Focus on the Television Nominees: Part 2 – Direction and Screenplay

In Part 1 of our Focus on the Television Nominees for this year’s Samsung AACTA Awards, we profiled the producers who are nominated this year for Best Television Drama Series and Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series. Here we look at the nominees for the AACTA Awards for Best Direction in Television and Best Screenplay in Television.

Here we turn the spotlight onto the writers and the directors nominated in the television categories. It goes without saying that they’re integral to the stories we enjoy watching on the small screen, and yet they’re often in the shadows. It is perhaps unsurprising that the nominees this year in these categories are almost all seasoned professionals with rich, long credit lists – and many an AFI Award on their collective mantlepieces. Read on to find out more.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION IN TELEVISION

And the nominees are:

Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo – Episode 1. Daina Reid. ABC1
The Slap – Episode 1 ‘Hector’. Jessica Hobbs. ABC1
The Slap – Episode 3 ‘Harry’. Matthew Saville. ABC1
Small Time Gangster – Episode 1 ‘Jingle Bells’. Jeffrey Walker. FOXTEL – Movie Network

Since leaving her acting and comedy days behind her, director Daina Reid has quickly established herself as an in-demand director of television (including episodes of City Homicide, Rush, Offspring and the upcoming Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries). Last year, Reid also directed her first feature film, the romantic comedy I Love You Too. (Our 2010 AFI interview with Reid  ‘From Actor to Director’ is here.)  With Paper Giants, Reid brought a snappy pace, a great sense of timing and a finely tuned eye for performance to this fact-based girl-powered story. This is Daina Reid’s second AFI | AACTA nomination – her first nomination was in 2008 for her work as director on Satisfaction, Series 1.

Jessica Hobbs is an accomplished director of high quality television drama, with credits including Heartbreak High, Curtin, Tangle, Spirited, My Place, and of course two episodes of The Slap this year – the stage-setting first episode ‘Hector’ for which she is nominated, and the second episode, ‘Anouk’. Hobbs is also an executive producer on Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. She was nominated for her first AFI Award in 2004 (Best Short Fiction Film – So Close to Home) and has twice won the AFI Award for Best Direction in Television – in 2005 for Love My Way, and in 2006 for Answered by Fire. Jessica Hobbs is also one of the honorary councillors (Directing Chapter) in the newly formed Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA).

Like Jessica Hobbs, Matthew Saville is also nominated for his direction of episodes of The Slap  (‘Harry’ and ‘Sophie’). With a background in graphic design and advertising, Saville first came to notice in the 1990s when his short films revealed him to be a highly literate and original writer-director. Franz & Kafka won the 1997 Melbourne International Film Festival’s Best Australian Short Comedy award, while the melancholy comedy Roy Hollsdotter Live earned Saville an AFI nomination for Best Short Fiction Film in 2003.  His other television credits include The Secret Life of Us, The Surgeon, Tangle and We Can be Heroes – the latter for which he was nominated in 2005 for Best Direction in Television. In 2007, Saville was nominated again, for both direction and screenplay for his debut feature film Noise, but he won that year for another project – the telefeature based on the life of Graham Kennedy, The King. Click here to view a short video interview in which Saville talks about his recent work on The Slap. (We should probably also mention that Saville is director of all six hours of the AACTA nominated mini series Cloudstreet.)

At the tender age of 29, Jeffrey Walker has a huge IMDB listing, explained in part because of his early career as a very successful child actor. He appeared in shows like Round the Twist, Blue Heelers and Ocean Girl. At the age of eight he appeared as the ‘young Martin’ in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Proof – a fact we realised when he turned up to our 20 year anniversary screening of the film in Melbourne! Walker received the 1997 AFI Young Actor Award for his work in The Wayne Manifesto, but has since changed careers to directing after getting a start as an assistant producer to prolific children’s television creator Jonathan M. Shiff (who happens to be nominated this year for H2O: Just Add Water, Series 3). Jeffrey Walker’s directorial credits in television include: Rake; Wild Boys; the upcoming Jack Irish telemovies, starring Guy Pearce; and of course Small Time Gangster for which he is here nominated. Walker was also nominated in 2010 for Best Direction in Television for his work on the acclaimed teen series Dance Academy.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY IN TELEVISION

And the nominees are:

Cloudstreet – Part 3. Tim Winton, Ellen Fontana. FOXTEL – Showcase
Laid – Episode 3. Kirsty Fisher. ABC1
The Slap – Episode 1 ‘Hector’. Kris Mrksa. ABC1
The Slap – Episode 3 ‘Harry’. Brendan Cowell. ABC1

Tim Winton is a best-selling and much awarded writer of novels and short stories, many of which have been adapted into films, plays, or television series (That Eye the Sky, In the Winter Dark, the Lockie Leonard series, to name just a few). But it is Cloudstreet, the vast and rambling family saga novel, set in Perth from the 1940s, for which Winton is best known. Published in 1991, and winning the Miles Franklin Award in 1992, the book was voted Australia’s favourite book by ABC audiences in 2003. Now the novel has been adapted into a three-part six-hour mini series by Tim Winton, working together with US screenwriter Ellen Fontana. The producers of Cloudstreet have put together a great series of interviews and videos about the process of adapting the book, including great footage of Winton talking about why he was the least ‘attached’ person to adapt it – the person least likely to treat the book as a ‘sacred text’. You can find the interviews here. This is the first AFI | AACTA nomination for both Tim Winton and Ellen Fontana.

Screenwriter Kirsty Fisher wears a lot of hats when it comes to her role on comedy series Laid. Not only did she write the script, but is credited as co-creator and co-producer alongside her creative partner Marieke Hardy (Liz Watts of Porchlight Films is executive producer). Fisher has been working in television for many years as a script editor and screenwriter, with credits including H20 Just Add Water, Winners & Losers and Silversun. This is her first AFI |  AACTA nomination. You can read Paul Kalina’s Age interview with Kirsty Fisher and Marieke Hardy here.

Kris Mrksa is an AFI and AWGIE Award winning screenwriter whose credits include East West 101, Underbelly, Packed to the Rafters, Carla Cametti PD and The Secret Life of Us. He also co-wrote the telemovie The King (with Jaime Browne). Mrksa won his first AFI Award in 2001 for Best Screenplay in a Short Film (Sparky D Comes to Town), and his second AFI Award in 2009 for Best Screenplay in Television (Underbelly). This year he is nominated for his work on the first episode of The Slap – ‘Hector’. He also wrote the ‘Manolis’ episode – which anecdotally is for many audience members and readers a favourite section of both the novel and the series.

Brendan Cowell is an award winning actor, playwright and screenwriter. On television he has played hilarious handyman ‘Todd’ in SBS comedy series Life Support and the self destructive chef  ‘Tom’ in Foxtel’s Love My Way, while on film, he has played the central roles in Noise, Beneath Hill 60, I Love You Too and the upcoming comedy drama about amateur cricketers, Save Your Legs – on which he is also screenwriter. Cowell has written a number of plays and a novel, as well as episodes of Love My Way, and of course two episodes of The Slap – ‘Harry’ and ‘Richie’. He is nominated for the former. (Interestingly, Cowell also appears on screen in the ‘Richie’ episode where he plays ‘Craig’ – Richie’s lovable ocker dad.) Cowell has been nominated twice before for an AFI Award – in 2007 for Best Lead Actor in Noise, and in 2010 for Best Lead Actor in Beneath Hill 60.

To see video interviews with both Kris Mrksa and Brendan Cowell talking about their work on The Slap, click here.

So there they are: the directors and the writers who are up for AACTA Awards this year for their work in television. The winners of these two awards will be announced at the Samsung AACTA Awards Ceremony on Tuesday 31 January 2012, and broadcast on the Nine Network.

Stay tuned for Part 3, where we’ll take a closer look at the nominees for Best Lead Actor and Actress in a Television Drama, and Best Guest or Supporting Actor and Actress in a  Television Drama.

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