It’s on! The 2013 AACTA Awards Cycle is launched.


The search is on for Australia’s most outstanding film and television performers, practitioners and productions, with the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) calling for entries for the 2013 AACTA Awards.


Enter the AACTA Awards

Entries are now open across all categories: Feature Film; Short Animation; Short Fiction Film; Television; and Documentary.

The 2013 AACTA Awards include more than 50 Awards — recognising excellence across screen crafts including screenwriting, producing and acting, through to cinematography, composition and costume design. This year we are also introducing a new Award, the AACTA Award for Best Reality Television Series.

For information about 2013 AACTA Awards categories, eligibility criteria, deadlines and fees, and information on how to enter, click here.

Join a Jury

We are also now seeking AACTA Awards jurors – screen professionals from a cross-section of crafts, who come together to determine the nominees and winners for various Awards in the following categories: Feature Film Pre-Selection; Documentary; Television; Visual Effects; Young Actor; and Short Fiction Film and Short Animation.

AACTA Awards jurors determine AACTA Awards nominees and winners across a variety of categories, which many jurors find both rewarding and educational.

As the AACTA Awards are industry-assessed, jury positions are open to AACTA members only. This ensures that jurors are: screen industry professionals who have gone through an accreditation process to verify their experience and expertise; and those best qualified to recognise excellence in their field. It is not too late to become an AACTA member in order to join a jury.

To read more juror testimonials and to apply to become an AACTA Awards juror, see the Join a Jury page on the AACTA website.

Kieran Darcy-Smith’s Cinematic Oasis: The Homebake Cinema Pavilion

Actor, writer and director Kieran Darcy-Smith is the curator of the short film program held at the Homebake Cinema Pavilion each year.

You’ll recognise Kieran Darcy-Smith from the numerous and varied roles he’s played in Australian film and television – including key performances in features like September, Animal Kingdom and the multi-award winning short film Miracle Fish. On television, he’s appeared in everything from Water Rats to Going Home to Stupid Stupid Man and My Place. Yet Darcy-Smith has always been an actor with a keen interest in working behind the camera as well as in front of it. He’s one of the co-founders of the prolific Blue-Tongue Films collective (together with Nash and Joel Edgerton, David Michôd, Luke Doolan and Spencer Susser). He’s been steadily honing his craft by writing and directing short films and several of these have been remarkably successful – Bloodlock won the Most Popular Film award at the 1999 Flickerfest International Film Festival as well as the St Kilda Film Festival prize, while The Island won the 2000 Tropfest Tropicana Award. In a few months time, we’ll see Darcy-Smith’s feature film directorial debut – Wish You Were Here, starring Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer and Felicity Price.

Right now, however, Darcy-Smith is busy preparing for the 2011 Homebake Music Film and Arts Festival, held in The Domain, in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens on Saturday, 3 December. Darcy-Smith is the curator of the short film program – an involvement stretching back ten years to 2000, when the film component was introduced.

Roy Billing in Aden Young's 'The Rose of Ba Ziz'.

The Homebake Cinema Pavilion is a showcase of Australian and New Zealand short filmmaking talent – and unlike competitive festivals, the films need not be premieres. This year’s line-up includes classic and well-known shorts like Nash Edgerton’s Spider, Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s Cicada and Warwick Thornton’s Nana, as well as lesser-known titles – Russell Kilbey’s Rainman goes to RocKwiz; Aden Young’s The Rose of Ba Ziz; and Christopher Stollery’s Dik.

Here we chat to Darcy-Smith about the intricacies of curating the program, and the kinds of  short films that he loves – and hates. He also he paints a picture of what festival-goers can expect when they enter the quiet and darkened space of the Homebake Cinema Pavilion. And for those of you wondering what shooting his feature film on location in Cambodia was like, he makes it sound like it was both heaven and hell! Read on to find out more.

AFI: For those who’ve never been to Homebake before, can you describe how the cinema pavilion will fit in with the rest of the festival? Will it be hard to hear the films with the noise factor? What is the viewing venue actually like? How many screens, how much seating? Paint us a picture.

Kieran Darcy-Smith: Well, what began as a very modest, 50 seat, single screen, Beta tape arrangement in a canvas tent has now expanded somewhat. The last few years we’ve been based in the Pavilion Restaurant in the Domain – which we take over and re-dress/re-fit-out specifically for the event. It’s a great space and we’ve managed to design a screen and seating arrangement that makes full use of it. There are two large digital rear-projection screens (with a small live stage in between), two smaller plasma screens at either end of the room, state-of-the-art projection and audio to cater for both the films and the music acts – and the entire space is blacked out, with seating for around 150, plus loads of standing room. We’ve also configured things so as to pretty much eliminate the peripheral noise from the bands outside and it just all works really nicely. It’s comfortable and just a nice space to disappear to if you need to escape the music, the crowds or the weather for a while.

The set-up for the Homebake Cinema Pavilion. A space to escape the noise, the weather, the crowds..

AFI: How did the selection process work in terms of curating the program? Is there a call for entries? Do you have a team assisting you, or is it very much a personal project? Was it always a dead cert that a Blue Tongue film would be in there?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: The idea in the very beginning was just to provide a space for folks to relax away from the music and to enjoy some cool, locally-made short films. And of course there was always the bonus opportunity of our being able to promote any of our own work – which was something the promoters – as supporters of what we were doing and, I guess, of what we represented in terms of a local, pro-active arts collective – really encouraged us to do. So there’s always been something in the mix that’s come from Blue-Tongue, or that Blue-Tongue has some association with. It might be one or more of our short films, or the trailer and/or posters for an upcoming film. The selection process has become a little more tailored and specific over the years in terms of an overall charter I guess – but always, ultimately, it’s a clear-cut, two-way thing of keeping audiences entertained and happy throughout the day and promoting our local culture and filmmakers.

In terms of our own promotion this year we’ll be playing the trailer for my own upcoming feature, Wish You Were Here, (opening in March/April through Hopscotch) as well as repeating Nash’s Spider – which I’m repeating purely as it’s so often requested. That film is just so unbelievably popular and entertaining and people continue to want to see it, again and again. It’s kind of a bomb-proof audience pleaser.  In terms of the selection process in general – I essentially keep my ear to the ground over the 12 months between each Homebake, as well as email friends and colleagues who are attending a lot of short film festivals and try to gauge what’s been working for audiences and impressing folks. Often there are great new films out there but which have premiere restrictions and so we can’t screen them until the following year. Generally though there’ll be a strong handful of recent films from local filmmakers that I feel should be given as much exposure and awareness as possible, because I think they illuminate the incredible diversity of talent we have in this country. And Homebake provides a huge audience for their work. The films play in a repeat loop, so there’s a lot of people get a chance to see them throughout the day.

Daniel P. Jones in Amiel Courtin-Wilson's astonishing short film 'Cicada'.

Daniel P. Jones in Amiel Courtin-Wilson's astonishing short film 'Cicada'.

As well as the more recent films and the guaranteed crowd pleasers though (and on this crowd pleaser note, I always include a couple of the most popular Tropfest crowd pleasers from over the years; people simply love seeing them again), I do like to include early short films from filmmakers who have since gone on to work successfully as feature film or TV series directors and/or producers. I think these films provide a great source of inspiration as well as show how these filmmakers got their start. Over the years I’ve had films from Gregor Jordan, Greg Mclean, Rowan Woods, Sarah Watt, David Michod, Kriv Srenders, Glendyn Ivin and others. This year I’m repeating Cicada from Amiel Courtin-Wilson (Bastardy, Hail) and for a number of reasons: I think this Melbourne filmmaker is very special and original and brave – and I want people to be aware of his work. And Cicada is just such a great film in its own right; it’s strongly representative of the filmmaker’s individual approach and aesthetic and it’s extremely powerful, effective short-form story-telling. If enough people see Cicada and respond to it then they might look up some of this guy’s feature work. But he’s just one. Nana by Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah) is another great example. As is Carmichael and Shane’, by Rob Carlton and Alex Weinress (Chandon Pictures).

James Lee and Hania Lee's striking animation, 'Tarboy'.

On the flip-side, each year there’s one or more great films by newcomers that I have just stumbled upon and simply want to get in front of people. Tarboy (James Lee) is one this year – a beautifully realised short animation. And a very special 30-min documentary from Russell Kilby – Rainman Goes To Rockwiz.


AFI: As an accomplished and very experienced short filmmaker yourself, what is it that you love about the format of short films? And what is it that you hate?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: I love short films that successfully move me (could be laughter, despair, shame, fury, warmth, inspiration… whatever) but which also illuminate something very particular about the filmmakers involved; could be their visual style, writing style, sense of rhythm/musicality, subject-matter, approach to sound design or performance… whatever. I love the personal/idiosyncratic. But I also need to be entertained on a fairly base level and not bullshitted. There are basic principles inherent in any/all good story-telling and in order for me to keep watching a story on screen, long or short, then I have a (personal this is) need for those principles to be at play; for them to have been considered and successfully integrated – even if on a purely intuitive, sub-conscious level – by the creators. I don’t like indulgence – and I have a very short attention span. A short film might be just one shot, 15 mins long, of a brick wall. But if the filmmaker has somehow managed to keep me looking at the screen and, as a result, I’ve walked away at the end of it feeling satisfied and moved in some way – then good. It’s worked. (Kinda hard to imagine that happening though.) Basically, if you want it to work well, and by that I mean that you manage to hook an audience from the get-go, suspend them and carry them along for a bit before spitting them out the other end feeling satisfied and (ideally) moved, then a short film is a very difficult thing to write and to execute. So hats off to anyone who can do that. And I guess the ones that don’t do that, for me (and we are taking about art here, so it’s all subjective anyway…), then those are the ones I don’t like.

AFI: As you mentioned before, the beauty of this program is that these films don’t have to be premieres – in fact a lot of them have done the rounds and will be seen by Homebake audiences  for the second or third time. Is this a positive way of building a kind of Australasian short film canon?

An old audience favourite, 2006 Tropfest winner 'Carmichael & Shane', written, produced and directed by Alex Wienress and Rob Carlton (pictured).

Kieran Darcy-Smith: …the short answer is yes. The idea of including a handful of older, previously successful  films means that those works don’t disappear. When I think of the Australian feature film canon, I think of a broad cross-section of movies from across several decades. The same obviously applies to music, literature and to most of the arts in general. I don’t think shorts should just be a one-off experience for either the filmmakers or the audience. They can be (and should be) considered to be unique, independent and personal pieces of work; snapshots representative not only of their time, both culturally and actually, but, moreover, of the filmmakers at that stage in their career.

AFI: If you could pick one film from the lineup that readers should seek out for its challenging, surprising or ground-breaking material, what would it be?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: Aden Young’s The Rose of Ba Ziz is very special and very unique; a wonderfully realised, highly stylised/idiosyncratic, ultra-resourceful and clearly personal piece of short cinematic art. One to look out for. And if you haven’t already seen it then Cicada certainly meets all of your (above) criteria. Definitely unique and effective.

AFI: We’re really looking forward to seeing your feature film Wish You Were Here. What has been the most challenging thing for you as a director in the move from shorts to features? And what can tell us about where the film is at right now?

Kieran Darcy-Smith: Thanks. Can’t wait for you to see it. I can tell you that the film will be released by Hopscotch locally, and Level K internationally, early next year (March/April at this stage) and that I’m incredibly proud of it. It’s everything I ever wanted it to be, and more, and I absolutely, honestly, don’t have a single regret. Wouldn’t change a frame. I also have to say I just relished the entire process of making it. Every bit and piece: pre-production (one of the happiest times of my life), shooting, cutting, sound, music, grading, titles, trailer, poster, the lot. Loved it. Didn’t want it to end. Of course there were challenges right throughout (fell into a sewer up to my neck on my first day in Cambodia; my Two-year-old fell out of bed onto his face on the concrete floor of our hotel room and smashed his teeth out; my wife and I both had dysentery and the flu concurrently, for a long time, umm….) but in a mad kind of way I really enjoyed them (the challenges) as well. Not sure what it was, but I really did get off on the pressure and the stakes. I’ve never felt more alive, put it that way.

Wish You Were Here

Still from 'Wish You Were Here', starring L-R: Felicity Collins, Antony Starr, Teresa Palmer & Joel Edgerton.

But….to answer your question: the most challenging thing for me, or for any director moving from shorts to a feature film is script. You have to have one. And if you’re not being given one then you have to find a story (not easy) and write it yourself. And it takes a long time to learn how to do that well. So, you kind of have to do your laps. But if you hang in there and you’re patient and dogged and passionate about why you’re doing it (and you’ve made sure to check with objective/outside opinion re whether or not you’re deluding yourself; i.e. not everyone can write a screenplay) – then it’ll all come together eventually. Certainly it  took me a long while. But yeah, script. 100%. Fundamentally the greatest challenge for anyone who wants to get a feature film off the ground.

AFI: Thanks for your time and good luck with the Homebake program!

The Homebake Classic Edition 2011 takes place Saturday, 3 December in Sydney’s Domain.

For Indiewire‘s ‘First Look’ at Wish You Were Here, click here.

Congratulations to the Non Feature Nominees for the Inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards

Last week (on Wednesday, 30 August) the first Nominees for the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards were revealed  –  the nominees for Best Feature Length Documentary, Best Short Animation, Best Short Fiction Film. You can read about these films, and find production notes for them, over here on the AACTA website, but just as a reminder, here they are listed again. Congratulations to all those involved in these productions.

The Nominees are:

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY

  • Life In Movement. Sophie Hyde, Bryan Mason
  • Mrs Carey’s Concert. Bob Connolly, Helen Panckhurst, Sophie Raymond
  • Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure. Sophie Hyde, Matthew Bate
  • The Tall Man. Darren Dale

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT ANIMATION

  • Forget Me Not. Emily Dean
  • The Missing Key. Garth Nix, Anna McFarlane, Jonathan Nix
  • The Moment. Justin Wight, Kristian Moliere, Troy Bellchambers, Shane McNeil
  • Nullarbor. Alister Lockhart, Patrick Sarell, Katrina Mathers, Merrin Jensen, Daryl Munton

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FICTION FILM

  • Adam’s Tallit. Justin Olstein, Marie Maroun
  • Cropped. Bettina Hamilton, Dave Wade
  • The Palace. Kate Croser, Anthony Maras, Andros Achilleos
  • The Telegram Man. James F. Khehite, Victoria Wharfe McIntyre
AACTA and AFI members, as well as the film loving general public will be able to see these films on the big screen (along with the 23 Feature Films in Competition) at the Samsung AFI | AACTA Festival of Film, to be held in Sydney and Melbourne from 6 October to 14 November. The winners will be announced at the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards to be held in Sydney in January 2012.

In subsequent blog posts we’ll look at each of the three categories, and showcase clips, posters, film stills and extra information on each of the nominated titles.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at the nominated Feature Length Documentaries. Stay tuned.

AFI GIVEN GO AHEAD FOR ‘AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY’

The Australian Film Institute (AFI) has announced that it will launch an ‘Australian Academy’ in order to improve national and international recognition of Australia’s screen practitioners.

Industry Consultation Forum - Sydney

Industry Consultation Forum - Sydney

The move comes following overwhelming support for the AFI’s proposed changes, with key industry organisations and 84 percent of screen industry members surveyed supporting the core principals of the Academy.

AFI CEO Damian Trewhella says, “The ‘Australian Academy’ will draw upon some of the well recognised and understood elements of the AMPAS (USA) and BAFTA (UK) models, while tailoring these to meet local  industry needs and traditions, and to ensure that our Awards are still distinctly Australian.

“By drawing on international models, we anticipate greater recognition both here and abroad for Australia’s most talented screen practitioners.  We envisage that this will lead to greater opportunities for those working in the industry, as well as greater audience recognition and connection with Australian screen content.”

The Academy, which is yet to be named, will comprise of accredited professional members only. Trewhella also confirmed that the AFI would retain its name in recognition of the strong heritage of both Australian screen culture and the Institute itself, and all past AFI Awards nominees and winners will be recognised under the new Academy.

One of the key changes to take place under the new Academy is the establishment of an “Honorary Council” consisting of key industry members, including representatives from each of the crafts and Guilds.

The Honorary Council will explore new ways to identify and recognise excellence in each industry craft, as well as ways to increase the national and international prestige of Australia’s film and television awards.

According to AFI Chair, Alan Finney, “A key driver behind the proposed Academy and Honorary Council is a desire to be inclusive of and to better represent all screen professions.  Ultimately we want to foster a community which connects those working within the industry, but which also connects our screen enthusiast public with the industry and the fantastic content being creating.”

The move follows a 12 month AFI review that culminated in an industry consultation period last month. Areas identified for further discussion include the need to explore ways in which the industry can better support students and early career industry professionals, and greater inclusion of new media within the industry.

Clarity regarding general membership entitlements were also raised, with Trewhella commenting:

“Connecting with the ever-important screen enthusiast community remains an integral part of the AFI remit, and we are committed to nurturing our general member base and the Australian public by continuing to engage them with great Australian content.”

When asked about the timing of the new Academy, Trewhella said:

“Based on the overwhelming industry support we have received, we are now confident that we are moving in the right direction, and therefore that we can move briskly to establish the initial phase of the Academy.

“However, we also recognise the ongoing duty to continue to work with industry leaders to ensure that the policies of both the new Academy and the AFI are as relevant as possible to the interests of our talented screen industry and the demands of its audiences.”

Flickerfest director Bronwyn Kidd talks up short films.

“The freshest, most innovative and independent platform for storytelling in cinema today.” Flickerfest director Bronwyn Kidd talks up short films.

Bronwyn Kidd has been the director of the Flickerfest short film festival for the past 14 years, but her enthusiasm for the form remains undimmed. She’s curated hundreds of national and international short film programs and participated in juries and conferences all over the world. Short film festivals may be a dime a dozen, but Flickerfest is special for a number of reasons – from its national touring program, to its Academy® Award accreditation and BAFTA recognition. Then there’s the Flickerfest Short Film Bureau, established in 2002 to distribute  Australian short films internationally.

Bronwyn Kidd Headshot

Flickerfest Director Bronwyn Kidd

This year Flickerfest celebrates its 20th birthday with a showcase DVD full of films that have received major international recognition.  Highlights include work from directors like David Michod, Warwick Thornton, Cate Shortland, Nash Edgerton and Sean Byrne – lots of evidence that this festival knows how to pick early talent.

Here we talk to Bronwyn Kidd about why the short film format endures, why they’re not just a training ground for L-Plate filmmakers, and the avenues to sell short films to the international market.

Q: What is it that you love about the short film format? And is it hard to maintain the passion after so many years?

I love short films because they are the freshest, most innovative and independent platform for storytelling in cinema today. Filmmakers can experiment, play with form and tell stories of immediate cultural relevance  without the years of process  that it takes to produce a feature film, and the editorial and creative interference that comes into play when big budgets and commercial concerns are at stake. For these reasons it’s not hard for me to maintain my passion for short films over the years, I’m constantly surprised and I never get bored watching them.

Q: What do you say to people who argue that short films are merely a training ground for L-plate filmmakers?

Like short stories, some subjects and ideas lend themselves perfectly to the short film form and it takes a lot of talent to make a great short film work. For me, short film is not a means to an end; it is an art form within itself and should therefore hold this legitimate place within cinema culture.

Q: What are the key avenues for international distribution of the films in the Flickerfest Short Film Bureau?

Flickerfest is distributing Australian short films to broadcasters across the world through our many contacts built up since 2002 when we opened the distribution arm of our activity. Certainly there is a great market for Australian shorts in Europe particularly across broadcast platforms which have the most lucrative returns for short film and the biggest appetite for them in the world . Travelling to markets such as Clermont Ferrand and  World Wide Short Film Festival in Toronto keeps us up to date with the short film market globally and maintains the important contacts and relationships required to market Australian short films to the world.

Q: As director of Flickerfest for the last 14 years, what are the most exciting changes you’ve noticed in terms of short filmmaking?

I think that the short films being produced have become more sophisticated as the short film format has grown in popularity. From an Australian perspective, the stories that we are producing seem to be becoming better crafted with higher production values and more innovative storytelling each year. The gag film trend is less and less noticeable, so I guess that heralds maturity in our short film making not so evident in the early days. I am also noticing that filmmakers now see the value in producing three or four short films that demonstrate their craft and skills before they go on to make a feature. This engagement with the short film as a crucial  tool in developing a career is an important element in the future strength and success of our local film industry.

Q: What achievements are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of Flickerfest becoming Australia’s only Academy® Accredited short film festival in 2002 and of our BAFTA recognition achieved this year,  both of which ensure our ongoing  international profile, a record of almost 1800 entries received for 2011 and the very high standard of competition that we are able to present. Locally, growing the touring venues across Australia from three in 1997 to 30 venues this year, and creating greater access for national audiences to see quality Australian and international short films is fantastic.

Our TV show Flickerfest on EXTRA, on Movie EXTRA, 20th anniversary DVD produced with Madman and other distribution activities are instrumental in bringing short films out of the festival arena and into the faces of wider audiences across Australia.

Q: As a participant on many juries what are you looking for when you judge a short film?

A great short film should be surprising and innovative in the story that it tells and the creative form that it takes, ultimately making you see the world in a different way.

Q: What are the highlights on this anniversary edition DVD and why should we buy it?

Containing 23 classic award-winning Australian short films our DVD is jam-packed with Flickerfest favourites and is the quintessential 2 disc collection for lovers of short film. A few highlights for me include David MichÔd’s Crossbow, Warwick Thornton’s Nana, the hilarious Crystal Bear winning Franswa Sharl, quirky short doc Dance Like Your Old Man by Chunky Move and the thrilling action packed animation Ward 13. It demonstrates just how much talent exists in this country amongst our  wonderfully creative and innovative storytellers.

On a personal note, we ask Bronwyn Kidd to take the AFI Quick Quiz. Notice how she manages to eventually bring it all back to short films!

  1. What is your favorite word? passion
  2. What is your least favorite word? Stress
  3. What turns you on? Discovering great short films and being able to share them with audiences across Australia.
  4. What turns you off? Not having enough hours in the day.
  5. What sound or noise do you love? The sound of the ocean.
  6. What sound or noise do you hate? Garbage trucks at 5am in the morning!
  7. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Naturopathy I’m very interested in alternative health
  8. What profession would you not like to do? Parachutist – I have incredible vertigo and a very bad fear of heights.
  9. The last film or DVD you watched? Australian thriller Red Hill by Patrick Hughes on a plane during one of the many flights involved in The Flickerfest national tour and I loved it!
  10. The film that changed you, and why? Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. I attempted a short film remake at university which is laughably dreadful, but still it ignited my  passion for film which I’ve had ever since.
  11. Your guilty television pleasure? Midsomer Murders on the ABC. Very daggy I know, but I do like a good mystery and it always amazes me how many people can be killed in one small village.
  12. The Flickerfest 20th Anniversary DVD is available now from Madman, here.

  13. Three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you? Gillian Armstrong – a fabulous Australian director and patron and very generous supporter of Flickerfest. And Aunties Lorna Kelly, Yvonne Graham and Linda Vidler – three incredibly strong Indigenous women from Byron Bay northern NSW, now sadly passed away, with whom I had the great pleasure of working with over four years on my documentary Walking With My Sisters. The film followed their Native title claim, and they taught me never to give up and  to fight for what you believe in.
  14. Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is…the enormous amount of support, generosity and friendship that is extended by experienced film practitioners and facilities providers to emerging filmmakers a nd to festivals such as ours that provide a platform for their work.  Without this support it would be impossible for Flickerfest to be celebrating our 20th birthday this year. Thanks everyone!
Flickerfest 20th Anniversary DVD

Flickerfest 20th Anniversary DVD

The Flickerfest national tour is currently under way with the following locations still to come:

  • Hobart (17-18 Mar);
  • Blue Mountains (18-20 Mar);
  • Esperance (18 Mar);
  • Cygnet (19 Mar);
  • Queenstown (19 Mar);
  • Wyalkatchem (19 Mar);
  • Canowindra (26 Mar);
  • Canberra (26-27 Mar).