In a new series on the blog, we’ll be introducing members of the AFI team. In this, our first installment, we talk to one of the busiest people in the office, Helene Carter, the AFI Awards Manager. Always calm in the eye of the storm (and it must be said, always stylish and perfectly groomed!) Helene’s job involves overseeing the entire Awards process. This includes reviewing the Rule Book and Awards Policy, calling for entries, organising and chairing the jury meetings, producing our screenings cinema trailer and nominations clips packages, overseeing the Awards content for these events, right on through to working with our show’s Producers on the pre-production of the AFI Awards Ceremony and broadcast. On the big night of nights, Helene works back stage ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Employment history: Helene came to the AFI Awards team in April 2008 from a commercial production background. Having studied a Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University, Helene started her television career as a scriptwriter and producer at WIN Television in Ballarat, working on everything from TVCs to producing live sporting outside broadcast. After four years, in 2000 the bright lights of Sydney beckoned, as she took on the role of Production Manager of Medal Ceremonies for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. A career highlight, working under the watchful eyes of the world’s media as part of the Ric Birch, Ceremonies team was a truly a remarkable work experience. Following the Games, Helene moved back to Melbourne and back into advertising production, taking the role of Senior Television/Radio Writer and Producer at THE BRAND AGENCY, working on retail accounts such as Red Rooster, Bunnings Warehouse, Toyota and more. From here Helene’s career has included some freelance producing with H2 PTY LTD on shows such as In:Entertainment hosted by Antonia Kidman, and a full time position as Senior Commercial Producer at 9mm for the Nine Network. Advertising clients here included The City of Melbourne, L’Oreal Paris, Cadbury Schweppes and more. Passionate about large scale special events and television production, the annual AFI Awards are a rewarding challenge.
Talking to Helene about the Job:
Q: Can you tell us briefly about the shape of the year in the Awards department?
I would say it is a circle – that seems to speed up as the year progresses!
OK seriously, we operate under a very process driven calendar in the Awards department, each process feeds directly into the next.
We conduct an annual review of the Awards Policy & Rule Book and Call for Jurors and Entries in the first quarter.
We then process all of these entries, build our juries and distribute materials for judging. The meaty task of facilitating the judging process in over 13 jury meetings occurs across April – October.
Parallel to this we produce [along with our Events Manager] the AFI Awards Screenings program in Melbourne and Sydney, screening all of the Feature Film contenders, along with the nominated Short Fiction Film, Short Animation and Feature Documentaries.
We move through Screenings, manage member voting [with our Membership department and KPMG] and slide into Nominations Announcement territory. This is rapidly followed by the annual AFI Awards celebrations.
We grab a glass of champagne, catch our breath, and then take off again!
Q: Who are the people in your Awards team, and what are their roles?
It’s girl power in the AFI Awards department; we are comprised of three full time staff:
Our Assistant Awards Manager, Sofie Ham, has been with the AFI since August last year. Incredibly capable, Sofie is gearing up to welcome our 2011 entrants as she works hard to put the finishing touches on our updated online entry system for the year.
Our team is completed by the effervescent and extremely competent Awards Coordinator – Vanessa McKeddie. Vanessa has been with the Awards department since May 2009 and has worked with me on preparing the policy review, in readiness for entries in 2011.
As a small team we work very closely together and interchangeably throughout the course of the year. As an entrant, it is likely that you will get to know all three of us.
Q: What are the most exciting and satisfying parts of your job?
Witnessing the effect that gaining an AFI Award nomination or win has on the individuals and teams that work so hard to produce their productions.
This, coupled with seeing the broadcast come together each year, as it is a cumulative celebration and stock take of our production successes across all genres.
Q: If there was one thing you could remind people about entering the AFI Awards and filling in the applications, what would it be?
It is nice to know that no matter how accomplished someone has become in their career, recognition and acknowledgement by your peers and your industry, is always meaningful.
To start it early and double check everything before you submit it, please. We’d hate you to leave someone out!
Q: What’s it like to be up close and seeing a person win an AFI Award? What’s the significance to a career to win an AFI Award?
Some moments in the Ceremonies will stay with me forever; I think these have been the moments of pure surprise, elation, delight or responses from winners that have been simply overwhelmed.
Some examples off the top of my head: I was moved by how genuinely surprised Catherine McClements was last year to win her AFI Award for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for Tangle. That was a really beautiful moment for me.
I consider it an honor to have seen Dr Reg Grundy win the AFI Raymond Longford Award in person. He was deeply touched. It is nice to know that no matter how accomplished someone has become in their career, recognition and acknowledgement by your peers and your industry, is always meaningful.
Seeing Chris Lilley receive the Byron Kennedy Award and AFI Awards for Best Performance in a Television Comedy and Best Comedy Series in 2008 for Summer Heights High, was also another really special moment; he was so unassuming about his wins.
Being on side of stage as the Ledger family received Heath’s posthumous AFI International Award for Best Actor for The Dark Knight in 2008, was one of the most moving moments of my life. It still brings a tear to my eye on recollection.
I don’t think it is for me to say what the significance of an AFI Award win can mean to an individual, as this will vary for every single AFI Award winner. (I sincerely don’t mean any offence to all of the many other AFI Award winners that I have witnessed, by singling out these few examples).
Getting to know Helene on a personal note…
We asked Helene to fill in our Quick Quiz Questionnaire.
The AFI version of the Bernard Pivot* Questionnaire
- What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeia
- What is your least favorite word? No
- What turns you on? Imagination and the deepest dark brown eyes that you can dive into and drown in…
- What turns you off? Anger
- What sound or noise do you love? The sounds of a working TV studio and crew, just about to record.
- What sound or noise do you hate? Construction early on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Entertainment law
- What profession would you not like to do? Horse trainer
- The last film or DVD you watched? Buitiful
- The film that changed you, and why? Oh, so this is really embarrassing, but I will answer honestly. Dirty Dancing! As a 12-year-old, I skipped and danced all the way down the street after seeing that film. I knew at that point that I wanted to work in the film and television industry; there was never anything else. I was mesmerised by the magic of the moving image and music. Can I remind you that I said I was 12…?
- Your guilty television pleasure? There are so many, currently The Good Wife.
- Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is… all of the dedicated, talented, skilled, creative, solution orientated people that you work with and meet.
- Three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you? Two of my secondary school teachers: Mick Dowlan and Paul Richardson. I would not have had the courage to follow my dreams and aim for my chosen career path without their passion and influence. Also, my Mum, Cynthia, is always inspiring and helping me.
AFI Awards Note: Some key dates are looming large on this year’s AFI Awards calendar. Be on the alert for our Call for Jurors on 12 April, and Call for Entries later in the month. Make sure you’re subscribed to our free e-news for updates.