About Sarah Finney

AFI Media, Industry & Membership Manager

AFI Quick Quiz: Melissa Bergland

Melissa Bergland

Melissa Bergland burst onto our television screens this year as the irrepressible Jenny Gross, one of the four principal characters in the new Seven Network drama series Winners & Losers. “Jenny is the underdog,” Melissa says. “For her, life is about turning lemons into lemonade. It’s how you deal with your problems that count; it either makes you a stronger person or it breaks you.”

While Melissa only has a few screen credits to her name, the Flinders University graduate and former VCA Drama student also trained in New York and appeared in the New York Community Festival’s production of Fat Camp. Returning to Australia, Melissa presented her own cabaret show Blue Eyed Soul at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Melissa also appeared in Underbelly Files: Tell the Lucifer Was Here and the new film from the director of The Jammed, Who Wants To Be A Terrorist!

Melissa was in the final stages of auditions for Hairspray the Musical when she was asked to audition for Jenny, the role “she was born to play” in Winners & Losers. Here are Melissa’s answers to the AFI Quick Quiz:

Q. What is your favorite word?

A. Lush

Q. What is your least favourite word?

A. Moist

Q. What turns you on?

A. Good music!

Q. What turns you off?

A. A weak handshake

Q. What sound or noise do you love?

A. My back cracking

Q. What sound or noise do you hate?

A. Sloppy chewing sound

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Winners & Losers

L-R: Virginia Gay, Melanie Vallejo, Melissa Bergland and Zoe Tuckwell-Smith

A. Interior design

Q. What profession would you not like to do?

A. Working in an abbatoir

Q. The last film or DVD you watched?

A. New York, I Love You

Q. The film that changed you and why?

A. Amelie. It made me believe and take note of the little magical happenings of everyday life.

Q. Your guilty television pleasure?

A. Probably shows like MTV Cribs, Pimp My Ride and Toddlers & Tiaras

Q. Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is…

A.  The people. It’s very easy to form and maintain relationships with people in this industry, because it’s an industry everyone has chosen for themselves. Sometimes the job is hard, with long hours and physically and emotionally draining, and there’s no way people would do it if they didn’t absolutely love it!

Q. Three key mentors that have inspired you?

A.  My Year 12 Drama teacher Julianne English, she was always supportive and had faith from my high school days that I’d be a working actor one day. The actress Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love).  She has a luminescence on screen that I strive to emulate.  She’s also been working away quietly in the industry, making clever career moves and never being too caught up in the fame aspect of the job. I find her interesting, humble and professional.  My co-stars: Melanie, Virginia and Zoe inspire me on a daily basis. Working with them makes me want to do better, be better.

Winners & Losers screens Tuesdays, 8.30pm on the Seven Network.

Call for Entries

The AFI is now accepting entries for the 2011 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards in all categories: Short Animation, Short Fiction Film, Documentary, Television and Feature Film.

The AFI Awards are held each year to celebrate excellence in Australian film and television. These are the most prestigious and recognised screen entertainment awards in Australia. The recent and continuing successes of local content, on big and small screens alike, is already generating significant anticipation ahead of what’s likely to be another intensely competitive awards season.

AFI Chair, Alan Finney, said of this year’s call for entries:

“Preparations for the 2011 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards are well underway, as we get ready to host the AFI Awards in Sydney for the first time in over a decade. 2011 is shaping up as another exhilarating year for the screen industry, with an exciting string of films and television series in production. Following the international success of Australians at the Oscars, BAFTAs and Emmys, and with the AFI Awards moving to Sydney, this is an especially important year for the AFI and the Australian screen industry.”

For further details on how to enter the 2011 Samsung Mobile AFI Awards including entry dates, fees and eligibility criteria, go to www.afi.org.au/enter

To become a fully accredited professional AFI member with professional voting rights visitwww.afi.org.au/join

Vale John Bowring ACS

John Bowring ACS

The AFI was saddened to hear of the sudden passing of cinematographer John Bowring ACS  over the weekend. John, with his wife Sue, was the owner of screen facilities company LEMAC.

Ron Johanson, National President of the Australian Cinematographers Society, paid tribute to John Bowring ACS:

“John was a working cinematographer and owner of Lemac with his wife Sue. He was a truly generous supporter of the ACS and the whole Australian Film & Television Industry. If a job needed doing, JB would see it was done. If a problem needed solving, JB solved it. If someone needed helping, JB would help.

John will be missed by all those he touched with his wisdom, his intellect, his single mindedness and his generosity of spirit. He has left a gap that will take some time to fill, if at all.”

Johanson announced that the 2011 ACS National Awards will be dedicated to the memory of Bowring, “as a mark of respect for his contribution to the field of cinematography”.

John Bowring is survived by his wife Sue and their children, Jack and Kate.

Those of us at the AFI have warm memories of working with the LEMAC in the past, and in particular, attending screenings and rushes in the LEMAC Theatrette.

Read more about John Bowring’s life and work at Encore, Screen Hub and TV Tonight.

Postscript: the ACS are holding a Memorial Service to celebrate the life of John Bowring on Tuesday 3rd May, 4.00pm at Melbourne Docklands Studios, Studio 2, Docklands Drive. Celebration to follow. To RSVP email mandy@lemac.com.au.

Vale Esben Storm (1950 – 2011)

The AFI was saddened by the sudden death of actor, director, producer and writer Esben Storm at the age of sixty yesterday.

Esben Storm

Esben Storm on the set of Round the Twist, courtesy of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation

The Australian screen industry has lost one of its great, but perhaps quietest, achievers. Esben Storm worked across film, television and documentary, both behind the camera and in front of it.

Esben Storm and producer Haydn Keenan were in their early 20s when they made their first feature 27A in 1974. Based on a true story 27A followed the experiences of an alcoholic man in the Queensland prison system. Storm would return to similar terrain two decades later in Deadly. 27A starred Robert McDarra, Bill Hunter and Richard Moir. Richard Moir would go onto be a frequent collaborator, appearing in In Search of Anna, Deadly, Winners and More Winners. 27A won the AFI Award for Best Film and Best Actor for Robert McDarra, who died the following year. You can read Paul Byrnes’ commentary here.

While some will remember the multi-AFI Award nominated feature In Search of Anna (1979) that won Esben Storm an AFI Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1979, it is his taut 1992 thriller Deadly, about Aboriginal deaths in custody starring Jerome Ehlers, Frank Gallacher and John Moore, that left a lasting impression. Deadly tackled the issue of racial tension in a frank manner and was one of the first screen explorations of the often harsh treatment of Indigenous people by the police and authorities. Deadly was nominated for two AFI Awards.

Esben Storm’s greatest legacy, however, was his extensive work in children’s television drama, often in association with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, notably on one of Australia’s most loved children’s series Round the Twist. Based on the books by Paul Jennings, Round the Twist starred Richard Moir, Mark Mitchell, Jeffrey Walker and an engaging young cast. A generation of Australian children was entertained and inspired by the tales of a family living in lighthouse where strange and exciting things happened.

Esben Storm also directed episodes of other significant children’s television series, most notably Touch the Sun: Devil’s Hill (1988) based on Nan Chauncy’s classic novel and the teen drama Winners (1985) and More Winners (1990) – all of which were screened in many a middle school classroom. More recently Storm directed the SBS drama series Kick (2007) which helped launched the careers of actors Zoe Ventoura, Firass Dirani and Natasha Cunningham.

Also a gifted character actor, Esben Storm was last seen in All Saints and has more than 26 films and TV series to his credit.

AFI Chair, Alan Finney said:

I am saddened by Esben’s passing but have fond memories of his energetic passion since first meeting him in the early 1970’s when he was part of an exciting time that created a revitalized local production industry.

Esben remained as enthusiastic about making films all his life and would unashamedly and delightfully share his latest project plans with me, never allowing the reality of the difficulty of getting films made to deter his commitment to achieve this.

He will be missed and will be remembered as a role model for future generations of Australian filmmakers.

Esben Storm is survived by his wife and two children.

See also obituaries by Screen Hub and Encore, video clips at Australian Screen Online and Past AFI Award winners.