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

susan-prior FB live chat image

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.

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.

Bill Hunter, the big Australian

Vale William John “Bill” Hunter,  1940 – 2011

Bill Hunter, Mel Gibson & William Anderson at the AFI Awards in 1981

Bill Hunter, Mel Gibson and William Anderson at the AFI Awards in 1981, where Hunter won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for 'Gallipoli'.

“(Acting) is a job. It is a craft, but there’s no art involved. Anyone who says there’s any more to it than that, is full of bullshit. That upsets the purists but never mind, they don’t work as much as I do.” – Bill Hunter

The Australian Film Institute mourns the loss of AFI Award winning actor Bill Hunter on Saturday 21 May 2011. He was aged 71. AFI Chair Alan Finney says: “It was my honour to work with Bill Hunter on many films and whether big or modest productions, he was always a professional.  His passion for our Industry and his strong personality has made him a powerful influence on us all. He played a most significant part in the success and credibility of our films over many years.”

Here Sarah Finney remembers and celebrates a great actor and a mate to many.

A stalwart of the Australian screen, Bill Hunter appeared in over 100 film and television productions over the past fifty years.

One of Australia’s greatest actors, Bill Hunter personified the Australian character. In a prolific career he starred in some of Australia’s most celebrated films and television series, creating some of the Australian screen’s most enduring and iconic characters.

While younger audiences will be most familiar with Bill Hunter from his roles in Strictly Ballroom, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Muriel’s Wedding, Hunter got his start in 1959 with a small role in Stanley Kramer’s adaptation of Nevil Shute’s classic novel On the Beach which starred Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and Ava Gardner.

Hunter then appeared in a number of TV series in the 1960s and early 1970s, most notably Spyforce, Division 4, Homicide and later Prisoner (1979).

At the forefront of the Renaissance

Hunter was at the forefront of the Australian cinema renaissance, appearing in Esben Storm’s 27A (one of his first leading roles), The Man from Hong Kong, Eliza Fraser, Mad Dog Morgan (his first AFI Award nominated performance), Backroads and In Search of Anna before taking on the role that would make him a star.

In 1978, Hunter played the starring role of Len Maguire in Philip Noyce’s Newsfront. Newsfront is set in the late 1940s and follows Cinetone newsreel cameraman Len and his colleagues during a time of great political and social change in Australia. Considered by many to be Australia’s finest film, Newsfront won 8 AFI Awards that year including Best Film. Hunter received his second AFI Award nomination and first win for Best Actor in a Lead Role.

Hunter went straight back to work, appearing in Hard Knocks (1980) and …Maybe This Time (1981).

Hunter soon followed up Newsfront with a pivotal role in another iconic Australian film Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981). Hunter played Major Barton, appearing in perhaps the most memorable final scene in Australian film history, for which he won his third AFI Award nomination and second win for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Gallipoli was followed by a string of film and television roles including Far East and he teamed up again with director Philip Noyce on Heatwave and The Dismissal. The Dismissal heralded the era of the great Australian mini-series and Hunter went onto appear in many of them including Scales of Justice, The Last Bastion, Eureka Stockade and A Fortunate Life. (Indeed it was this flourishing of television production in the early 1980s that led to the establishment of the AFI Awards for Television in 1986. In 1989 Hunter starred in the telemovie Police State, receiving his fourth AFI nomination and third win, for Best Lead Actor in a Telefeature that same year. Around this time Hunter was also in Rikky & Pete and Mull. Next came Esben Storm’s Deadly, mini-series The Leaving of Liverpool, Phoenix and Police Rescue.

A beloved fixture in the 1990s

In 1992 Hunter appeared in two of the most high profile Australian films that year, Gillian Armstrong’s The Last Days of Chez Nous (for which he was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Baz Lurhmann’s Strictly Ballroom.

Hunter was next seen in Broken Highway, Shotgun Wedding, The Custodian and mini-series Stark. Hunter then shot two films back-to-back, Stephan Elliott’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and P.J. Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding. For some it’s the ABBA songs and similar ‘grotesque’ style that links these two films. For me it is Bill Hunter. In Priscilla, he played mechanic Bob, a fair dinkum Aussie bloke eking out an existence in the Outback. In Muriel’s Wedding, Bill played Bill Heslop, the big man in a small town who has little time for his wife and children.

Not surprisingly, Bill Hunter was again nominated for an AFI Award for his performance in Muriel’s Wedding. (The 1994 AFI Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role went to Hunter’s contemporary Max Cullen for Spider & Rose.)

As always, Hunter continued to work in film and television. He appeared in Blue Murder, Everynight… Everynight, River Street, Frontier, Road to Nhill, SeaChange and The Violent Earth to name a few.

Fittingly Hunter appeared in Russell Mulcahy’s television remake of On the Beach, in the small role of Prime Minister Smeaton.

The voice behind the face

In 2003 Hunter starred in Crackerjack, Bad Eggs and Horseplay and was one of the few Australian actors to ‘be heard’ in Pixar’s Finding Nemo.

Indeed, if Hunter is one of the most recognisable faces of the Australian screen, he is also without a doubt one of Australia’s most recognisable voices. Over the years Hunter has lent himself to many an advertising campaign, most famously as the face of BHP ‘the Big Australian’, the Keating Government’s Working Nation campaign, ALP campaigns and most recently for the AFL.

More film and television roles followed throughout the 2000s notably Tom White, The Square, Australia, The Pacific and most recently he lent his voice to the animated feature Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.

And we haven’t seen the last of his roles…

Hunter will be next seen in the soon to be released Kriv Stenders’ Red Dog, Simon Wincer’s The Cup (playing another legend, trainer Bart Cummings) and Amanda Jane’s The Wedding Party.

Hunter’s contribution to the Australian film and television industry was immeasurable. Constantly working, Hunter was one of the country’s most in demand  actors. A big man with a big heart, he will be greatly missed.

Bill was a big man with a big heart and he was a natural storyteller. I grew up watching him on screen, where he embodied the Australian character. I was privileged to know him a little. Under that gruff, sometimes intimidating exterior, he was warm, funny and kind. Hooroo Mate.

Sarah Finney

AFI Awards Note: To date, Hunter has won 3 AFI Awards and been nominated 6 times.

To see clips of Bill Hunter’s work on screen, visit this excellent collection on Australia Screen, the NFSA’s online resource.

A full list of Bill Hunter’s credits can be found here on IMDB

A memorial service for Bill Hunter will be held at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre on Thursday 26 May at 2pm.

Do you remember Bill Hunter, personally, professionally or just as a film and television watcher? The AFI welcomes your anecdotes, comments and thoughts below this post.

Inhabiting Snowtown: Talking to the Actors

By Rochelle Siemienowicz

Snowtown Movie

What’s it like to play one of Australia’s cruellest and most notorious serial killers? Or the teenage boy who helped himSnowtown poster torture, murder and dispose of eight bodies in barrels of acid? Or for an even more subtle challenge, what’s it like to play the mother of the boy, who lives with these murders happening under her nose, yet turns a blind eye because she wants to keep her family together?

Here we talk to three of the actors who bring to life these historical characters in the new Australian film Snowtown, directed by Justin Kurzel, written by Shaun Grant and produced by Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw. It’s a grim and shocking story to be sure, and certainly not a film for those with weak stomachs. But the performances, by a predominantly untrained Adelaide cast, are powerful and convincing.

Daniel Henshall plays John Bunting

Daniel Henshall as John Bunting

Daniel Henshall as John Bunting

Daniel Henshall is one of the few professionally trained and experienced actors in the cast of Snowtown. As the sociopathic John Bunting, ringleader of the serial killing gang who operated in Adelaide’s northern suburbs in the 1990s, he’s chillingly charming, disarmingly ‘nice’ in fact. With his round pleasant face and warm brown eyes, it’s easy to see why a lonely single mother and her ‘lost boy’ sons might fall for him. Henshall graduated from the Actors Centre Australia in 2006 with an Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts, and since then has appeared in television shows including All Saints, Rescue, Out of the Blue and in theatre productions for Belvoir St Downstairs, Paramatta Riverside and the Seymour Centre. He will also be seen in the upcoming feature Any Questions for Ben? from Working Dog Productions, directed by Rob Sitch. Snowtown is Henshall’s first feature film.

AFI: As one of the few professionally trained actors on set, did you find yourself helping and mentoring the others?

Daniel Henshall: I was in constant amazement, actually. They blew me away at every step, to be honest. Everything that I thought I knew was given back to me tenfold. These guys were just brave and brilliant. It was very much a team effort, and this was fostered by the three-week rehearsal period where we just spent so much time hanging around together, really getting to know each other and form these real relationships.

AFI: Was it daunting to be playing somebody so evil, and yet trying to give them a human face?

Daniel Henshall: Yes, yes! It was daunting for a number of reasons. Daunting because it was my first feature film;

Lucas Pittaway and Daniel Henshall

"Looking for a father." Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) and John (Daniel Henshall).

daunting because of the way we were working, very improvised-based, and spending twelve weeks out there, in a place that I hadn’t been before, and coming into a community where I was an outsider. And also daunting because of the responsibility of being one of the more experienced actors, and having to play this central character in the story. But it was a challenge, and I was ready for it and excited by it.

AFI: A lot of detail about the historical events and characters has been supressed for legal reasons.  Were there any key details or facts that gave you the opening to understanding and playing John Bunting?

Daniel Henshall: Yes, from the outset it was helpful to meet people who had met John during time he spent in prison, or people who knew about him through six degrees of separation. It was always going to be an interpretation. We were never trying to mimic, but were trying to make it believable and make it fit in my skin. The fact that he was a father figure who believed that he himself was integrity. He also had a vulnerability. There was something in Debi Marshall’s book [Killing for Pleasure] which made him seem like a child who hadn’t gotten the love he deserved and made him constantly search for a family, and when he got it, he held onto it, and thought he was going to save the day. All this beside the fact of the bloodlust and the psychopathic inhumane human that he was.

AFI: Did it give you nightmares to have to depict such disturbing acts and having to access such dark emotions?

Daniel Henshall: I think one way of dealing with it was that we laughed a lot between takes – not to take anything away from the sensitivity of the story or events, and I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but we had to support each other and be very open about what we were doing, checking in on each other and making sure everyone was okay.

Lucas Pittaway plays Jamie Vlassakis

Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis

Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis

18-year-old Lucas Pittaway is on his way to Cannes right now, to attend Snowtown’s screening in the prestigious Critics Week program. It’s a world away from his local northern Adelaide shopping centre where he was discovered buying jellybeans at the Reject Shop by Snowtown’s casting director. Working odd jobs, with vague plans to become an army mechanic, Pittaway’s life has been transformed by the role  of Jamie Vlassakis, a vulnerable boy living in a poor single-parent household, groomed and corrupted by John Bunting.

AFI: What was it like to see yourself up on the big screen for the first time when you saw the finished film?

Lucas Pittaway: I was shocked. I didn’t know how to react. I was watching myself with criticism and thinking  “oh, don’t do that!” But then the second time I saw it I was able to watch it as a film.

AFI: What were the key pieces of information you used to create your interpretation of this character, given that so little is known about him due to legal supression?

Lucas Pittaway: It was actually quite hard because there wasn’t much to grab hold of and use. It was more just following the script and taking direction from Justin [Kurzel] – reacting to events that were depicted, and imagining how he was before and after these things had happened.

AFI: You come from the area where this film is set, in Adelaide’s tough northern suburbs. How would you describe this area to people who have no idea what it’s like?

Lucas Pittaway: It’s unlooked after. It’s just been left. Many years ago it was probably the next big thing, but it’s just been left alone and now it’s run down.

AFI: What do you think is the reaction of the poople from the area who have seen the film?

Lucas Pittaway: I think they have a sense of pride and a sense of recognition. It’s so real – the performances, the people, the locations, the way we speak and act. They know it’s not just someone from Victoria coming over and pretending to be ‘in the know’. No, it’s local cast, and they’ll be like, “there’s a face I recognise from the IGA the other day!”

AFI: How did you unwind after shooting the more gruesome scenes in the film?

Lucas Pittaway: I’d go home and talk to my brother, and watch a bit of comedy on TV, just to take my mind off things. You had to learn to separate yourself from it. Also, there were a lot of happy days on set, especially around the start of filming, and then the heaviness gradually built up. There was heaps of support, and often I’d get a phonecall when I got home after a heavy day, from either Justin or Dan, checking in and giving me a boost.

AFI: We hear you are intending to head down the acting path as a career now?

Lucas Pittaway: Oh yeah, I’m already down that track. I’ve got myself an agent and started auditioning for roles. I’m working on a short film with Max Doyle, who is a photographer for Vogue magazine and that starts in a couple of days. So hopefully this is something I can continue to do. Right now I’m getting ready for Cannes and it’s my first time overseas, so that’s very exciting.

Louise Harris is Elizabeth Harvey

Louise Harris as Elizabeth Harvey

A single mother looking for security in all the wrong places. Louise Harris as Elizabeth Harvey

What kind of woman would let a killer into her home and into the lives of her young sons? The answer of course, is complicated: desperation, poverty and a desire for love and security. It’s a tough ask for any trained actress to depict such a character, yet Louise Harris, a complete beginner, brings an amazing combination of  pinched vulnerability and wilful blindess to the role. Harris, an award winning chef turned full time single mother was out shopping at the local deli when she was spotted by director Justin Kurzel and asked to audition.  The experience was life-changing.

AFI: How did it feel to see yourself up on the big screen in this role?

Louise Harris: I was gobsmacked! Seeing myself up there looking as hard as Elizabeth does, it was a bit scary. [It should be noted that Harris is much prettier and softer in person than the hardbitten woman she plays on screen]. But watching it through the second time, I was able to appreciate what we’d made and the effect we’d had. It was awesome. I’m really proud of what we’ve done.

AFI: What is your understanding about why Elizabeth let a man like John Bunting into her life?

Louise Harris: Well I think John Bunting played up his family-oriented ideals, and that’s exactly what she was looking for when he came into her life. I think she felt she didn’t have that family structure, and he brought routine and a bit of structure for the children. He made it into more of a real family than she’d ever experienced. And he was charming, and had a way with words. He was not a stupid man.

AFI: She turned a blind eye to what she knew was happening, didn’t she?

Louise Harris: I think she didn’t want to know in the beginning. I think she suspected, but she wanted to believe in the knight in shining armour that had come into her life, and then once she knew for sure, she didn’t know how to handle it at that point. When he let her down, there wasn’t really much she could do.

AFI: You come from the area in Adelaide’s northern suburbs where most of the action takes place. How would you describe it?

Louise Harris: I’d call it the Harlem of Adelaide. It’s primarily lower income and higher crime rate. It’s a housing trust kind of area. Not the sort of place where you walk around dressed in drag and get away with it. It’s pretty much people keeping to themselves. You sort of keep your eyes down. Not that it’s all negative but you do have to earn people’s trust.

AFI: And what was your work life before you acted in the film?

Louise Harris: I’m a qualified chef and I primarily worked in the hospitality industry until I fell pregnant with my son. He’s just started school, so yeah, I was a single mum.

AFI: Did you ever have any acting aspirations?

Louise Harris: Not at all. This was the first and only time I’ve ever acted. I didn’t even take drama at school. Not that I wasn’t interested, it’s just that I’d rather have done sports or something. I didn’t think I had it in me. But to be honest, after this experience I would just love to have another go at it.

Snowtown releases nationally in Australia on 19 May.

Director – Justin Kurzel. Producers –  Anna McLeish & Sarah Shaw. Executive Producers – Robin Gutch & Mark Herbert. Writer – Shaun Grant. Cinematography – Adam Arkapaw. Editor -Veronika Jenet ASE. Sound Designer – Frank Lipson MPSE. Compser – Jed Kurzel. Production Designer – Fiona Crombie. Costumer Designers – Alice Babidge & Fiona Crombie. Casting – Allison Meadows & Mullinars Consultants. Filmed on location in South Australia.

Watch the trailer for a taste: