Have your say – “Australian Academy” Industry Forums Announced

The industry consultation phase of the AFI’s major review, including a proposed “Australian Academy“, continues, and we are pleased to announce two AFI “Australian Academy” Industry Forums – one to be held in Melbourne on 29 June, the other in Sydney on 30 June.

The Industry Forums follow a series of consultative initiatives, and we encourage those who have not yet done so to participate in our online survey and thus have their say in the evolution of both the AFI and our industry.

A cross-section of survey responses received to date is posted below.

As indicated by these responses, our consultations have not only indentified strong support for the creation of an “Australian Academy”, but have also identified many innovative ways in which the AFI, through the Academy, can further enhance, engage and promote the talents of those working in Australian film and television.

We thank those who have taken the time to provide their feedback thus far, and encourage those who would like to participate in the Industry Forums to RSVP by 28 June.

We look forward to updating you on our next steps following the conclusion of our consultation period on 30 June 2011.

Some of the latest comments received on the consultation:

An Australian Academy of Screen Culture needs to promote Australian creative endeavour[s] for the big screen and small screen, including online. It should promote both our contemporary film and television culture and our significant screen heritage. I would also like to see an organisation that engages with members and the Australian and international communities to promote debate, analyis and the study of screen culture and issues. So the organisation needs a structural underpinning to provide resources such as a film, video and reference library for members and the general public alike (much like the AFI was many years ago). I would not like to see an organisation that is engaged with awards alone, as much as I appreciate the importance of celebrating through an awards presentation. Rather, an Academy needs to have some clout and weight within the Australian arts scene. It should be able to represent the industry and provide a valuable and respected source of opinion and views on Australian screen culture to the public at large and to governments.” Trevor Graham

“One word. ‘Fantastic’.   This is a constructive move forward.” Phil Avalon

“There’s no question the current models for industry representation and voting need to be reviewed and revised if the AFI is to evolve into a more inclusive professional structure. I’m hopeful the introduction of an ‘Academy’ is a much needed step in the right direction. But I also think little will be achieved by trying to reinvent the AFI brand. I’ve been a member of the AFI since the early 1990’s, and over that time I’ve watched it being slowly eroded by too much navel-gazing and an ongoing preoccupation with style over substance. The time and money wasted on trying to change the name of the awards to ‘The Lovelies’ some years ago is an obvious example. The separation of the AFI Awards into craft vs celebrity award nights is another. It may have secured broadcast coverage. But it has also been an ongoing insult to all the talented crew and production personnel who have been branded as less important to the AFI than TV starlets and their frocks. If the AFI is serious about creating a more inclusive structure, then it should respect the brand and instead of trying to change it, focus on its history of recognising, supporting and promoting the interests and talents of ALL of the people who contribute to creating Australian film and television.” Gina Roncoli

“I greatly support AFI moving to an Academy model. This will encourage greater audience engagement and acknowledgement of the tremendous talents of our Film and TV makers. The popularity enjoyed by our TV productions will have a greater chance of translating to cinema through the recognition an Australian Academy will engender.” Stephanie Mills

“Personally I like the idea of building an Australian Film and TV brand that becomes recognized worldwide. And also having Australians abroad, who work in the industry, help achieve this goal.” Alvaro D. Ruiz

“The Australian film industry is small, so every single opportunity to promote it,  i.e the Writers, the Directors, the Crew, the Producers is valuable. So too are the Actors that ensure that a production has a recognisable Australian on-screen presence. Our screen culture, be it large or small, can only be enhanced with a  stronger and passionate awareness of its existence.” Tina Bursill

“I feel this is an appropriate step to further enhance, promote and educate our industry. I also would hope that public perception and response to Australian film and television would be increased.” John Studley

“I think this is a really really great move – strong and bold. I think it’s imperative to the industry moving forward for the general public to get a better understanding of the Australia industry as a whole and hopefully break this [negative] ‘Australian Films’ thing in the process, which I think many Australians, particularly younger viewers, cringe at. Getting the public to recognise actors is great but in the States and the UK, the general public have, by and large, a good understanding of the top writers, producers and directors. Let’s face it, actors don’t need the help but the writers and producers, and to a lesser extent, the directors, need a big push. I think making more of a focus on these will give the audiences more opportunity to gain knowledge on our filmmakers and then our films in general. Australian cinema would greatly benefit from better representation and promotion, and I also think the “Australian Academy” idea would truly help promote Australian Cinema abroad. We don’t seem to have the same stigma with TV. Ratings are showing Australian TV drama [has] the reverse of what we see at the box-office for Aussie films. And so the onus falls on the content creators as well. We desperately need to move away from these dark, depressing, seemingly ‘worthy’ films that Australian filmmakers are inclined to make. From the audience point of view, they’re killing the industry. And it’s clear by box-office takings that no one wants to see them. There’s no less ‘art’ in comedy, although I know many people will argue the opposite. I greatly support the AFI’s proposal for the establishment of an Australian Academy.” Gian Christian

“The Awards model used by BAFTA in the UK would seem more suited to the AFI’s goals than the Academy model from the US. Additionally, it is essential to include Film Distribution personnel in any proposed new organisation going forward. I have over 20 years experience releasing both international and local films in Australia and having been an AFI member for 27 years wish to continue my involvement in the yearly awards process.”  Michael Atkins

“I think the AFI needs to have a specific focus. Film culture, while related to Television and now Digital Culture, has its own distinct and particular history. Part of the value of awarding excellence within film is acknowledging the development, production, post-production and distribution aspects of the particular field. An Australian feature film can be a $6000 shoestring film someone made with their own money and equipment, a $1 million film privately financed, or a massive international co-production. I think we rarely see such diversity (and opporunity for independence) on the Television stage. I would also recommend, if not already investigated, fostering strong connections with Australia’s wonderful film festivals, such as MIFF, SFF and so on. If it’s not already in place, could such participating festivals become Academy Qualifying, such that their inclusion in such festivals enables them to be automatically watched by voters for the AFI awards? Such a scheme could support a Special Mention category for a film worthy of recognition and support, but that otherwise might miss out on an award for specific excellence. I think it’s worth noting that while interest in awards programs might be declining, festivals such as MIFF are building their audiences and getting bigger and bigger. Overall, I agree with and support the idea of an Academy model. I also believe though, that if television is to be regarded as a moving image field within the AFI’s scope, then perhaps so should our excellent interactive-media and games artists!” Andrew Serong

“The Australian film industry boasts world class talent that is at home on any stage or set. But, Aussie talent is at it’s best telling stories about our own people and culture.” Bill Admans

“As an actor, I believe that gaining respect within our industry is as important as gaining work. It is even more important to gain that respect from outside the industry. Only through the combined strengths of union and guild, augmented by the unifying presence of the AFI (in the form of the proposed Academy), can that respect be gained and used to build an even stronger industry. We have the potential to create an industry that can remain true to our national identity, acknowledging our unique heritage and creativity, while still being accessible internationally. We need to explore the many possible avenues of production, finance and international cooperation beyond that which we now experience, while avoiding petty, divisive disputes and parochial attitudes which can only diminish our standing internationally. Good luck in your endeavours.” Peter Callan

“I like the idea of an Australian Academy! Something I would like to see, that hasn’t been mentioned, is a brand new award statue. The current one isn’t very appealing and doesn’t represent the film and television art forms like the BAFTA or the CESAR award trophy.” Edoardo Mesiti

“I love Australian film, including many of the genre types that others disparagingly use to describe our industry as out of touch. I have regularly ‘found’ amazing gems within the AFI screenings. I may be only one of a handful who would champion them… It is wonderful to think that steps could be made to reach greater audiences. I am grateful also for those who are able to publicly critique with intelligence and context and an understanding of career development AND audience appeal. An Australian Academy could widen the range of Australian films that many see, instead of the present few.  Please keep access available to wider Australia, beyond the key capital cities. New technologies may be the key to accessiblity and distribution.” Justine Smith

“I think there needs to be acknowledgement and support for the field of film education which takes place in many formal and informal ways across a wide variety of demographics and socio-economic circumstances. Whilst I applaud the concept of an Academy it’s the word ‘inclusive’ that got my attention. Presumably this move is a response to the dire straights the Australian film industry finds itself in. I am not going to wade into the whole debate about that here, but I would say that, as you know, there is a lot of moving image content being produced independently without formal institutional support, finance or recogntion, that  does not see itself as being validated by the formal structures and institutions that represent us as the Australian film industry. Many of those groups are young people who see these institutions as out of touch, defensive, introspective and elitist. They are simply ignoring them the way they ignore most Australian content. Despite this, they are crying out for information, mentorship and support to produce stories that speak for them in their terms. Recognition of those groups and the people who work/mentor/teach with them, often under crippling conditions and often at the expense of their own film making careers, would be an overture of mutual respect that would resonate with these disaffected groups. But that’s not going to be easy or comfortable for many people. It would require the recognition and redefinition of moving image content that is currently still on the fringes.” Sean Okeeffe

“As an industry practitioner in directing, writing and acting, I am thrilled by the proposed changes and hope we can all embrace the future with enthusiasm. Indeed, the new Academy embraces the changing needs of cinema and television. As AFI Patron Dr George Miller puts it, this model for adapting the AFI to an academy ‘adapts successful elements of the world’s leading screen organisations to local traditions’. Perhaps also, the industry can lead the cinema-goer through education. Already, this site has comments reflecting this need in secondary schools to address ‘our future audience, and future practitioners’ (Vidler). I certainly agree. As the forum points out there is a need to adopt successful models from other countries, and one of these is the manner in which audiences are generated by awareness at an early level of education. However, more could be done here, which involves tertiary education and the industry itself.  I suggest we could bridge the gap between the practicality of the industry and our ability to analyse it. We have the benefit of living in a country which embraces highly accomplished filmmakers and crews. We also have had thirty years of higher education in Cinema. Could we do more through the new Academy to embrace this further?  One model for this from the past was the Cahiers du Cinema group, whose dedication to redefining the nature of cinema (through both theory and practice) made huge progress in the development of film art. Of course the era of the singular auteur has been and gone, but is there a way in which these two fields could come together in Australia and lead the world in this integration? I suggest that the professional fellowships such as Kennedy Miller Mitchell/Byron Kennedy Award are an avenue for this development. The AFI has traditionally supported the development of practical skills and education through such schemes. These schemes, as Director of the Australian Production Designers Guild George Liddle explains, ‘help raise the public profile of the local industry’. Could the excellence he describes also be helped by the integration of research and practical television and filmmaking skills on all levels?” Dr Ian Dixon

  •  To read the previously posted comments on the Industry Consultation, see this earlier post.
  • Have you responded to our survey and made your own comments? Click through to answer the questions.

Or, add your comments below on this blog. Comments will be subject to approval.

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The first responses to the AFI industry consultation process

Introductory statement from Alan Finney (AFI Chair) and Damian Trewhella (AFI CEO):

To the many and valued members of our screen community, the AFI is delighted with the flood of constructive responses (via email, phone, in person and the survey) since launching our industry consultation around the proposal of an “Australian Academy” last Wednesday.  

It’s clear that many people share the view that Australia’s best and brightest screen talents and professionals are not just large in number and growing, but could benefit substantially from the advantages inherent in the Academy structure proposed.

Along with many other forms of response/discussion which we’ll attempt to summarise shortly, we have had about 150 direct responses already to the “Australian Academy” survey.  Whilst the key questions asked were very general in nature (and need to be understood as such – they aim to build engagement re ‘big picture’) we have been very pleased with all the responses.

In summary, over 70% of all respondents agree that the key elements of the proposal must be considered (about half these respondents ‘strongly agree’).  Notable is the low level of responses that disagree with the key principles proposed – disagreement across all survey questions is running at less than 5%. Around 20% of responses to particular questions were neutral – i.e. neither agree or disagree. We are pleased that many people have felt comfortable making comments on the key elements proposed.  We are also grateful for all other comments provided at this time and all will be considered by the AFI Board and Executive. 

Without being able to respond to all comments in detail at this point, we make the following responses to key elements:

  •  We certainly concur with David Sargeant, Amalgamated Holdings (AHL), who has written “…we strongly support the recomendations and move to an academy style structure, however  need to ensure that the academy structure is not seen as elitist and that the views of everyday frequent moviegoers are sought and engaged with – particularly the youth market – and through active involvement in social network communities.”  An “Australian Academy” certainly needs to be relevant, understood and useful to all key constituencies – particularly future generations.   
  • John Kirby, of Village Roadshow also provided the very helpful comment: “this mature vision will no doubt create a stronger platform for the Australian film industry going forward.  You should consider establishing a Digital chapter.  We must be ever mindful of new technologies and the contribution they make to our entertainment form.” We agree.
  •  To confirm, the proposed “Australian Academy” certainly requires the engagement of key industry executives (including distribution, exhibition, networks and all other key areas) and this is presently catered for with the proposed Executives chapter.  
  • Additionally, and to reiterate, the proposal is not about the AFI changing its name. The AFI has long maintained various screen culture and professional activities and will continue with screen culture activities.  The proposal is about considering improvements to the professional membership programs with a view to transformation towards an ‘Australian Academy’ that suitably caters for our best and brightest, and importantly, informs and inspires both industry and the public, nationally and internationally.
  •  Whilst relatively modest at this time, existing AFI screen culture activities (available to AFI General Members) will continue. These include the AFI working with distributors to promote upcoming Australian releases via: regular AFI e-news; AFI Website; AFI editorial, promotions and ‘word of mouth’ screenings (this month these include new release films Blame and Sleeping Beauty); the AFI Research Collection (presently in partnership with RMIT); AFI TV (Australia’s finest short films available for member viewing whenever/wherever they like); and AFI social media initiatives (Facebook, Twitter and this blog).  The AFI has several thousand General Members, plenty of whom have been committed supporters for many decades.  Whilst not always working directly in the industry, AFI General Members form a critical component of our screen culture fabric – many of these people have quite possibly seen more Australian films than anyone else.  Such behaviors need to be supported however we can.

Thank you to everyone who has engaged with this proposal. We certainly believe it can deliver great value and we appreciate all views provided.  Our consultation continues through June and we are likely to have industry forums in Melbourne and Sydney in the last week of June – details to be provided shortly. 

Best regards,

Alan Finney (AFI Chair) & Damian Trewhella (AFI CEO)

 

Some of the comments received so far:

“Both individually and as a company we strongly support the recommendations and move to an Academy style structure however need to ensure that the Academy structure is not seen as elitist and that the views of every day frequent movie goers are sought and engaged with – particularly the youth market – and through active involvement in social network communities.” David Seargeant              

“The current Australian Film Institute has struggled over recent years to find a central role other than promoting the AFI Awards and organising the domiciling of its film library. The AFI current structure of a small elected board is perhaps too vague and disconnnected to the general membership to relate specifically to the various professional groups who work in the film and television industry. Shifting to a model more akin to the United States (ie Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) or the United Kingdom Academy may assist, but the question will remain as to how effective a new model would be, unless it is strongly supported by the various professional groups and existing bodies. SPAA and the Australian Directors Guild in particular would need to support the new body as well as the AWG. The real measure will be what can the new body achieve where the AFI has not been successful.” Charles Latimer

“I have always strongly felt that we need to model our awards system along the same lines of that occurs with the Oscars. We have highly skilled and talented people working behind the scenes that contribute to the success of a film. Our producers and directors are well aware of this and select heads of departments because of past relationships or employ because of areas of expertise that will be suited to the film they wish to make.  The idea of leading industry professionals in their given craft areas selecting nominations makes perfect sense and I fully support this idea. I do however believe that the Television and Film categories/presentations should be separated. The AFI awards should be just that – the Australian FILM institute awards. I understand this may affect broadcast attractiveness to television networks. Perhaps the Television awards should be held on the night before.” Brent Crockett ACS                   

“This mature vision will no doubt create a stronger platform for the Australian film industry going forward.  You should consider establishing a Digital chapter. We must be ever mindful of new technologies and the contribution they make to our entertainment form.” John Kirby, Village Roadshow

“This evolution of the AFI could be a great idea. My support is only partial because I’m not sure what the alternative is in real terms. While I think our industry should have international recognition, I don’t think that pandering to it will necessarily improve things. International/universal stories are important and so is making money – but telling our own wee stories in our own strange voice is more important.” Laurence Coy      

“BAFTA is an excellent example of how an Academy could function.  Having a membership of 6,500 provides BAFTA with a strong budget to provide facilities, seminars and events which are focused on elevating the screen industry’s skill base, craft standards, networking opportunities, culture of self-assessment, critique and value.  Some of these functions are currently undertaken in Australia on a regional basis by State Government film bodies as well as unions and associations.  An Academy will provide an opportunity to unify these functions on a non-regional or agenda-driven basis. Ewan Burnett

“I feel this is a long overdue initiative and the AFI is to be commended for taking on the challenge.  I can see how an Academy could play a major role in reinstating the profile of the AFI’s and be influential in honing government and industry policy. Most importantly I can also see how an Academy would create an environment where the interaction by the various chapters would enable the opportunity to present an inclusive, non partisan, industry position on national issues both real and perceived.” Colin South

“I would say: THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE A VOICE. You can see where I am putting my strokes  1. There has been a fountain of visible, high-profile actors [and] some directors, who have been making credits with some awards over four years now.  Observation:  Please recognise these when they appear in British Media,  American movies, any damn thing.  Think of ways to PROMOTE THESE AND THEIR TEAMS. I was gob-smacked, not only at Avatar, they’re showing up in X-Men, TV and they have their base/career arc, in some cases abroad.  But incorporate all these (Persuade, be cogent.) Plus these high-tech teams, really give it the Woomera. 2. I am abroad, sorry it’s from this p.o.v.  that I recommend linking to Asian cinema, and talent-cultivation abroad.  To America so long as we stand our ground. Please have very visible presence in Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan,  offering them benefits as well. (Come to the table with possibilities – business sense.)    On writing, I have no access and cannot apply for support since I reside offshore.  There are important steps to be taken about the residency rule, and I candidly name the SA Film Corp.  There is no basis on which I can promote an Australian movie with Australian talent, for which I had  nominations at Festivals, because I can’t make money there in my own place. Many also have bases in LA or similar and are excluded.  I meet them and everyone else – non-Aussie – recognises their roots, except Australian Institutions in the backbone of the Film Industry!  There appears to be also major support talent, sfx and even directors who cannot enjoy their own country’s industry  because mainly of this.  Because of business mitigations the number of regulations in Film Australia or SAFC applications is positively baroque, OK I’ll get a Lawyer but do the sub-clauses have to drive one insane?    I don’t waffle on, this is what I experience. If it’s a lot to read, it’s an effort to write and I battled on since 2002 alone while getting twice into well-known film fests.    A Third Thing is –  consider DESIGNING a Course for secondary public school official curricula. Link it to NIDA and Tech Colleges.  Provide a Gala Event to which ordinary Aussies are invited, meet them, show off. Peter Desmond Nelson    

“An awards night, even though peered reviewed, should have a connection with the mainstream audience, at the same time making them aware of the Australian Film industry talent at large.  As it stands there are well crafted Australian films released in a year but the Australian mainstream to a fair degree would not have seen these films. In order to change these negative aspects, including and promoting the television side of things, would enhance the awards and make them more relevant to a wider audience as people easily identify as to who they see on TV. Using that power would make the “Academy”  night a halo event alongside the Logie Awards.” Barry Kotze

“I believe an opportunity exists that has not been sufficiently exploited to raise awareness at grass roots level, by developing, in co-operation with the Dept. of Education and the Teachers Federation, a comprehensive package for the teaching of Australian film as a module in the high school syllabus.  Such a package could be designed with the flexibility to provide teaching materials to serve a range of elective subjects, most obviously Media, but also Drama, English, Society and Culture and even Business Studies.  An approach such as this, essentially utilising resources and materials already available to the AFI and the unparalleled distribution network afforded by high schools, could generate a breadth and depth of understanding of the achievements, challenges and issues of film in Australia amongst a very broad population base and specifically (and perhaps even more importantly) among the sector of the population that represents our future audience, and future practitioners.” Steven Vidler   

“It is vitally important for the Australian film industry in particular to have an awards program that is not only supported, recognised and admired by the people within its industry but by that of the public too.  The fact that the awards shows such as the IF Awards and Logies have a larger following than the professional awards is detrimental to the creative communities. These awards shows are voted on by the general public and have little bearing on talent and creativity and more on popularity.  While the popularity of a particular film, technician or artist is important the award they are receiving needs to carry weight.  I strongly feel, and have felt for some time that the Australian film and television industry needs to add power to its award season. It needs to become part of the international awards stage. These proposed changes are a big step toward that goal.  I look forward to the opportunity to vote in an awards show, in Australia, for the Australian community that adds weight and prestige in the international stage.  Kindest regards and strongest support. Rowan Maher

“With all the proliferation of awards, guilds, associations, production companies, TV networks, etc etc,  it is a great time to bring them all together. The AFI has been at the forefront of the industry for decades. I have been involved with the AFI since almost the beginning. We have seen the awards evolve from a relatively simple process, where features, shorts, animation and the other categories would do the circuit of Australia for judging by members. Now it’s a vastly different process…..Much greater numbers of entries…in all categories  ie ..2 years ago there was over 60 feature length docos to judge….I know …I was one of the 9 judges chosen to go through the process that took over a month !!!!  I see a great number of movies , both Australian and OS….some through the invites from the AFI for the OZ flics….and the others, I’m fortunate to be on the mailing list of distributors and some of the exhibitors here in town.  I’ve been a founder member of the Australian Cinematographer’s Society, President, and Treasurer for some years. It saddens me a great deal that most people that work in the industry, don’t get out to see the movies.  For me it’s been a passion of a lifetime.  Anything that can bring all the disparate groups together would be a wonderful thing.  I love the idea of an Australian Academy…  Kindest regards.”  Peter Goodall, Lesmurdie WA.

“The name ‘AFI’ is, in my opinion, the reason the AFI still exists after 50 years. Any changes should not lose the AFI name, which is recognised strongly nationally and internationally.” Lisa French

“As a result of monopolisation of exhibition by international multinationals, Australian film is largely exhibited only by independents in city locations, with short runs. It is difficult therefore for mainstream Australian audiences to have the opportunity to view many Australian films let alone hear about them.  Promotion of Australian film and filmmakers is essential to ensuring that the wider Australian community recognizes the quality and importance of Australian film and talent of our filmmakers working both locally and internationally.” Lisa Duff

“I have been an AFI member for a number of years. I have enjoyed the variety of films that I have been introduced to through the AFI. It is disappointing that the awards are moving to Sydney. I hope they will be sharing with Melbourne in future. I would like to feel that we will still get access to the films and the voting as that has been a highlight each year. Thankyou.” Deirdre Loveless

“A model based on BAFTA is a step in the right direction.” Robert Licuria   

“The proposed academy model apparently lacks representation for the people who do a lot of the work promoting the industry nationally and internationally: screen professionals working as distributors, exhibitors, programmers, critics, academics.  Althought these groups largely founded the AFI and shaped it for its first three decades, they have struggled to be recognised in recent years as the people whose job it is to articulate and contextualise acheivement and success – far more so than “Public Relations”.  As [they are] amongst the industry’s opinion leaders and makers, these groups needs at least one – or more – representative places in the new structure.” Quentin Turnour             

“I resigned my AFI membership at the same time as the AFI decided it would no longer hold the “craft awards” with the “celebrity awards”. That was when I realised the AFI cared not for me or the other hard working members of the industry that actually make the films against incredible odds and often under dreadful pay and conditions. That they were making it so clear that they were selling out to the idea of ratings and celebrity by putting all our top technicians in one lesser basket and soapie stars and sportspeople in a far higher one made my stomach turn. We have the Logie awards to satisfy that criteria and I had always held the AFI’s in far higher esteem. If these changes mean we can claw back some of our integrity I am all for it – and all for a proper system of peer voting that actually requires the judges to have seen the nominated films.” Libby Pashley    

“I think I am AFI member number 200-something – so have been involved with the AFI for quite some time in all its various permutations. I also received a Byron Kennedy Award – which has meant that now that I am retired, I can survive because,  directly as a consequence of that award, I have a roof over my head. So I am always grateful to the AFI – very consciously – for that.  Recently, I  let my membership lapse. The AFI Awards were, well for a long time, as we know, most practitioners didn’t go to the screenings and so didn’t vote and  it all seemed quite phony. Then too, there seemed to be nothing else that I found relevant happening (this may not have been true – only a perception). The  library was gone. The days of AFI distribution (so useful to me once) were long gone.  The cinemas were gone. That feeling of collectivity and comradeship at the screenings was gone (as society and the film business changed not the fault of the AFI), etc., etc.  And indeed a new model was clearly needed for a new era.  The energy that now seems to have been brought to the AFI  (Alan Finney has always been terrific in my view) encourage me greatly. I will renew my membership and thoroughly support the changes – as I have tried to support the AFI in the past until I simply gave up. I think that the new energy and the new advisory board has the best possible hope of attracting  greater participation. Participation IS THE KEY.   So congratulations. And best wishes to us all.  (I’ll include myself in the AFI again too…)”  Martha Ansara, lapsed member now encouraged to rejoin.

“Encourage wider cinema screen distribution and promote cheaper tickets for Aussie Films to encourage movie goers and get bums on seats.” Robyn Kosidlo 

“The AFI is the hallmark of Australian cinema and these new changes only consolidate its excellent reputation.” Veronica Sywak             

“We need more publicity for Australian films and productions so the public are more aware and want to see them. Example:…. films like The Matrix and Mission Impossible were made in Australia but the public did not know that they were made by us. Docos get lost in all this as they are not high profile or promoted well.” Malcolm Ludgate ACS

“There needs to be a bigger attempt to promote Australian film and talent through education at both a school and tertiary level.” David Michael George Smith      

“The introduction of an Academy would go far in promoting Australian cinema abroad. It would also be great to see media/critics be able to join as professional members of such an organisation (currently limited to those that “have screen credits in either feature film, documentary, television, short fiction or animation”), as this would open the industry up to a world of social media links that would better serve to promote the industry.” Richard Gray     

“I have been a member of AFI for more than 20 years. I am now a Film Pioneer. I notice that there is no ‘Chapter’ for my membership, or a chapter for General Members. Does this mean that I will no longer be able to participate in the voting process and lose my benefits?” Jacqueline Love              

“I think this is a wonderful move and long overdue. Well done AFI!!!” John Edwards 

“We have strong brand awareness. All Australians know we make good films, know our international reputation, know the quality and rating of our films both domestic and internationally. Our issues are with visibility and access!  Our films are classically on narrow release, after wide promotion. For the greater part, even if we wanted to see Australian films we can’t because they are not playing local! We need to embrace the IFC Midnight/Magnolia (et al) model for closed premium VOD and theatrical windows for Australian cinema, in particular films releasing on less that 20 screens. We need to fight a different battle, not the highly expensive one for screen real estate, but the much more sensible one for monetized eye-balls. We have the capacity in new platforms and new consumption models to develop new distribution, exhibition, recoupement and so financing models. These are at our finger tips. We will have the NBN! The industry itself – ICAA, MPDAA, AIDA, SPAA et al need to drive this. The State and Federal screen agencies need to be informed, but not involved.  They are followers not leaders in this area of the industry. We need leaders and the Academy could well fill that roll. Onward and upward..but more importantly away!” Peter A Castaldi

“The Academy idea is terrific!  It will aid in the elevation of the AFI Awards to something more than a celebration of unpopular, politically correct social-realism-tragedy films.  Importantly, efforts must be taken to include all the strata of creatives in the Honorary Council, especially those who write and produce genre films.” Tim Ferguson    

“As a long time industry craft practitioner and winner of several AFI awards I felt that the AFI had become disconnected in part from the actual working community within the industry and had developed more along the academic “film culture” path.  I hope that this initiative will support the filmmakers in a more practical sense than it has been doing over the last twenty years.” Gary Allen Wilkins  

“I’m all for it, I feel that any change that is geared towards trying to improve the respect towards our screen culture within the greater public by changing the way we view it ourselves, and becoming more proactive about it, is good in the long term. Naturally there may be some opposition to it, but attitudes need to change. Thus we need to lead the way in this respect. There’s nothing wrong with showing pride towards all those who work in our industry and celebrating it. We as Australians and industry professionals need to grow up and get over our habit of falling towards ‘tall poppy syndrome’ when somebody achieves success locally and/or abroad, and welcome a more encouraging frame of mind among all our peers in this industry. This is where it can begin. It’s the perfect opportunity to make it happen.  Nobody ever ruined their eyesight by looking at the brighter side of things.” Clayton Moss   

“When watching an Australian film and seeing how poorly it is represented in cinemas and in the media, it seems like there is a lot to be done about promoting and finding ways for the larger audience to know that those films are available to be seen and are of great quality. And this doesn’t only mean give more money to promote a film, but make a better use of this money to find the targeted audience.  The poor level of efficiency of marketing campaigns and the power of distributors shifted the Australian filmmaking into neutral, if not reverse in some cases, when we have the most creative and practitioners in the world here. It is a good time to react and I am pleased that the AFI and its proposed Australian Academy tackles the problem at last.” Laurent Auclair 

“As a working editor, who specialises mainly in television I have supported and been a member of the AFI for many years. News of this major review is encouraging and I hope it will make some headway in an area were I have personally felt unrecognised by the AFI. My role, along with other key creatives such as DOPS, Production and Costume Designers as well as Sound Post, are not given individual craft based recognition at the AFI Awards.  Since the introduction of the Open Craft in Television Award (the criteria of which appears very broad), many years have now passed where the individual behind-the-scenes efforts of our key creatives on some of our greatest television productions, have gone unnoticed. I fail to understand how the AFI can celebrate such work in documentary and feature film each year but not reintroduce the craft categories for television particularly now that the Awards are held over two nights. Even more so, surely this would be seen as yet another step towards broadening recognition and appreciation of screen practitioners. I would hope that this welcomed review will take my concern under consideration. Regards and thank you for the opportunity to comment.  Deborah Peart, Editor

“Firstly, I disagree with the plans to move to a two-step system.  A large number of the general public who are members look forward to the judging and seeing the wide range of movies produced. In a few weeks you can see the health of our movie business. It makes sense in large markets to focus the voters onto a small number of movies but in our market we have too few to view in the first place. You may lose members. Secondly, there was a time when we voted and awarded on movies before their release.  This allowed the movies to win prior to release which gave them a large amount of free publicity, I can recall movies such as Proof and The Interview. There is also such a delay from voting and the awards.  Movies now need to be screened commercially months before voting starts and by the time the awards are announced the movies are long forgotten in the cinema and are on DVD.  It is nice to have a statue but many would surely appreciate better box-office.” Michael Keenan             

“The AMPAS model for feature film voting appears to be a good step, though the added layer of expense / bureaucracy makes me a little concerned about fund-usage. The Honorary Council is a nice idea, but I am not sure what they would be achieving – although as ambassadors for the industry, perhaps so (depending on whom they are and their connections to the industry/profile. To continue to support short films in this country must be a given, due to it being a proving ground for the industry’s future feature/TV professionals. I might suggest having other short film festivals gaining accreditation to submit to AFI Short Film Awards (as part of the larger Awards) may be a stream to look at (if in fact it already does not already exist).” Craig Walker

“I like the idea of the Academy, but I note a major omission of a key category: Film Critics. They are an essential component of the industry and deserve similar status to all other screen professionals.” Peter Krausz   

“SOME OF YOUR QUESTIONS PRE-SUPPOSE THAT OZ FILMS ARE SUCCESSES AND THAT SOME OF THE PEOPLE YOU’RE REFERRING TO ARE TALENTED. We’ve seen enough films targeting a VERY marginalised demographic and ugly stories based on hookers and junkie films and crap funded via the significant Australian content category. Hey Hey it’s Esther Blueburger, The Jammed, Em 4 Jay, Red Hillare a waste of time and money and do nothing to promote what Oz films are known for overseas (where I’ve done the bulk of my work) – namely thrills and spills. Road movies like Mad Max ,the Outback and films like Wolf Creek are what gets Oz films noticed. It’s no surprise that the franchise that became Saw and spawned several films had to go offshore to be made. The film funding bodies, both state and national do little to encourage and support young and upcoming talent [and are] run by bureaucrats with little or no industry experience. Andra Brockett 

“I am in great support of the AFI’s intent to establish an ‘Australian Academy’. This is a great idea to bring all the Guilds and others together with the formation of an HONARARY COUNCIL.”    Brendan Campbell, Co President Victorian Screen Technicians Association

“Voting needs to be more inclusive and include the wider non film community, otherwise growth opportunities will remain constrained to within our current foot print.” Michael Memmolo

“This is a very welcome initiative and your approach is a model of consultation. I have had an almost 40 year connection with the AFI as former director of the organisation and as a Producer. There have been times when the organisation has exasperated me with knee-jerk responses to criticism and clumsy attempts to curry favour. I feel proud that I have continued my association and would like to support you in any way that I can.” Richard John Maxwell Brennan

“Our industry is in dire need of aid and as a future writer/director in my second year at the VCA I’d like to think I’d be able to stay in this country, my home country, to make my career. Right now that option is not as viable or realistic as going overseas and, although I may not have the answer, I believe this is taking a step in the right direction. Finally some people with their heads screwed on right.” Tom Wilson       

More to come soon….

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On the Box: Australian Television 2011

In-the-box-2011

For the third year running, we preview some Australian television highlights for the year ahead. (You can read the 2009 and 2010 stories to see if we got it right). With more channels than ever, and Pay TV on the rise, the television landscape is in flux. Audiences are increasingly fragmented and demanding – as they can afford to be, with so much choice available. They want quality entertainment, up-to-the-minute news, and flexible catch-up options to snare their missed favourites. Increasingly, viewers expect to be able to extend their interests on a show’s website, and to be able to chat about their interests on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, thus participating in a virtual community of viewers and fans.

Television may be a global industry, but the demand for excellent local content with an Australian accent remains strong. Here is just a small selection of what we’re looking forward to in 2011. We’ll focus broadly on those categories celebrated in the AFI Awards: drama, comedy, light entertainment, and children’s television – and of course we can’t mention everything. (Note: Some of these shows have already screened and are currently in their encore broadcasts; others are vaguely dated for late 2011.) Here’s the run-down:


Drama: Series, Mini-Series and Telefeatures

Rake, Series 1  

(ABC2, Mondays, 8:30pm – encore screenings, 8 x 60 min)

Now in its encore season, Rake follows the exploits of a lovable rogue, criminal defence barrister Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh) who defends the indefensible – from bigamists to cannibals and everything in between. He’s champion of the lost cause …both in the court room and in the bedroom. An excellent cast includes Matt Day, Geoff Morrell, Adrienne Pickering, Danielle Cormack, Russell Dykstra and Caroline Brazier. Rake is created by Peter Duncan and Richard Roxburgh (who also produce alongside Essential Media’s Ian Collie), and co-written by Andrew Knight. Directors include Rachel Ward, Jessica Hobbs and Jeffrey Walker. A second series is rumoured to hit screens in 2012. Rake
Winners & Losers  

(Seven Network, currently screening Wednesdays, 8:30pm)

The first episode was a ratings winner with 1.6 million viewers. From the creators of Packed to the Rafters, Winners & Losers is a drama about four 20-something friends who were rejects and ‘losers’ ten years ago at school. Now they’ve reunited and won the lottery, forcing them to negotiate the pleasures and pitfalls of being ‘winners’. How will this affect their friendships and their love lives? A likeable cast includes Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, Melissa Bergland, Melanie Vallejo, Virginia Gay, Denise Scott and Francis Greenslade. Produced by Bevan Lee, John Holmes and AFI Award nominee MaryAnne Carroll (All Saints) and directed by Nicholas Bufalo and Ian Gilmour. Winners & Losers
Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo 

(ABC1, Sunday 17 April & Monday 18 April, 8:30pm, 2 x 110 min)

The blurb sounds great: “It’s 1972. Skirts are up, pants are down. Girls can have anything: fabulous careers, fashionable clothes, oral sex. And riding the wave of sexual liberation and feminist freedom is Cleo magazine – fresh, bold and naughty. Two ambitious, young upstarts – Ita Buttrose and Sir Frank Packer’s unregarded second son, Kerry – create their own legends as they fling the modern girl headlong into the passion and politics of this turbulent era.” Starring Asher Keddie as Ita, and Rob Carlton (Chandon Pictures) as a lean and hungry Kerry Packer, Paper Giants is produced by Southern Star’s John Edwards and Karen Radzyner and directed by Daina Reid and Emma Freeman. Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo
Small Time Gangster 

(Movie Extra, Tuesdays, 8:30pm from 19 April, 8 x 60 min)

Tony Piccolo (Steve Le Marquand) is a devoted suburban family man who works hard in his carpet cleaning business. He also happens to be Melbourne’s toughest stand-over man, with another secret ‘family’ headed up by terrifying underworld boss Barry Donald (Gary Sweet). When the two worlds threaten to collide, there’s black comedy aplenty. Small Time Gangster stars Sacha Horler as Tony’s loving wife, Geoff Morrell as an ex-hitman and mentor, and Gia Carrides as streetwise mover and shaker. Written and created by Gareth Calverley (Spy Shop) and Joss King (H2O), Small Time Gangster is directed by Jeffrey Walker (Rake, City Homicide). Small Time Gangster
East West 101, Series 3 

(SBS One, Wednesdays, 8:30pm from 20 April, 7 x 60 min)

This is the third and final series of the AFI Award winning and critically acclaimed East West 101 from producers Steve Knapman and Kris Wyld and director Peter Andrikidis. Tense, exciting and politically relevant, this third series explores the fallout from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through crimes committed in Australia. Don Hany returns as the tough and troubled Muslim cop working alongside a cast including Susie Porter, Aaron Fa’aoso, Daniella Farinacci, Aden Young, Tammy McIntosh, Matt Nable, Aaron Jeffrey, Robert Mammone and Rena Owen. East West 10, Series 3 has just been nominated at the Monte Carlo Television Festival for Outstanding International Producer (Wyld and Knapman), Outstanding Actor (Don Hany and Aaron Fa’aso), and Outstanding Actress (Susie Porter and Rena Owen). Winners will be announced in June. In the meantime we’re looking forward to this top-shelf drama. East West 101, Series 3
Cloudstreet 

(Showcase, Sundays, 8:30pm from May 22nd, 6 x 120 min)

The long-awaited screen adaptation of Tim Winton’s acclaimed bestselling novel tells the story of two rural families who suffer separate catastrophes and flee to the city to pick up the pieces of their lives and start again. Living in the same house at No.1 Cloud Street, the Lambs and the Pickles share numerous tragedies and triumphs that draw them closer together, until the roof over their heads becomes a home for their hearts. Set in Perth during the 1930s and 40s, Cloudstreet boasts an outstanding ensemble cast including AFI Award winning actors Stephen Curry, Essie Davis, Emma Booth, Geoff Morrell, and is directed by AFI Award winner Matthew Saville (The King, Noise) and adapted for the screen by Ellen Fontana and Tim Winton. Cloudstreet
Offspring, Series 2 

(Network Ten, May 2011, 13 x 60 min)

Will Nina (Asher Keddie) and Chris (Don Hany) finally get it together? Tune in for the second series of the charming and frustrating drama about the messy and humorous loves and lives of the Proudman family. Produced by Southern Star’s John Edwards and Imogen Banks, Offspring features a stellar Australian cast including Kat Stewart, John Waters, Eddie Perfect, Richard Davies, Linda Cropper and Deborah Mailman – fresh off the back of her recent AFI Award win for her performance as Cherie. Directors include Kate Dennis, Ken Cameron, Daina Reid, Shirley Barrett, Emma Freeman. Offspring, Series 2
Blood Brothers 

(Channel Nine, May TBC, 90-minute telemovie)

Based on the true story of the Gilham family murders, one of Australia’s most sensational criminal cases, Blood Brothers is produced by Playmaker Media and stars Lisa McCune, Tony Martin and Michael Dorman. Based on the book by Robin Bowles, with a screenplay by Victoria Madden, the telemovie promises to be “a chilling portrait of crime and punishment, a compelling insight into human nature, and a relentless fight for justice.” Blood Brothers
Packed to the Rafters, Series 4 

(Seven Network, mid-2011, 22 x 60 min)

Australia’s highest rating drama series returns with the rest of Series 4 mid-year. Following the ongoing trials and tribulations of the Rafters family with affection and wit, Packed to the Rafters features an ensemble cast led by AFI Award winners Rebecca Gibney and Erik Thomson  as Julie and Dave Rafter. and boasts some of Australia’s leading directors including AFI Award winners Shirley Barrett and Cherie Nowlan at the helm in 2011. Packed to the Rafters, Series 4
Sea Patrol, Series 5 – ‘Damage Control’ 

(Channel Nine, mid 2011 TBC, 13 x 60 min)

Following the crew of the HMAS Hammersley as they patrol the coastline of Australia and protetct the nation’s borders, this is the fifth and final series of Sea Patrol. Lisa McCune again heads up the cast, along with Ian Stenlake, Conrad Coleby, John Batchelor, Matt Holmes Kristian Schmid and Tammy McIntosh .Sea Patrol is produced by McElroy All Media and was filmed at Mission Beach, Far North Queensland and at Warner Bros Studio on the Gold Coast. Sea Patrol, Series 5 – ‘Damage Control’
The Slap 

(ABC1, late 2011, 8 x 55 min)

At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own, setting off a ripple of consequences among those who witness it. Based on Christos Tsolkias’ bestselling novel about a group of friends and family in contemporary Melbourne, this miniseries stars Melissa George, Sophie Lowe, Sophie Okonedo, Essie Davis, Jonathan LaPaglia, Oliver Ackland, Alex Dimitriades, Diana Glenn and Anthony Hayes. A team of four AFI Award winning directors – Jessica Hobbs, Matthew Saville, Tony Ayres and Robert Connolly each direct two episodes. The Slap is produced by Matchbox Pictures’ Tony Ayres, Helen Bowden and Michael McMahon. The Slap
Tangle, Series 3 

(Foxtel/Austar, Showcase, late 2011 TBC, 6 x 60 min)

When Tangle debuted in 2009, it explored an interconnected family and friendship group across two generations – the world of 40-year-olds and their teenage children. The second season looked at what happens when tragedy strikes. Season three promises to pull apart and examine just how the generations separate from one another and how the ties of family are stretched. Produced by Southern Star’s John Edwards, the cast includes Justine Clarke, Kat Stewart and Catherine McClements, who last year won an AFI Award for her performance as Christine in this surprising and original series. Tangle, Series 3
Spirited, Series 2 

(Foxtel/Austar, W Channel, 2011, 10 x 60 min)

Claudia Karvan returns to her role as Suzy Darling, the uptight Sydney dentist who happens to be sharing her apartment with the ghost of Henry Mallet, a wacky 80s rock star (Matt King). A strange and impossible love affair begins. In this season, Suzy’s ex-husband (Roger Corser) continues to try to win her back, while Henry is joined by an entourage of other ghosts, including ‘The King’ played by Simon Lyndon. Another Southern Star production, Spirited boasts a team of accomplished directors, including Stuart McDonald, Michael J. Rowland, Jonathan Teplitzky, Rowan Woods and Jonathan Brough. Jacquelin Perske heads up the writing team, comprising Tony McNamara, Lally Katz, Alice Bell, Jessica Redenbach, Tommy Murphy, Ian Meadows and Mandy McCarthy. Production began in February, with the series expected to air later this year. Spirited, Series 2
Rush, Series 4 

(Network Ten, second half 2011, 13 x 60 min)

Since 2008, Rush has established itself as an action-packed series with exceptional production values, winning the 2010 AFI Award for Best Television Drama Series and AFI Award for Best Direction in Television (Grant Brown). This year we can expect more breathtaking stunts and punchy emotional drama than ever before. Yet another Southern Star production, Rush stars Roger Corser, Callan Mulvey, Joelene Anderson, Nicole da Silva, Catherine McClements, Samuel Johnson, Ashley Zuckerman, Kevin Hofbauer and Josef Ber. Production will commence on the 13-part series mid-year. Directors include Andrew Prowse, Grant Brown, Daina Reid, Ben Chessell, Darren Ashton, Adrian Wills Rush won the AFI Awards for Best Television Drama Series and Best Direction in Television (Grant Brown) in 2010. Rush, Series 4
Underbelly: Razor  

(Channel Nine, late 2011, 13 x 60 min)

Following on from the Underbelly Files: Tell Them Lucifer Was Here; Infiltration and The Man Who Got Away, the new Underbelly series, Razor will hit screens later this year. Set in Sydney in the 1920s, Underbelly: Razor is the story of that bloody, decade-long, tit-for-tat rivalry between Tilly Devine, a sharp-tongued Cockney who ran a chain of 40 brothels, and her bitter rival Kate Leigh, an Aussie battler who’d built an empire out of sly grog, thieving and cocaine. Heading this series will be Danielle Cormack (Rake) as vice queen Leigh and Jack Campbell (All Saints) as Jim Devine, Tilly’s husband. Underbelly: Razor is produced by Screentime’s Peter Gawler and Elisa Argenzio. Underbelly: Razor
Killing Time 

(Foxtel – TV1, 2011, 10 x 60 min)

Fremantle Media’s Killing Time follows the true story of Andrew Fraser’s rise from small time lawyer to successfully defending the most infamous criminals this country has ever seen, and then his ultimate downfall and imprisonment for five years in maximum security. Written by Ian David (Blue Murder), Mac Gudgeon (Halifax) and Katherine Thompson (Satisfaction) and starring AFI Award winners David Wenham, Colin Friels and Anthony Hayes, Killing Time is one of the most eagerly anticipated series in years. Delayed by legal woes, the series will make its long-awaited debut on Foxtel’s TV1 later this year. Killing Time
Crownies 

(ABC1, 2011, 22 x 60 min)

Focusing on five eager young lawyers who work in the Department of Public Prosecution, Crownies is a 22-part drama produced by Screentime Australia for ABC TV. Fresh out of law school, the young solicitors work in a highly stressful and fast-paced environment, liaising with police, victims and witnesses of crime – as well as dealing with the moral and social dilemmas of single life. An ensemble cast includes relative newcomers Todd Lasance, Hamish Michael, Ella Scott Lynch, Andrea Demetriades and Indiana Evans, together with Marta Dusseldorp, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Jerome Ehlers and Jeanette Cronin. Crownies is written by Greg Haddrick, Jane Allen, Kylie Needham, Tamara Asmar, Blake Ayshford and Justine Gilmer. Directors include Tony Tilse, Chris Noonan, Cherie Nowlan and Grant Brown. The series is produced by Karl Zwicky with Carole Sklan, Des Monaghan and Greg Haddrick as executive producer. Crownies
Wild Boys 

(Seven Network, late 2011, 13 x 60 min)

Set in the 1850s, in a gold rush world of horses and bushrangers, this new colonial western will focus on a gang of four young men who stage holdups and struggle to stay one step ahead of the lawmen and the noose. Daniel MacPherson, Michael Dorman and David Field will star, alongside Zoe Ventura, who will play a single mother with a business to run. The Southern Star series is produced by Sarah Smith and Julie McGauran and will be filmed in NSW. Written by John Ridley, Jeffrey Truman, James Walker, Dave Warner, Michelle Offen and Margaret Wilson, Wild Boys will be directed by Arnie Custo, Chris Martin-Jones, Ian Watson, Jeffrey Walker and Ken Cameron. With production scheduled to begin now (March) the series is expected to air later this year.

Also Tracking: ABC’s Bed of Roses, Series 3; Channel Nine’s Rescue Special Ops, Series 3; Channel Nine telemovie Panic at Rock Islandand perhaps later in the year Steven Spielberg’s QLD-filmed time-travelling dinosaur adventure series Terra Nova. We’re also intrigued by the sound of The Straits, an ABC crime drama about a family of smugglers, set in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.

Comedy & Light Entertainment

Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight 

(ABC1, currently screening, Wednesdays, 8:30pm)

This live weekly talk show is fast becoming an enjoyable Wednesday night appointment for those missing Spicks & Specks. Host Adam Hills is likeably naughty as he chats with a variety of guests and interacts with the studio and online. Clad in a dinner suit, Hannah Gadsby provides a nicely twisted version of Girl Friday as she assists Hills with pranks and props from the sidelines.  Visit the website for Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight for heaps of extras and add-ons. Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight
The Jesters, Series 2 

(Movie Extra, Tuesdays, 8:30pm, encore Saturdays)

Professing to “lift the skirts on the making of a TV comedy show”, The Jesters is back for another wry and often hilarious second series. Mentor and boss Dave Davies (Mick Molloy) wonders whether he’s created a monster by giving the young upstart comedians their own stunt-based show. Helped by his producer and right hand woman Kat (Emily Taheny) and Machiavellian network boss Julia (Susie Porter), Dave’s kept in check by his long-time agent and ego-stroker, Di (Deborah Kennedy). The Jesters, Series 2
Laid 

(Encore Screenings – ABC2, Wednesdays, 9:00pm, 6 x 30 min)

Haven’t been Laid yet? You better catch the repeats on ABC2 (Wednesdays, 9pm) and stand by for series two. Written by Marieke Hardy and Kirsty Fisher and produced by AFI Award winner Liz Watts (Animal Kingdom), Laid is a black romantic comedy about Roo McVie (Alison Bell), a woman whose sexual past catches up with her in the most unusual of ways. Co-stars include AFI Award winner Abe Forsythe (Marking Time). Laid
Woodley 

(ABC1, 2011, 8 x 30 min)

Comedian Frank Woodley (of Lano and Woodley fame) writes, produces and stars in this physical comedy about an exasperating 40-year-old man-child. He’s sharing custody of his eight-year-old daughter and trying to win back his long-suffering ex-wife (Justine Clarke), who has just started dating a local psychiatrist (Tom Long). Early indications suggest this will be hilarious and unique, a comic drama from one of our best contemporary clowns. Woodley
Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable 

(ABC1, 2011, 6 x 30 min)

Comedian Laurence Leung’s latest documentary series adventure is tipped to be Mythbusters meets Ghostbusters as he embarks on mind-bending quests to examine the irrational and the impossible. With his curious scientific research and somewhat ludicrous real-life experiments, Lawrence Leung’s Unbelievable pokes fun at our own misconceptions and tests the limits of our beliefs.
The Gruen Transfer 

(ABC1, 2011)

Wil Anderson, Russell Howcroft and Todd Sampson will be back later in the year with a brand new series of the 2010 AFI Award winner for Best Light Entertainment Television Series, The Gruen Transfer. Advertising executives beware! In the meantime, you can follow the Gruen Team on Twitter http://twitter.com/gruenhq The Gruen Transfer
Angry Boys 

(ABC1, 2011, 12 x 30 min)

2008 Byron Kennedy Award winner Chris Lilley will soon be back on our screens with his new mock doco series Angry Boys. Produced in association with HBO and BBC TV and shot in various locations across the globe, Lilley introduces us to a bunch of new and familiar characters as he explores what it means to be a boy in the 21st century, and all the angst, anger, anticipation and absurdity that comes with it. Angry Boys
Housos 

(SBS, mid-2011 TBC)

Multi Logie nominee Paul Fenech’s particular brand of irreverent humour was in full force in Pizza and Swift & Shift Couriers and garnered him a devoted fan base. His new series Housos, about the residents bikie gang living in a public housing estate, is set to continue Fenech’s penchant for biting parody and lampooning of ethnic stereotypes that will entertain many and ruffle a few feathers. The Housos cast will include Fenech, Anthony Salame, Angry Anderson, Ian Turpie and Amanda Keller. Housos
Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey 

(ABC1, mid 2011, 6 x 30 min)

Judith Lucy is lost. Now, ready or not, she’s going on a journey to find herself. This six-part series follows the droll and dry comedian Judith Lucy on a very personal path from devoutly religious child to determined young atheist to adult searching for something to believe in. She tries on different faiths for size, revealing what’s on offer for the spiritually curious, and reliving the hilarious, bizarre and profound moments in her life that have shaped who she is today. A co-production between ABC TV and Bearded Lady/Pretty Good Productions, this comedy/documentary is written by Judith Lucy, produced by Todd Abbott (Micallef Tonight, David Tench Tonight) with directors Brendan Fletcher (Mad Bastards) and Tony Martin (The Librarians, The Late Show). Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey
Outland 

(ABC1, mid 2011, 6 x 30 min)

Starring Christine Anu, Adam Richard, Ben Gerrard, Paul Ireland and Toby Truslove as the members of a gay science fiction fan club, Outland is a comedy series about their lives, loves and passion for the worlds of science fiction. Orbiting around their shambolic meetings at each other’s apartments, this is a series about how you cope if you’re gay and a geek. Filmed in Melbourne and produced by Princess Pictures – the same team behind the highly popular Summer Heights High and John Safran’s Race RelationsOutland is written by John Richards and Adam Richard and directed by Kevin Carlin (City Homicide, Packed to the Rafters). Outland
Hamish & Andy  

(Channel Nine, late 2011)

Details are being kept under wraps for the much anticipated show by radio kings, Hamish Blake and Andy Lee.  Having dominated the airwaves for the past 5 years, audiences wait to see what shape their foray back into television will take.  The show will be produced through their Radio Karate production company. Hamish & Andy
Twentysomething 

(ABC2, 2011, 6 x 30 min)

Created and starring Jess Harris (Hamish & Andy’s Real Stories, Rove) and Josh Schmidt (5 Lost at Sea) Twentysomething is the story of two best mates, Jess and Josh, who never went to uni, never had a clear talent, and never really had a drive to grow up. While their friends climb the corporate ladder and start settling down, Jess and Josh begin to tire of their dead-end jobs. They decide to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure. Produced by Nicole Minchin (Lowdown) and directed by Paul Currie, the comedy series also stars Hamish Blake as Jess’s on-again off-again crush, and Leah de Niese (Offspring) as another ‘back-up’ friend, Abby. Filmed in Melbourne in December and January, the series is expected to air later this year. Twentysomething

Also Tracking: SBS comedy spoof about 60s-era spies on a mission to kill Hitler in Danger 5; John Clarke’s The Games: London Calling (Channel Nine); Tony Martin and Ed Kavalee host a new Channel Nine discussion program The Joy of Sets, produced by Zapruder’s Other Films; and of course new series of SBS’ Rockwiz and ABC’s Spicks and Specks, which is returning after Easter.

Children’s Television

Go Lingo! 

(ABC3, premieres Monday, April 11, 11.25am)

New to ABC3 this April is the children’s game show Go Lingo! Each episode sees three contestants aged 11-12 battling it out to gain the most points while competing in a series of fun, hi-tech intellectual and physical games designed to test their spelling and grammar. If the website is anything to go by Go Lingo! sounds like a blast with a pit of oversized letters for the contestants to jump in to as well as digital basketball and paint ball to master. The show will also showcase Indigenous languages from around Australia with a segment titled ‘My Country’ and will be hosted by 19-year-old Torres Strait Islander Alannah Ahmat, who was selected after a nationwide search. Go Lingo!
Slide 

(Fox8, August 2011, 10 x 60 min)

Filmed in Brisbane, Fox8’s new teen drama Slide follows the unpredictable exploits of a group of teenagers as they prepare to face life after school. The 10-part drama will be produced by Playmaker Media and Hoodlum. Hoodlum has gained international recognition for US projects including Lost and Flash Forward. The cast of Slide features Gracie Gilbert (Lockie Leonard), Brenton Thwaites, Ben Schumann (Neighbours, Kick) , Adele Perovic and Emily Robins (The Elephant Princess, Shortland St.). The series is aimed at an audience of 17 to 25-year-olds and draws upon youth for its story development. Produced by David Maher (Supernova), Nathan Mayfield (Hard Choices, Fat Cow Motel), Tracey Robertson (Feeling Sexy, Fat Cow Motel), and David Taylor (Blood Brothers, Crash Palace). Slide
My Place, Series 2 

(ABC3, late 2011, 13 x 30 min)

Mischief and adventure continue to abound in My Place, winner of last year’s AFI Award for Best Children’s Television Drama and co-winner of the 2011 international KidScreen Awards . Produced by multi AFI Award winner Penny Chapman (RAN, The Road from Coorain) from Matchbox Pictures, the story is based on the acclaimed book by Nadia Wheatley, about several generations of Australian children who have lived in the same place for over 130 years. The second series is written and directed by well known Australian talent including; Rachel Ward (Beautiful Kate), Wayne Blair (Lockie Leonard), Catriona McKenzie (The Circuit), Sam Lang (Monkey’s Mask), Greg Waters (Dance Academy), Nick Parsons (Dead Heart), Alice Addison (RAN), John Alsop (RAN, Brides of Christ), Dallas Winmar (Aliwa!), Tony Briggs (The Sapphires) and Michael James Rowland (The Last Confession Of Alexander Pearce). My Place, Series 2
Dance Academy, Series 2 

(ABC3, late 2011, 26 x 30 min)

Tara (Xenia Goodwin) returns to the National Academy of Dance with the goal of representing Australia in the world’s most prestigious ballet competition. But perhaps she should be more focused on just surviving Second Year, where having climbed to the top in her first year at the Academy – in dance, in life, in love – she now has a very long way to fall. The highest rated drama on ABC last year, and co-winner of the 2011 international KidScreen Awards, Dance Academy has also been shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier’s Script Writing Award. Produced by two-time AFI Award nominee Joanna Werner (Bring it On Again, H20: Just Add Water), the show also stars Tara Morice (Strictly Ballroom), Alicia Banit (Summer Heights High), Dena Kaplan (City Homicide, The Flight of the Conchords), and Tom Green (Emerald Falls).

Also Tracking: a brand new 3D animated series of Bananas in Pyjamas; the ABC’s hugely popular Australian version of Prank Patrol; and a second series of the inventive children’s animation series The Adventures of Figaro Pho (from AFI Award winner Luke Jurevicius).

Sweet, funny, serious: Maeve Dermody and Leon Ford take on the AFI Quick Quiz

March 17 saw the national release of Griff the Invisible, an Australian romantic comedy with a spunky superhero twist. The feature debut from writer-director Leon Ford stars Ryan Kwanten as Griff, a mild-mannered office worker with quixotic dreams of saving the world. He falls in love with a Melody (Maeve Dermody), a girl as delightfully odd as himself.

In celebration of the film’s release, we posed the new AFI Quick Quiz* to the film’s lead actress, Maeve Dermody and filmmaker Leon Ford. What turns them on? What turns them off? What was the film that changed their lives? Find out here.

Maeve Dermody

Maeve Dermody

Maeve Dermody

Now a local acting sensation, Maeve made her feature film debut in 1993 with Breathing Under Water. Since then, she’s performed on both stage and screen and has earned two Best Supporting Actress AFI Award nominations for her roles in Black Water (2008) and Beautiful Kate (2009). Fresh off the stage from Company B Belvoir’s latest production of Measure for Measure, Dermody is now celebrating her turn as the eccentric and scientifically minded Melody in Griff the Invisible.

Q: What’s your favourite word?
A: Vastidity [vastness, immensity]

Q: What’s your least favourite word?
A: Babe

Q: What turns you on?
A: Laughter

Q: What turns you off?
A: Bad punctutation

Q: What sound or noise do you love?
A: The sound of a bath running.

Q: What sound or noise do you hate?
A: Jack-hammer

Q: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
A: Author/writer

Q: What profession would you not like to do?
A: Air Hostess

Q: The last film or DVD you watched?
A: Father of my Children

Q: The film that changed you, and why?
A: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – it’s deeply intelligent while also being funny, honest and moving.

Q: Your guilty television pleasure?

A: True Blood – although I don’t feel so guilty about it.

Q:Can you name three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you?
A: My Mum, my high school English teacher and the author Siri Hustvedt via her writing.

Q: Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is…A: …we are constantly given the chance to reinvent ourselves.

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Driving the Zippy Little Car: Welcome to the AFI Blog!

What is a blog anyway? You may be surprised at how many people still ask this question (and some of them are Generation Y, believe it or not). For those who don’t consider themselves ‘online natives’, the best way of explaining it is to say that a blog is website that’s updated regularly, like a diary. Small, fast and cost-effective, it’s like a zippy little car that speeds past the lumbering truck that is a website. As much as we love our AFI website (and it remains a wonderful resource), it really is a bit of a beast, especially when you’re trying to drive fast or take a sharp corner. And to stretch the metaphor that little bit further, it doesn’t take passengers or allow for feedback from you, our dear readers.

Which brings us to the AFI blog. Operating as an add-on to our website, we’re going to use this space to bring you fresh content in a way that’s interactive, personal and hot off the presses. We’ll be gradually migrating a lot of our fortnightly e-news over to the blog, which will be updated several times a week, with stories, interviews, reviews and clips from the Australian screen world. Over the coming months, new segments will be introduced, like the ‘Why I Adore’ series, inviting fans and experts to rave about their favourite scenes or characters in Australian film and television. There will also be the opportunity for guest posts from key players within the industry, film festival reports, and a behind-the-scenes diary demystifying the annual AFI Awards process.

So welcome to the AFI Blog. We’re still testing out the gears and revving up the engine, but we look forward to having you drive with us.

Rochelle Siemienowicz
AFI Editor