About Rochelle Siemienowicz

Writing, talking, thinking Australian film and television, I'm editor at the Australian Film Institute.

Part 1: Wrapping it up with a Bow – The 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe

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Winners at the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe, Monday 28 January. Photo: Belinda Rolland

The statuettes have been presented, the winners have been toasted and the laurels have been sent out to each winning production. While the 2nd AACTA Awards may be fast receding behind us, there’s now the task of looking through all the wonderful photos and priceless video footage from the two Sydney events, and making sure they’re labelled and saved for posterity – and shared with screen industry and audience members alike.

In this, the first part of our AACTA Awards wrap, we shine the spotlight on the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe and held in Sydney at The Star Event Centre on Monday 28 January.

The luncheon was hosted by the ever-entertaining Adam Elliot, who memorably appeared in one segment dressed as a gold-clad human statuette. Other presenters included Diana Glenn, Jane Harber and Jimi Bani as well as acclaimed actors Damon Herriman, Daniel Henshall and Felicity Price. Also taking to the stage were The Sapphires stars Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.

A highlight of the luncheon was the special presentation of the Raymond Longford Award to Producer, Al Clark.

The 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe also recognised the talent and innovation of artists and craftspeople working across television, documentary, short fiction film, short animation and feature film categories.  Here’s a quick rundown, with clips from our YouTube Channel:

DOCUMENTARY

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
Storm Surfers 3D. Ellenor Cox, Marcus Gillezeau.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY UNDER ONE HOUR
Then The Wind Changed. Jeni McMahon, Celeste Geer. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Go Back To Where You Came From. Rick McPhee, Ivan O’Mahoney. SBS

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION IN A DOCUMENTARY
Fighting Fear. Macario De Souza. FOXTEL  Movie Network

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY IN A DOCUMENTARY
Fighting Fear. Tim Bonython, Chris Bryan, Macario De Souza, Lee Kelly. FOXTEL – Movie Network

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING IN A DOCUMENTARY
Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta – Episode 1. Sam Wilson. SBS

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND IN A DOCUMENTARY
Dr Sarmast’s Music School. Dale Cornelius, Livia Ruzic, Keith Thomas. ABC1

 

SHORT FILM

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT ANIMATION
The Hunter. Marieka Walsh

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FICTION FILM
Julian. Robert Jago, Matthew Moore.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY IN A SHORT FILM
Transmission. Zak Hilditch.

TELEVISION

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION SERIES
Agony Aunts. Adam Zwar, Nicole Minchin. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION COMEDY SERIES
Lowdown – Season 2. Nicole Minchin, Amanda Brotchie, Adam Zwar. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TELEVISION COMEDY
Patrick Brammall. A Moody Christmas. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CHILDREN’S TELEVISION SERIES
The Adventures Of Figaro Pho. Dan Fill, Frank Verheggen, David Webster. ABC3

 

FEATURE FILM

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Sapphires. Warwick Thornton.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING
The Sapphires. Dany Cooper ASE.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND
The Sapphires. Andrew Plain, Bry Jones, Pete Smith, Ben Osmo, John Simpson.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Not Suitable For Children. Matteo Zingales, Jono Ma.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Sapphires. Melinda Doring.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Sapphires. Tess Schofield.

A gallery of gorgeous photos of winners from the luncheon can be found here on Facebook or on our Instagram account, but for a taste, here’s a gallery of selected shots from the event:

For full details of the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe, see the AACTA website here.

Coming next: Part 2: Wrapping it up with a Bow: The 2nd AACTA Awards Ceremony.

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Join in our live Facebook chat with AACTA Award nominee Felicity Price

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Felicity Price is an actress and writer whose involvement with feature film Wish You Were Here is extensive. Not only did she co-write the script with her husband, director Kieran Darcy-Smith, but she stars in the lead role as Alice, a pregnant mother and wife whose carefree getaway to Cambodia goes horribly wrong. It’s a powerful film and a powerful performance, and Felicity is nominated for Best Lead Actress, and Best Original Screenplay (with Darcy-Smith). Join in our live discussion to chat about her creative processes and about the collaborative process of film writing and shooting.

How does it work? First, make sure you’re friends with us on the AACTA Facebook page. Click here to join our Felicity Price event page and when you join it will be added to your Facebook calendar. We’ll post event photo (above) to our FB page just before 12 midday on Tuesday. You can then comment on the image the way you would with any photo, and Felicity will log in to answer. Simple!

For background reading – and to remind you about the film Wish You Were Here, you can read this interview with Felicity and Kieran Darcy-Smith.

The winners of the 2nd AACTA Awards will be announced on 28th and 30th January. The winners of the AACTA Award categories in which Felicity is nominated will be announced on Wednesday 30 January at The Star Event Centre in Sydney, and broadcast on Network Ten at 9.30pm. Be watching on the night to catch all the action.

 

Join in our Live Facebook Chat with AACTA Award Nominee, Puberty Blues’ Brenna Harding

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You know her as ‘Sue’, the blonde and slightly less ebullient of the terrible twosome (along with Ashleigh Cummings) at the centre of the Ten Network/Southern Star drama series Puberty Blues. Just 16 at the time of filming the first series, Brenna Harding has been nominated for an AACTA Award for Best Young Actor – and the series itself is nominated for Best Television Drama Series – with the winners being announced on Wednesday 30 January at the 2nd AACTA Awards Ceremony, broadcast on Ten at 9.30pm.

Brenna has also appeared in My Place, Packed to the Rafters and short films Shelling Peas and The Road Home. Join us on the AACTA Facebook page on Sunday 27 January at 4pm for a live chat with Brenna about her performance as a naughty-but-nice teenager living in the 1970s in Puberty Blues. We’re also keen to ask her what it’s like having Dan Wyllie and Susie Porter playing your parents.


Join us for live Facebook Chat with AACTA Nominee Susan Prior (Puberty Blues)

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Susan Prior played downtrodden wife and mother Yvonne Hennessey in Channel Ten’s Puberty Blues Season 1, but we saw her shedding her inhibitions in the final episode, and look forward to her character’s progress in future eps! Join AACTA nominated actress Susan Prior here for a live Q&A at 3pm today (Thursday 24 Jan, 2013).

The Hennessey family - played by Rodger Corser, Susan Prior and Sean Keenan.

The Hennessey family – played by Rodger Corser, Susan Prior and Sean Keenan.

Susan’s extensive film credits include Careless Love, Not Suitable for Children, Animal Kingdom, A Cold Summer, and the Academy Award nominated short film The Saviour. Her television credits include Rake Season 2, All Saints and Water Rats, and she is also an accomplished theatre actor. We look forward to chatting, and would love you to join us.

Susan is nominated for Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for Puberty Blues. The other nominees in this category are Shareena Clanton (Redfern Now), Mandy McElhinney (Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War) and Laura Wheelwright (Underground). The winner will be announced at the 2nd AACTA Awards Ceremony on Wednesday 30 January 2012, televised on Network Ten from 9.30pm.

PR Profile: Teri Calder, Media & Public Affairs Manager at Screen Australia

In this ongoing series, we highlight the skills and expertise of publicists within our AACTA membership as part of the Media & PR Chapter.* We invite them to share tips, tricks and insights borne of long experience in our particular industry.  You can read our past posts on publicists here and here.

In this instalment, we turn the spotlight onto Teri Calder, Media & Public Affairs Manager at Screen Australia, the key Federal Government direct funding body for the Australian screen production industry. As well as funding film and television, Screen Australia also supports and promotes the industry through various other programs and initiatives.

In this Q&A, Teri Calder talks about her training and experience, and gives us a glimpse into her day to day work. At the time of the interview (in early September), Teri’s work with Screen Australia focused on highlighting the great achievements of Australia’s Indigenous filmmakers – holding a parliamentary screening of The Sapphires, launching an Indigenous screen employment program, and celebrating the news that a new Indigenous film, Satellite Boy, had been accepted into a major festival.

AFI | AACTA: Can you tell us how you arrived at the role of Media & Public Affairs Manager at Screen Australia – your past experience and training?

Teri Calder

Teri Calder: I studied journalism and one of my first full-time jobs was at the FFC (Film Finance Corporation), employed as the policy and public relations assistant. That was way back in 1994. I was there for two years and then left the film industry and went to the Non Government Organisation sector working in communications, advocacy, project management and fundraising. During that time I completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Communications and Social Inquiry from UTS (University of Technology, Sydney). I then returned to the film industry about seven years ago and worked on a couple of documentaries in development and as an associate producer. I worked freelance for a couple of distributors across the business in distribution, publicity and marketing. During that time I also worked as a senior communications consultant for a PR agency that serviced the AFC (Australian Film Commission), so I had experience across a few tiers of the industry before arriving at Screen Australia.

What are your key duties and responsibilities? Can you describe what an average week looks like in your job at Screen Australia?

My job is to implement communications that assist the agency in implementing its programs and strategic agenda. It is also to reinforce a shared understanding of the agency’s activities, purpose and functions across our key stakeholder groups. There are no average weeks in this job! For example, [at the time of this interview in October] last week involved working on a press conference in Canberra announcing the Media RING Indigenous Employment strategy, which was followed by a parliamentary screening of The Sapphires with some of the key cast and crew.

Jessica Mauboy, Simon Crean, Deborah Mailman, Julie Collins and Wayne Blair, at the parliamentary screening of THE SAPPHIRES.

We also showcased the extraordinary talent of Indigenous Australians working both in front of and behind the camera and the work of Screen Australia’s Indigenous department to Parliamentarians with this inspiring reel:

On top of that, last week involved writing and issuing several media releases announcing our latest documentary investments and announcing Catriona McKenzie’s wonderful film Satellite Boy had been accepted into Toronto International Film Festival. We’re always thrilled when a film gets into a major A-list festival. This is a huge achievement for the filmmaker and a great launch pad for the film into the North American Market.

Then there’s all the follow up involved with those releases – talking to journalists, lining up interviews, answering emails, etc. I haven’t even mentioned the day to day stuff. Let’s just say I keep very busy in the job.

Who are the key groups you are communicating with? 

SATELLITE BOY, written and directed by Catriona McKenzie, and produced by David Jowsey and Julie Ryan, had its world premiere at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, in the Discovery program of works by Directors to Watch.

The most important key group I’m communicating with is the screen industry. It’s crucial that our programs and initiatives are clearly communicated and promoted to Australian screen practitioners. Of course we’re also communicating to government, media and other groups depending on the issue.

Screen Australia is the key Federal Government direct funding body for the Australian screen production industry. How does this affect the kind of PR you do and the sorts of information you share?

As the Federal Government’s key screen agency our job is to implement the policy of the government and part of my job is to ensure that these policies and programs are clearly communicated to all our stakeholders.

What are the most satisfying aspects of your work, and the most challenging or frustrating? 

I take great satisfaction from seeing the programs we fund achieve success and being able to promote that widely. The challenge of the job is always to present the human face of the screen agency and to make sure filmmakers understand that we’re open for business and that our business is supporting filmmakers.

One of the services we find most useful about the Screen Australia online media room is its up-to-date coverage of Australian film and television successes abroad (festival wins, awards, etc). Is it a challenge to update these in a timely manner, especially given time and language differences of a lot of the international festivals?

We have very good relationships with the festivals and are in close contact with them around film announcements so it’s relatively easy for us to coordinate issuing these communications quickly, although time differences can be a pain. Everything is so immediate now so you have to be on top of it.

As a member of the new Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts within the Media and PR Chapter, what would you like to see your chapter achieve through AACTA?

Repositioning the discussion around the success of Australian films beyond the local box office share.

Thanks for your time Teri, and we look forward, as always, to receiving your press releases!

You may also be interested in:

Screen Australia’s Media Releases.

What I wish you knew… Australian publicists give their top tips: Sarah Finney

What I wish you knew… Australian publicists give their top tips: Louise Helseltine

*The Media and PR chapter of AACTA is one of the 15 chapters of accredited screen professionals which constitute the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. This Media and PR chapter encompasses A-list agents, film writers, critics, marketing specialists and publicists. It’s this latter group of publicists that we’re showcasing in this new blog series.

Embracing Chaos and Making Hail. An interview with Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Michael Cody

Writer-director Amiel Courtin-Wilson & producer Michael Cody

By Rochelle Siemienowicz

It’s February 2011 and I’m meeting director Amiel Courtin-Wilson and producer Michael Cody for the first time in a sunny courtyard at the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival. They’ve just finished the final touches on their feature film Hail, with mere hours to spare before the film’s world premiere. They’re keen to get an early response to the media preview screening I’ve attended, and wonder how the (now infamous and very surreal) ‘falling horse scene’ has gone down with the first viewers. Having shot the extraordinary (and possibly illegal) footage the weekend before, they’d added it into the final edit, with minutes to spare. For the record, the ‘falling horse scene’ is a decidedly bold move – and a flashing red indicator that Hail is a stylistically ambitious art film rather than your average dirty realist Australian drama set in the world of drug addicts and ugly criminals.

When we talk, the pair are still “fully immersed” in the making of the film, according to producer Michael Cody. He’s a former academic turned journalist turned producer of films including Miracle Fish and Wish You Were Here, and has moved into directing, with his 2010 short film Foreign Parts. He’s an intense and reserved counterpart to the sociable and famously communal creature that is Amiel Courtin-Wilson. Along with other creatives, including Joel Anderson (Lake Mungo), they’ve created Flood Projects, a company founded with the intention of making “risk-taking, collaborative and experimental work.”

According to Cody, “from the time we decided to make this film together, it’s been full immersion. We’ve been living and working in the same house, 18 hours a day every day, and we haven’t had a single day off in about four months. We had no finance in place at the start, but we just kept on going making the film, acting as if we were going to get it, plowing ahead. Luckily we did, or we wouldn’t have met the deadlines that came with the money when it came through. It was  still a very low budget of about $500,000 – cobbled together from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, and the Adelaide Film Festival’s investment fund.”

Now, more than 18 months later, Hail is finally getting an Australian theatrical release, but the wait has been worth it, especially in terms of building anticipation and accumulating numerous awards, including the Age Critics Award for best Australian feature film at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.  Critical appreciation has included a recent review by Adrian Martin in The Monthly, which names Hail the standout Australian film of the year, “…a comet that seemed to shoot in from nowhere”.  Paolo Bertolin, director of the Venice International Film Festival, called it “one of the top 10 films of 2011.”

This is art…This is acting

A strange, poetic love story that turns into a wrenching tale of revenge and inner turmoil, Hail is distinguished by the extraordinarily naturalistic performances of the two lead actors, Daniel P. Jones and Leanne Letch. They play rough versions of themselves, improvising dialogue in response to a loosely plotted story arc.

In the film, as in life, Danny and Leanne are a middle-aged couple from the wrong sides of the tracks. They share a birthday, and they’ve been together as a tempestuous but passionate couple for more than a decade. In the film, they’re reunited after Danny gets out of prison. Their blissful reunion – complete with one of the most extraordinary vérité sex scenes you’re ever likely to see – is derailed by drugs, unemployment and shady contacts. Their beautifully ravaged faces – especially Jones’s piercing and hypnotic aqua blue eyes, together with their utterly convincing dialogue and real-life volatile affection burns through the screen, suggesting this may, in fact, be a slightly dramatised documentary rather than a fictional drama. But make no mistake. According to Courtin-Wilson, this is art, and Jones and Letch deserve to be credited, not just for their creative input in the project, providing source material and dialogue, but for their acting, which Courtin-Wilson emphasises is performance.

“Danny and Leanne absolutely created these performances out of the stories and experiences of their own lives,” Courtin-Wilson says. We’ve actually had professional actors come back to us after seeing the film and say that the authenticity of the performances has made them go back to their own craft and question what it is to be an actor, because they’re just so amazed by Danny and Leanne’s performances.”

Lovers in life and in HAIL – Daniel P. Jones and Leanne Letch.

Courtin-Wilson is particularly keen to point out the craft and skill involved in Jones’s storytelling and his performances – a skill that has seen Jones become one of the founding members of the Plan B Theatre Company for former prison inmates, and has also seen him cast for an upcoming US feature film Young Bodies Heal Quickly, in which he plays an Australian Vietnam veteran battling post traumatic stress.

Before Hail, Jones was previously the subject of Courtin-Wilson’s 2009 award-winning short documentary Cicada, about a shocking murder he witnessed in St Kilda as a child. “In the process of making that short film with Dan, I had hundreds of pages of transcribed interview material with stories and incidents from his life,” explained Courtin-Wilson. “And he just has this amazing turn of phrase. Danny is a kind of autodidact, a kind of jail cell philosopher. He’s equally comfortably quoting Oscar Wilde as he is describing some brutal street brawls going up in the south of St Kilda. In a performance sense, he also brings this extraordinarily honest and immediate way of relating to people. You can’t escape the laser beam of that, and personally I find it really intoxicating. But I don’t want to undermine in any way Danny’s intense preparation for his role in Hail. He spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in rehearsals and discussions, and it was this very rigorous process for him. It’s a strange contradiction, but he actually loves using schematics, diagrams and numbers when he’s planning his performance.”

“There’s a directness in the way in which guys that have spent time in jail will deal with you…”

Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Based in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, Amiel Courtin-Wilson is a filmmaker, photographer and artist who’s been making films ever since he picked up a Super 8 camera at the age of nine. He won the Longford Nova Award at the 1996 St Kilda Film Festival at the age of 17 and at 19 he wrote, directed and produced his feature debut documentary Chasing Buddha, about a Buddhist nun working with death row inmates in the US. The film premiered at Sundance and was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Direction. Since then, his films have included Bastardy (2008), the astonishing portrait of jailbird, cat-burglar, actor, heroin addict and Aboriginal activist Jack Charles. Shot over a seven year period encompassing the subject’s homelessness, incarceration and rehab, that film required extraordinary commitment from the filmmaker, not least to actually locate Charles in order to film his story.

“Compared to Jack Charles they were a breeze to shoot’ – lead actors Daniel P. Jones and Leanne Letch.

“Compared to Jack Charles, Dan and Leanne were a breeze to shoot!” says Courtin-Wilson with a laugh. “They live in one place, and they have telephones! Which is not to say it wasn’t challenging in many other ways.  Danny and Leanne can lead pretty hectic lifestyles sometimes, and it can be a bit insane, but we could make the film because we had this central location in their apartment, and because a lot of their friends, who are in the film, live in the neighbourhood, and we knew that even if they went AWOL for a day or two, we could shoot other material.”

Asked why he seems to have an affinity for characters who’ve spent time behind bars, Courtin-Wilson answers: “There’s a directness in the way in which guys that have spent time in jail will deal with you, that eschews all kind of social norms. In a sense they’re not interested in what you do but interested in who you are in that very moment in front of them. They’re so absolutely perceptive emotionally and kind of forensic in their ability to read you very quickly, because they’ve had to be, having been in so many situations where the stakes are such that if they read it wrong, they could die. There’s also that storytelling aspect, as Danny has said and Jack Charles too, that when you’re in the dock in front of a judge, there’s a certain kind of role-playing and storytelling involved.”

Fierce and mesmerising – Daniel P. Jones in HAIL

Embracing Chaos

Courtin-Wilson credits Cody with creating a flexible production schedule that could accommodate the haphazard lifestyles of the key performers. “The way Michael worked out the schedule was that there were a lot of floating scenes. So it was like, ‘Okay, we’ve lost this, but we can get this, this and this and this’. And that was a huge luxury because working with basically no light, and working with real locations, you could just literally steal a really beautiful moment of Leanne doing housework or Shelby the cat, or some of the more impressionistic, more experimental, textural parts of the film. We sort of willingly embraced the chaos and that made the story stay alive throughout the process.”

For all its haphazard elements – and as Cody says with a laugh “the investors may have been appalled if they’d seen how unruly the shoot got at times – a lot of criminals passed through our doors!” – there was nevertheless a very definite methodology at work both in the planning and execution of the project.

“There were key things that we wanted,” said Courtin-Wilson, “like shooting on 16mm and knowing that we wanted a really long editing period of 20 weeks in the edit. We worked with a really small crew of about four or five key crew and we had a 34-day shoot, which is actually pretty roomy for a film of our budget.”

Courtin-Wilson credits the naturalistic Belgian filmmaking duo, the Dardenne brothers, as a key inspiration. “I was fascinated by the way they work in as much as they will shoot 70 to 80 per cent of the film, edit it and get it to a rough cut, and then go back and not just re-shoot, not just doing pickups, but actually shooting another substantial proportion of the movie. So we did a similar thing. We shot for 23 days, got an assembly together and then based on how it was feeling, we then shot another week. It was an ongoing process. It’s always baffled me why you wouldn’t do that. It’s the way in which novels are created, with drafts, redrafts and going back and forth. It doesn’t make sense, this idea that the shooting process should be absolutely separate from the edit.”

God in all things…

The attempt to create “something grander and more lyrical…”

Both Cody and Courtin-Wilson are aware that depressing Australian films about criminals and junkies have a very dim reputation among both critics and audiences, and they’re keen to separate their work from this genre. Says Courtin-Wilson, “I was always very conscious of not wanting to make a kitchen sink drama. I really, really love the idea of taking the minutiae of day-to-day everyday lives and setting that against an almost mythical kind of backdrop and I was very conscious of making something a bit more epic and romantic, something grander and more lyrical in terms of the music and the cinematography. That idea of [philosopher] Spinoza’s is interesting – that God is in all things. That was actually my main direction to our cinematographer, Germain McMicking, ‘I just want God to reveal itself through the imagery’. I couldn’t give a fuck about being accused of being pretentious! I’d much rather aim for something grand and have it fail abysmally, than not have tried for something…”. Cody jumps in with the missing word: “Ecstatic!”

Hail is one of the 23 Feature Films in Competition for the 2nd AACTA Awards.  The film is in limited national release from 25 October. Website | Facebook | Vimeo

Hail – Fast Facts

  • Hail’s world premiere was at the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival on 28 February, 2011.
  • Hail’s international debut was at 2011 Venice Film Festival where it was the first Australian feature to be selected for ten years. The film has since screened at the 2012 Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Istanbul, Munich and Edinburgh International Film Festivals, as well as, most recently, the Melbourne International Film Festival where it was awarded the Age Critics Award, and the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal where it received the International Jury Prize.
  • Hail is the result of a five-year creative collaboration between Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Daniel P. Jones

Hail – Key Cast and Crew

Writer-Director: Amiel Courtin-Wilson
Producers: Michael Cody & Amiel Courtin-Wilson
Actors: Daniel P. Jones, Leanne Letch
Cinematographer: Germain McMicking
Editor: Peter Sciberras
Music Composer: Steve Benwell

Further Reading

– Great interview with Daniel P. Jones and Leanne Letch over at Inside Film.

– An interview by Alice Body at The Thousands, talking with Amiel Courtin-Wilson during the making of Hail in July 2010.