” he chose the Alexa Mini. “It has a gorgeous, milky, film-like image,” he says, “largely due to its dynamic range.” Plus, it can be stripped down to make it more mobile. Connolly paired the camera with Kowa Anamorphic lenses. “Subconsciously,” he says, “we relate the look of an anamorphic image to big Hollywood films, [many of which] were shot on them. It isn’t how we naturally see the world around us — it’s distorted, imperfect — and for me this helps create the sense of another world.”

Valentina I. Valentini – Variety – November 4, 2016

Will Mel Gibson Help Rescue Australian Cinema From Having A Downer Year?

There is a lot riding of money and prestige riding on Mel Gibson’s WW2 violent drama Hacksaw Ridge when it opens in Australia on November 3 and the following day in the U.S. Not just because this is Gibson’s first shot at directing since Apocalypto in 2006 and that Lionsgate and Australian distributor Icon are putting a lot of resources and effort into the release.

The Australian film industry is hoping the critically-acclaimed movie, which tells the true story of U.S. Army medic and conscientious objector Desmond Doss, will spark a revival for the nation’s cinema which has not generated a single home grown hit this year.

Some 50 Australian titles released this year or earlier collectively have grossed $A12.8 million ($9.7 million) through last Sunday, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia. That’s a sharp decline from the 2015 calendar year total of $A88 million, a record 7.18% market share, led by George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker, Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner, Stuart McDonald’s Oddball, Rob Connolly’s Paper Planes and Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin.

The top-grossing Australian production is Alex Proyas’ $140 million fantasy-adventure Gods of Egypt, which collected just $A2.5 million. Simon Stone’s The Daughter, a re-imagining of an Ibsen play starring Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider and Odessa Young, made $A1.7 million while Jennifer Peedom’s superb documentary Everest earned nearly $A1.3 million.

Levi Miller and canine co-star Phoenix in ‘Red Dog: True Blue’ Exhibitors are confident the business will rally with Hacksaw Ridge followed by Red Dog: True Blue, the prequel to 2011 hit Red Dog in December, and true-life drama Lion in January.

Australian films face the same hurdles as indie titles from the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere in securing screens and connecting with audiences in the ever-crowded theatrical market. “Films with strong local stories and ideas can cut through,” says Roadshow Films group co-CEO Joel Pearlman, who is distributing Red Dog: True Blue. “However the market is very unforgiving for anything that is not excellent in execution and original story and ideas . It is a global challenge; it has never been easy.”

Unusually Roadshow has no Aussie titles on its 2017 release schedule. Quite a few projects are in development but none is ready to announce. “The biggest challenge is finding great material,” Pearlman says. “I wish there was more of it.” Village Cinemas general manager Gino Munari concurs, “Aussie films just need to tell a good story and have good production values.”

Tait Brady, who runs boutique distributor Label, says, “I suspect that what we are starting to see now may be the result of the budget/financing squeeze that hit the production sector a while back. That has has resulted in driving budgets down and we are seeing films in two clear categories – the low budget dramas such as Joe Cinque’s Consolation, Early Winter, Killing Ground, Boys In The Trees and Bad Girl, and bigger, star-driven vehicles like The Dressmaker, Lion and the Red Dog prequel. The more conventional Aussie films budgeted at $A4 million-$A5 million are harder and harder to get up and, as good as these ‘smaller’ films are, they struggle to grasp audiences’ attention.”

Hacksaw Ridge stars Andrew Garfield as the pacifist U.S. Army medic who won the Congressional Medal of Honor after saving dozens of soldiers during the bloody Battle of Okinawa. Parr is confident it will gross $A10 million, opining, “Mel is back to his best. The film is as good as Saving Private Ryan but with a love story as a plus.”

Co-owned by Gibson and his producing partner Bruce Davey, Icon is releasing the drama on 255 screens in Australia and on 70 in New Zealand. “The reception for Hacksaw has been consistently strong from all quarters including festivals, reviewers, industry, interest groups, premieres and public previews,” says Icon CEO Greg Hughes. “We expect a strong gross box-office and our quietly optimistic estimates are not that far below some of the exhibitor forecasts.”

The national cinema is virtually certain to end the year on a high note with the December 26 debut of producer Nelson Woss and director Kriv Stenders’ prequel to Red Dog, which fetched $A21.5 million. The plot follows 11-year-old Mick (Levi Miller) who is shipped off to his grandfather’s (Bryan Brown) cattle station in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia. While Mick expects a dull and tough rural life, instead he finds adventure and friendship with a scrappy, one-of-a-kind dog. Garth Franklin’s Lion chronicles the journey of Indian-born Australian Saroo Brierley who found his birth mother 25 years after they were separated, starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham and Rooney Mara which had rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be released on January 19 2017.

On paper the outlook for 2017 looks promising. Apart from Lion the line-up includes Rachel Perkins’ Jasper Jones, a coming-of-age mystery starring Levi Miller, Angourie Rice and Aaron McGrath. Paul Currie’s 2.22 is a romantic thriller about an air traffic controller in New York who nearly causes a fatal mid-air collision and then falls in love with one of the plane’s passengers, featuring Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman and Teresa Palmer. Jeffrey Walker’s Dance Academy: The Movie, is a spin-off of Werner Film Productions’ globally-successful TV series. Dev Patel and Armie Hammer star in Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai, a thriller based on the 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal hotel, which the Weinstein Co. acquired for the U.S.

In March/April Label is releasing Hounds of Love, the debut feature of writer/director Ben Young. The thriller stars Stephen Curry and Emma Booth as a couple who abduct a teenager (Ashleigh Cummings), who soon realizes she must drive a wedge between her captors if she is to survive. In a great example of talent development, Good Universe and Mandeville Films have hired Young to direct Extinction, a sci-fi thriller which follows a man haunted by nightmares in which his wife is assaulted and becomes a hero when Earth is invaded by an army bent on destruction. James McAvoy is in the frame to play the lead.

Don Groves – Forbes – Oct 24, 2016

Read the article in full here:


Screen Queensland’s Tracey Vieira nabs business leadership gong

Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira was named the 2016 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year at a ceremony in Brisbane Friday evening. Vieira also took out the 2016 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Corporate and Private Award.

Before taking the helm at SQ, Vieira spent a decade in Los Angeles, where she worked as executive vice president of international production for Ausfilm and attracted more than $1.5 billion of production spend to Australia.

Vieira joined Screen Queensland in 2014.

“It wasn’t until I walked into an organisation in crisis that I understood my own strengths and my love for transforming an industry,” she said.

Vieira is also a non-executive director of RSPCA Queensland, QMusic and the Sunshine Coast Arts Advisory Board, and sits on the board of advisors for Australians in Film.

Now in their 22nd year, the Telstra Business Women’s Awards are Australia’s longest running women’s awards program. They are designed to recognise and reward the “courage, leadership and creativity of brilliant business women”.

Vieira, along with the other state and territory category winners, will be flown to Melbourne for the National Awards on November 16.

Media Release – Monday 17 October 2016

The Code tops the AWGIE Awards

Shelley Birse has taken out the top prize at this year’s AWGIE Awards, winning the Major Award for the second season of ABC cyber-thriller The Code.

The first season of The Code also took out the Australian Writers’ Guild Major Award in 2014. This year’s award makes it the only series to have been recognised by two Major Awards for both of its seasons. The Code also received the AWGIE Award for the Television: Miniseries – Original category.

Overall, more than 25 Australian writers – from radio, television, film, theatre and interactive media – were honoured at this year’s AWGIE Awards, held in Sydney on Friday evening.

Andrew Knight and Osamah Sami’s Ali’s Wedding took out the award for most outstanding script for an original feature, while Shaun Grant and Craig Silvey received the award for most outstanding feature adaptation for Jasper Jones.

Samantha Strauss was honoured for her original telemovie, Mary: The Making of a Princess, and Barracuda’s Blake Ayshford and Belinda Chayko took out Television Miniseries – Adaptation category.

Andrew Knight also scored a second AWGIE Award for his work on Rake.

The 2016 Fred Parsons Award for outstanding contribution to Australian Comedy was presented to Barry Humphries. Humphries, whose career has spanned 60 years, was honoured for the contribution he has made to Australian and international comedy writing.

The AWG also honoured Craig Pearce – co-writer of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Charlie St Cloud and The Great Gatsby – by awarding him the Australian Writers’ Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.

AWG president Jan Sardi said that, at a time when television is experiencing a global renaissance, the Annual AWGIE Awards are a way of honouring the world-class talent of Australian screenwriters and playwrights. “With the advent of streaming services such as Netflix and Stan revolutionising the way we all consume screen content, there is an undeniable buzz and energy around our film and TV industries in particular,” he said.

“This heralds exciting times ahead not only for Australian writers for performance, but for the millions of viewers hungry for top-notch content on their screens and stages,” he said.

The 2016 screen winners:

Major Award

The Code: Season 2 – Shelley Birse

Telemovie – Original

Mary: The Making of a Princess – Samantha Strauss

Television: Miniseries – Adaptation

Barracuda – Blake Ayshford and Belinda Chayko

Television: Miniseries – Original

The Code: Season 2 – Shelley Birse

Television – Series

Rake: Season 4, Episode 407 – Andrew Knight

Television – Serial

Neighbours: Episode 7202 – Jason Herbison

Comedy – Sketch or Light Entertainment

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering: ‘Halal Certification’ and ‘Stadium Naming

Rights’ – Gerard McCulloch with Charlie Pickering

Comedy – Situation or Narrative

Please Like Me: Season 3, ‘Pancakes with Faces’ –Josh Thomas and Liz Doran

Feature Film – Original

Ali’s Wedding – Andrew Knight & Osamah Sami

Feature Film – Adaptation

Jasper Jones – Shaun Grant & Craig Silvey

Short Form

Slingshot – David Hansen

Interactive Media

The Forgotten City – Nick Pearce


Beat Bugs: ‘Yellow Submarine’ – Josh Wakely

Documentary – Public Broadcast or Exhibition

Baxter and Me – Gillian Leahy

The Silences – Margot Nash

Documentary – Corporate & Training

Seven Women Nepal – The Birth of a Social Enterprise – Gaby Purchase and Claire


Children’s Television – P Classification

Sydney Sailboat: ‘Trash and Treasure’ – Rachel Spratt

Children’s Television – C Classification

Ready for This: ‘The Birthday Party’ – Leah Purcell

Special Awards

David Williamson Prize

Given in celebration and recognition of excellence in writing for Australian theatre

The Bleeding Tree – Angus Cerini

Richard Lane Award

For outstanding service and dedication to the Australian Writers’ Guild

Karin Altmann

Dorothy Crawford Award

For outstanding contribution to the profession

John Romeril

Fred Parsons Award

For outstanding contribution to Australian comedy

Barry Humphries

Hector Crawford Award

For outstanding contribution to the craft as a script producer, editor or dramaturge

Marcia Gardner

The Australian Writers’ Guild Lifetime Achievement Award

Craig Pearce

Unproduced Awards

Monte Miller Award – Long Form

Mary, Mary – Penelope Chai & Adam Spellicy

Monte Miller Award – Short Form

It Will Peck You – Katie Found
Media Release – Monday 17 October 2016

Boys in the Trees director Nicholas Verso was ‘willing to die for this film’

On Halloween 1997, two estranged teen skaters embark on a surreal journey through their memories, dreams and fears: Boys in the Trees opens on October 20.

When he was at school in Melbourne, film director Nicholas Verso was almost expelled for being a goth. “I blackened everything,” he says. “Lashes, eyebrows: it was a big commitment.” While he thought his friends looked pretty cool in the pipe at the skate park, he was much too unco-ordinated to join in.

“I was more an observer than a participant, more of a goth wearing dark clothes and trying not to move much in the summer.”

He laughs from behind what is now long, all-natural fair hair. We are at the Venice Film Festival; the sun roars like a furnace while we scurry with plastic chairs to find a spot under trees. At 36, Verso’s style has morphed into ragged ’70s hippiedom, but his skin is still porcelain pale. It seems a bit of a shame to waste such a perfect canvas.

Skating looms large and slow-mo in Boys in the Trees, his first feature. The film is set among a group of teenagers in their final year at high school in the ’90s, when Verso himself was at school in Kew, with torrents of music to match. Corey, played by Toby Wallace, is an aspiring photographer who dreams of living in New York, although probably anywhere that wasn’t an Australian suburb would do.

He can’t say too much about that to the other dudes in the gang. For Jango (Justin Holborow), his ostensible best mate and the pack leader, everything anyone could want – “weed to smoke, bitches to f—, fags to bash” – is right here. Those things

include the much brighter Corey; he needs him to want the life they have. Way across the gender divide, however, their classmate Romany (Mitzi Ruhlmann) gets it; her own hope is to escape to a dreamland Canada, with its extreme weather, pine-clad mountains and bears.

This clash of aspirations reaches crisis point on Halloween, when Corey finds himself alone in his wolf costume with Jonah (Gulliver McGrath). He is the runt of the class, the routine punching bag for Jango and his thicker mates and – as is soon revealed – he was Corey’s best friend when they were in primary school. Feeling guilty about having stood by while Jonah was abused, Corey agrees to walk him home through the dark of All Hallows’ Eve.

Revellers in full carnival dress emerge from the mist; their walk becomes increasingly surreal as they slip from the present into their shared past. A “memory tree” in the forest, illuminated apparently from within, is hung with hundreds of objects culled from childhood, now as magic and faraway as any land in the clouds.

Demons – called “darklings” – emerge from the ground. An Indigenous man appears in the gloaming, wearing a funereal black suit: some kind of harbinger of death, perhaps?

Everything in Boys in the Trees, says Verso, reflects his own life somehow. “They all came from things I felt; I sometimes looked at people together and thought they were like animals, like wolves. The darklings came from listening to what people say when they crush each other’s dreams, just quietly over a drink,” he says.

“I was very inspired by [sci-fi novelist] Ray Bradbury, who said [in Zen and the Art of Writing] you should write about things that enthuse you, so I really tried to write things I had experienced and felt strongly. I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. I didn’t want to make a first film I wasn’t willing to die for, to be honest. So I had to pour my blood into it.”

You can see the blood. Along with the ghoulies and ghosties and hallucinatory spectacle, Boys in the Trees deals with the stuff of current headlines: bullying at school, teenage depression and modern confusions about what being a man should mean.

When Verso started writing it, he intended to set it in the present, but technology got in the way: no modern Corey could wander off on a party night without being pursued by a shower of texts. Even his determination to be a photographer seemed dated.

“That was a strange thing to be in the ’90s – it took some effort – whereas everyone thinks they are a photographer now because technology enables that. So I think there was a real innocence in that respect.”

What hasn’t changed – or, in Verso’s opinion, has worsened – is the entrenchment of a vengeful version of thwarted masculinity. It’s unlikely, he agrees, that even a gang led by someone as knuckled-headed as Jango would be so automatically homophobic now; teenagers have moved on. At the same time, he remembers “so many cool female role models”, from his childhood television favourite Roseanne to Sigourney Weaver in Alien to P.J. Harvey and Courtney Love in the music world. “And at a certain point, it felt like that just went away.”

Now we live in a cultural era dominated by the anxious sensibilities of “scared little men” that he thinks probably has its grounding in the world he explored in Boys in the Trees. “I mean, you look at violence against women now. That comes from male fears, from deeply uncivilised men who haven’t learned how to be themselves and who were teenagers at this time. So it’s interesting looking at them in the ’90s and going, ‘Well, this was their last moment of being kids. What were they like, what message weren’t they getting, to know how to be men?’ ”

Not enough attention, he says, is paid to rites of passage. Toby Wallace, who plays Corey, is 21 and grew up in Wheelers Hill; he recognises a lot of the real-life elements in the film. “I had to go through separating myself from group situations or the part of town I was from and say, ‘I am my own person, I can lead my own life’.”

He started acting when he was 13, but it was moving into the city after school that changed him. By the time he was Corey’s age there was, of course, a new kind of bullying afoot, the cyber form. “We are in an age that is more open to talking about those things – depression, anxiety, the stages of people’s lives, bullying – but then the other side of it is that we are in such instant communication with each other.”

Which makes the ’90s, which hardly seem very long ago at all, a different time, even a prelapsarian time. “Kids now are absorbing stuff constantly through their phones and the internet,” says Verso. “I think in the ’90s you had romantic notions that could be shattered.” Romany’s idea of Canada, for example, probably comes from a Joni Mitchell song; these days she could just google everything she wanted to know.

“And I can’t imagine now people talking as much as those two boys talk in the film without looking at their phones or Instagramming along the way. I think people were more in the moment. And you could live out your little teen mistakes without having a camera in your face.” Not much chance of that now; the packs may have loosened, but there’s a lone wolf around every corner.

Stephanie Bunbury – SMH – October 14 2016

Virtual reality, personalised content, more local shows: this is what Australian TV will be like in 2020

PICTURE donning a virtual reality headset to watch the football from a player’s perspective, catching the evening news bulletin with stories tailored to you and having more choice in content than ever.

This is the future of Australian television and it’ll be here by 2020, as the industry enters its biggest era of change.

The fact that a Hollywood megastar like Rachel Griffiths would lend her talent and expertise to a low budget YouTube comedy shows how much the landscape has evolved. In between major film and TV roles, the acclaimed actor co-produced and starred in Little Acorns — a hilarious web series about workers at a suburban childcare centre.

Rachel Griffiths and co-stars of new internet series Little Acorns, Fanny Hanusin, Maria Theodorakis, Belinda McClory and Katerina Kotsonis.

While the online space offers enormous opportunities to tap into a global audience hungry for video content, Griffiths said there are challenges that come with it.

“We wanted Little Acorns to be on a network,” Griffiths admitted. “We went to all the usual players. It was like, oh well, if no one wants to give us money we’ll just find another way. But make no bones about it — no one makes money from this format.”

The cost of making a TV drama runs anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million per episode, so broadcasters are less inclined to take risks.

“These days, you have to prove your product and your voice, and the web series thing is a platform through which to prove what you’ve got,” Griffiths said.

One player embracing change is Fox Sports, where digital is seen as a way of enhancing the viewing experience. The subscription TV giant has a research lab where a dedicated team explores broadcast innovation, chief executive Patrick Delany said.

“We’re releasing an app next week called Fox Vision and the first event we’ll use it for is Bathurst, and there will be a map in all of the papers next Thursday that you can point your phone at that to make it 3D so you can explore the terrain,” Delany said.

“At the same time, you can go inside the car with a 360-degree camera and look around, as it hurdles around the track. These are really cool technologies that we can use to enhance the live sports experience. I only see that growing.”

With new gadgets, content boom, alternative platforms and personalised experiences, Australian TV will look vastly different by 2020.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s coming.

Developments in virtual and augmented reality will see the TV experience shift significantly, Delany said. “We’re getting into that space already,” he said. “You can put a pair of glasses on and (be) at the ground, in the stand, and be immersive. We’re exploring how we can improve that and apply it to our service.”

When it comes to sports, the big screen will remain the primary source but secondary, personal devices will allow “add ons”, he said.

“Whether it’s things like a variety of camera views — inside the cars for the V8s or alternative angles from drones — or player stats and charts relevant to what you’re seeing on screen, that’s how I see it going.”

Regardless of how TV changes, Adrian Swift, Nine’s programming and production boss, believes content will always be king.

“We’re still paying money to create great content and we’ll continue to do that,” Swift said. “Our job and strategic focus is to keep ourselves as a destination as things change around us. We play to our strengths and that’s news, sport, big events, stripped reality shows and fun, light, clever Australian drama that the whole family can sit down to watch.”

What this means is TV networks will develop their own content niche, Mason said.

“The big play for broadcasters is local — they understand what Aussie viewers want and it’s shows that reflect them.”

Consuming content online, whether live or via catch-up, is a trend that Swift expects to continue in the coming years. There will come a time when Nine is a button on a remote as well as a mobile app, an add-on to set top boxes and game consoles, and a website.

It’s a trend the company is already seeing — 9 Now has a unique total audience of 1.4 million, Collins said.

“What we’re seeing is more engagement — more minutes consumed. A prime example is the drama Love Child. The last series did one million long-form streams and 28 million minutes of content was consumed.”

Live news could soon contain stories that are tailored to a viewer’s preferences, based on past trends. The idea of customised content is something American outfit CBS News Digital is exploring, its senior vice president and general manager Christy Tanner said.

“We have developed different interfaces that offer some degree of personalisation and the ability to tailor their own news cast,” Tanner said. “It’s a real balancing act for us though. We believe in the power of journalists to curate for the audience so we want to deliver a balance of personalisation and editorially led curation.”

Otherwise a fully personalised nightly news bulletin runs of the risk of just being stories about the Kardashian family.

TV sets themselves are changing, with trends pointing towards devices that are integrated in the room. Some manufacturers are offering ‘in-wall’ sets that aren’t visible when not turned on, as well as screens built into mirrors.

And the latest products are being billed as works of art. Regardless of where it’s seen, Swift said TV will be “a different version of the same thing”.

Shannon Molloy, National TV Writer, News Corp Australia – October 2, 2016