Part 1: Wrapping it up with a Bow – The 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe

DSC_7062

Winners at the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe, Monday 28 January. Photo: Belinda Rolland

The statuettes have been presented, the winners have been toasted and the laurels have been sent out to each winning production. While the 2nd AACTA Awards may be fast receding behind us, there’s now the task of looking through all the wonderful photos and priceless video footage from the two Sydney events, and making sure they’re labelled and saved for posterity – and shared with screen industry and audience members alike.

In this, the first part of our AACTA Awards wrap, we shine the spotlight on the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe and held in Sydney at The Star Event Centre on Monday 28 January.

The luncheon was hosted by the ever-entertaining Adam Elliot, who memorably appeared in one segment dressed as a gold-clad human statuette. Other presenters included Diana Glenn, Jane Harber and Jimi Bani as well as acclaimed actors Damon Herriman, Daniel Henshall and Felicity Price. Also taking to the stage were The Sapphires stars Miranda Tapsell and Shari Sebbens.

A highlight of the luncheon was the special presentation of the Raymond Longford Award to Producer, Al Clark.

The 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe also recognised the talent and innovation of artists and craftspeople working across television, documentary, short fiction film, short animation and feature film categories.  Here’s a quick rundown, with clips from our YouTube Channel:

DOCUMENTARY

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY
Storm Surfers 3D. Ellenor Cox, Marcus Gillezeau.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY UNDER ONE HOUR
Then The Wind Changed. Jeni McMahon, Celeste Geer. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Go Back To Where You Came From. Rick McPhee, Ivan O’Mahoney. SBS

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION IN A DOCUMENTARY
Fighting Fear. Macario De Souza. FOXTEL  Movie Network

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY IN A DOCUMENTARY
Fighting Fear. Tim Bonython, Chris Bryan, Macario De Souza, Lee Kelly. FOXTEL – Movie Network

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING IN A DOCUMENTARY
Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta – Episode 1. Sam Wilson. SBS

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND IN A DOCUMENTARY
Dr Sarmast’s Music School. Dale Cornelius, Livia Ruzic, Keith Thomas. ABC1

 

SHORT FILM

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT ANIMATION
The Hunter. Marieka Walsh

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FICTION FILM
Julian. Robert Jago, Matthew Moore.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY IN A SHORT FILM
Transmission. Zak Hilditch.

TELEVISION

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION SERIES
Agony Aunts. Adam Zwar, Nicole Minchin. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST TELEVISION COMEDY SERIES
Lowdown – Season 2. Nicole Minchin, Amanda Brotchie, Adam Zwar. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PERFORMANCE IN A TELEVISION COMEDY
Patrick Brammall. A Moody Christmas. ABC1

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CHILDREN’S TELEVISION SERIES
The Adventures Of Figaro Pho. Dan Fill, Frank Verheggen, David Webster. ABC3

 

FEATURE FILM

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Sapphires. Warwick Thornton.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST EDITING
The Sapphires. Dany Cooper ASE.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST SOUND
The Sapphires. Andrew Plain, Bry Jones, Pete Smith, Ben Osmo, John Simpson.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC SCORE
Not Suitable For Children. Matteo Zingales, Jono Ma.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Sapphires. Melinda Doring.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Sapphires. Tess Schofield.

A gallery of gorgeous photos of winners from the luncheon can be found here on Facebook or on our Instagram account, but for a taste, here’s a gallery of selected shots from the event:

For full details of the 2nd AACTA Awards Luncheon, presented by Deluxe, see the AACTA website here.

Coming next: Part 2: Wrapping it up with a Bow: The 2nd AACTA Awards Ceremony.

Engineering the Perfect Storm: Producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox on promoting and exhibiting Storm Surfers 3D

Storm Surfers 3D takes the audience into a world where waves the size of buildings are surfed by legendary board-riders, Tom Carroll (two-time world surfing champion) and Ross Clarke-Jones (big wave pioneer). The two men, now in their 40s, are old friends, born out of the 1980s generation of pro-surfing. They team up with surf-forecasting guru and meteorologist Ben Matson to track the biggest waves in Australia, embarking on a potentially lethal adventure that takes them from Sydney to Tasmania, Western Australia and eventually on to Hawaii. Their friendships, their bodies and their courage are tested along the way.

This sounds like the perfect use of 3D technology to create a BIG cinema experience; one which will appeal to surfers as well as thrill-seekers of all kinds. The film is the latest installment in a project that began as a successful television series which has sold to more than 70 countries, been viewed by more than 20 million people and had 1.5 million views online (www.stormsurfers.tv), thus generating a massive fan base.

In a coup for producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox and directors Chris Nelius and Justin McMillan, Storm Surfers 3D has been selected to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, in the Real to Reel program, which features documentaries on hot topics or which provide intimate access into dramatic lives.

Here in Australia, in association with Madman Entertainment, the film has just commenced its event-style tour in a series of one night screenings, starting on 14 August in Sydney and traveling to all capital cities and selected regional centres. Tickets are being sold through the film’s website here.

On the eve of the film’s release, we asked producers Marcus Gillezeau and Ellenor Cox (Scorched), experts in the field of All Media production, about this unique exhibition strategy and the promotional methods they’re employing to build a tsunami of support.

AFI | AACTA: Congratulations on being selected to screen at Toronto. What do you think this means for the success of the film theatrically?

Gillezeau & Cox: It’s a huge honour for Storm Surfers 3D to be invited to such a prestigious festival as Toronto and is great timing for us given that we are releasing theatrically in Australia from August 14th. It has also enabled us to secure significant interest from US agents and international sales agents, again at a perfect time for us in our release strategy. What it also says to the general public is that Storm Surfers 3D is much more than just a surf film – we’re finding that this is coming through consistently in the film reviews and is a great boost to us on that level.

AFI | AACTA: You’ve chosen to exhibit this film as a series of one-off special events. Can you talk about that decision, and why this kind of film is suited to that form of release pattern? Is it financially viable?

Gillezeau & Cox: It’s certainly not the traditional model but then so much about Storm Surfers 3D is ‘out of the box’! In Australia we were super conscious that exhibitors would be sceptical about the box office success of an Australian documentary ostensibly about surfing. We also know that our core audience are mainly non traditional theatre-goers i.e. blokes aged 30+. We knew that if we went out in normal release and didn’t nail it in the first weekend, that despite great word of mouth, we’d have little presence thereafter and would have blown the opportunity to develop an ongoing relationship with the exhibitors. What we’ve chosen to do instead is a series of one-night-only screenings with Ross Clarke-Jones and Tom Carroll in attendance. We are promoting it in a similar manner to a rock concert and our core audience are responding the way that we had hoped they would and are already buying tickets. In many locations we have sold out these sessions already, and are now working with the exhibitors to open up more screenings, albeit in a limited release manner, but for an extended period. We believe that over the long term this is the best way to make this box office release financially viable.

AFI | AACTA: How do you go about creating the publicity and promotions strategy for such a release? How important is social media?

Gillezeau & Cox: Social media is crucial to us and the bulk of our P&A [publicity & advertising] budget is being spent on digital marketing. We have dedicated staff who focus on nothing but creating an ongoing dialogue with our online fan base. We also access the databases of clubs (i.e. Surf Life Saving) and sporting associations to spread the word. It’s incredibly rewarding to have this relationship with our audience over such an extended period and we reward our most ardent supporters (we call them our ‘gromments on the ground’) with free tickets, limited edition merchandising and time with Ross and Tom, in exchange for securing us significant ticket sales in their local areas. We also control all the back end on our website which is the main portal to the ticketing sections of all the cinemas and can make instantaneous changes to showcase new sessions and online material as it comes online.

Producer Marcus Gillezeau (in red jacket) securing a deal on his iPad on South Coast Bombie mission. Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones in wetsuits.

AFI | AACTA:  Your film is supported by extensive multimedia augmentation –  web series, game, ebook, branded content series. Can you explain a little about how these work to support the documentary and build its audience?

Gillezeau & Cox: Storm Surfers 3D is indeed a multi-faceted beast! Download our game or 140 page eBook now from iTunes; head to our website or Facebook page to enjoy 20 behind the scenes webisodes; stay tuned for the release of our soundtrack album next week! We have worked very carefully to ensure that our main message at present to our audience is: Buy your tickets now! We have dovetailed a very separate and targeted PR campaign around this, which showcases our other assets and hopefully brings a new audience to come and see the film. Our game took 18 months to develop and is a serious ‘gamers’ game! Our PR in this area is focused on first getting [game players] to engage with the game and then get enticed to see the movie.

AFI | AACTA: Through your production company, Firelight Productions, you are known as leaders (and International Digital Emmy® Award winners!)  in the all-media area. What do other producers in Australia stand to gain or lose from more fully utilising multiple-platforms?

Gillezeau & Cox: We are fascinated by the creative freedom that storytelling across multi-platforms allows us. It is a highly creative aspect to producing – not just from a financing point of view, but in its execution and delivery as well. It’s incredibly challenging however to be managing the creation of so many assets at the same time [and] needs appropriate time and budget to do this. In terms of what people stand to gain from this – it’s a no brainer – we need to reach our audiences nowadays where they entertain themselves – and this isn’t just in the movie theatre but instead via the iPhone on their way to work or their intray when they’re supposed to working! It’s the future and it’s a very exciting and creatively rewarding place to be exploring!

AFI | AACTA: Thanks for your time and best wishes with Storm Surfers 3D!

Storm Surfers 3D is now touring Australian locations. Visit the website for tickets and venues.

Trailer

A new kind of intimacy: Tony Krawitz, director of The Tall Man

Tony Krawitz

Tony Krawitz, writer and director of 'The Tall Man'.

Tony Krawitz is best known within the Australian film and television industry as the young South African-born writer and director of the acclaimed short feature Jewboy, a stunningly accomplished piece about a Chassidic taxi driver working in Bondi and experiencing a crisis of faith. The film premiered at Cannes and won three AFI Awards, including two for Krawitz himself – for Best Screenplay in a Short Film and Best Short Fiction Film (shared with Liz Watts). An AFTRS graduate, Krawitz has since been working predominantly in local television drama (including City Homicide, All Saints, The Silence and The Surgeon), but what’s putting him in the spotlight right now is his first foray into documentary, The Tall Man. Already, the film has premiered as an official selection at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, and has been announced as one of the four Nominees for the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary – and that’s all ahead of an Australian theatrical release on 17 November.

The Tall Man is produced by Darren Dale (company director of Blackfella Films, Australia’s premier Indigenous production company and long time producer for SBS) and based on the non fiction book by Chloe Hooper. It’s a sobering but gripping examination of the case of Cameron Doomadgee, an Indigenous man living on Palm Island in Far North Queensland, who on 19 November 2004 reportedly swore at a police officer, Senior Sargeant Chris Hurley, and 45 minutes later, lay dead in a police cell, with massive internal injuries likened to those of a fatal car crash victim. The outraged Palm Islanders rioted and burnt down the police station, but subsequent investigations never resulted in a conviction of the policeman. What they did result in, was a galvanising of the entire Queensland Police Force, who came out in support of their fellow officer, amidst accusations of collusion and mishandling of the case.

The Tall Man investigates these events and the legal case around them, but the focus is firmly on the people whose lives have been most affected by the tragedy – Doomadgee’s family, friends and the island’s community. In the interview below, Tony Krawitz talks about the process of gaining trust, exploring grief, and attempting to grapple with the paradox that Palm Island is both paradise and prison to those Indigenous people who live there.

AFI: Congratulations on your film’s nomination for Best Feature Length Documentary. One of the striking things about the film is its visual beauty despite the harshness of the story (and we should mention Director of Photography, Germain McMicking here). Can you talk about the look you were aiming for?

Tony Krawitz: The look came about organically through doing the research. Palm Island is just such a beautiful place. And yes, the story is such a sad tragic story that we thought it would be an interesting counterpoint to show the beauty. It’s kind of ironic that it looks like a picture postcard and yet something so bad happened that day. Also the film is so upsetting at times that we wanted to show the positive aspects of life on the island as well – those amazing kids and their grandparents, having karaoke nights and good times.

AFI: What was the significance of the scenes of a man on horseback that recur throughout the film? Are there a lot of horses on Palm Island?

Tony Krawitz: Yes, there are a lot of wild horses – maybe thousands on the island. We drove to the top of the mountain one day and there were about 50 horses up there, a whole big family of them. And some people keep them. Otherwise, they let the horses roam free and they know certain ones, and some afternoons after school kids just go and lasso a horse and go riding. So it’s got this great freedom to it. But in terms of structure, that guy riding on the horse symbolises the great sense of freedom about Cameron Doomadgee. The people who knew him describe him as quite a free spirited person.  He loved horse riding, and loved going to the neighbouring island and hunting and fishing for days at a time, and diving, and all those kinds of things. Seeing a man looking free on horseback just reminded me of Cameron and what I’d heard of him. It’s just that mix that people talk about on Palm Island – of being really free because it’s like country life, away from the city – and then feeling completely trapped because they are on an island, and feeling like they’re under the control of the police.

The Tall Man publicity still

Wild horses roam free on Palm Island - a place that is both paradise and prison. Image from 'The Tall Man'.

AFI: How closely did you follow the Chloe Hooper book upon which the film is based?

Tony Krawitz: I’m not sure how close it is anymore, because I know that book backwards. I’m a big fan of the book and the film is quite similar in a lot of ways – obviously the events are the same. The big difference is that Chloe was at a lot of the events, so in the book she’s describing being in the courtroom day by day, what each day is like, how people are feeling, and it’s happening in the present. Whereas in the film, all the people we’re interviewing are looking back at the events and commenting on those events. It’s in the past.  That’s one of the biggest differences. In my mind they complement each other.

AFI: What was the shooting schedule like for this film? How much time did you spend on Palm Island?

Tony Krawitz: I don’t remember exactly because we finished shooting at the end of last year. We went there about five times. We went there quite a lot. Sometimes we just went there so people could get to know us more and find out what we were doing. We filmed over at least a year.

AFI: Were people happy to talk to you? Were they glad this film was being made or were they difficult to win over?

Tony Krawitz: Everyone was happy, especially the family. I’m a whitey, so the company that hired me was an Indigenous film company, and they work obviously in Indigenous communities a lot. So everyone knew this was going to be a film made by Indigenous people, but with a white director on board. Most people just felt that nobody in the media had really spoken about Cameron as a person, with a life and a family, but that they’d just spoken about his death and the day that led up to that. They were really happy that the film would talk about those important events leading up to the tragedy and that day of his death, but that it would also be a celebration of his life.

Darren Dale producer of The Tall Man

'A man who needs four mobile phone batteries' - producer Darren Dale.

AFI:  Can you talk a little bit about your producer Darren Dale and how you came to be working with him?

Tony Krawitz: Darren and I met through mutual friends over the years and I’ve  known him through workshops with young Aboriginal filmmakers. So we’ve known each other for some time but we hadn’t worked together before. He just called me up one day and asked me if I was interested and gave me the book to read. He is quite extraordinary. He’s one of the busiest people I know.

AFI: His credits are quite extensive – including short films for Warwick Thornton and Beck Cole, and First Australians for SBS and producing the Message Sticks festival…

Tony Krawitz: He’s great. He needs four extra batteries for his mobile phone – especially when we were up in Palm Island! He was dealing with a lot. It was a really small crew and very hard work. But as much as it was a very tragic time, we also had an incredible time of being with the family who were just so gracious with us – inviting us to their house, taking us fishing, daily life stuff that wasn’t just about the filmmaking.

AFI: Had you been involved in documentary filmmaking before?

Tony Krawitz:  I made a short seven minute documentary at university, and then I researched a documentary that never got made. So I’ve always been interested in making documentaries, but this is the first long one I’ve made.

AFI: You’ve made a short feature and lots of television, but how was this particular film different from your other experiences as a director?

Tony Krawitz: It was really great actually. It’s quite a profound experience to have strangers tell you their stories and invite you into their homes. There’s a level of intimacy that’s quite different to working in fiction. With this particular story it was tough because you’re dealing with people’s grief. It’s not like the subject matter is really easy – you have to ask people really tough questions. But it was a privilege.

AFI: In past interviews you have spoken about how you grew up in South Africa and the situation of the Indigenous people in Queensland reminded you of apartheid South Africa. That’s a pretty strong criticism.

Cameron Doomadgee from The Tall Man documentary

Cameron Doomadgee as a young man (right, in Australian flag t-shirt), from Tony Krawitz's documentary 'The Tall Man'.

Tony Krawitz: Yes. That’s what Aboriginal people were saying to me too, so that’s not just me making it up. Also from reading Chloe’s book and talking to Aboriginal activists or people who have to deal with life in remote communities, it’s clear that Australia is a tough place for Indigenous people. For me as an outsider to it, it reminded me of apartheid. I grew up in a privileged position under apartheid, but I was back in South Africa recently for two years, which was really interesting. South Africa and Australia share a similar colonial history, and when you look at the history of a place like Palm Island, you discover that it was a bit like a penal colony. It was set up for recalcitrant natives in the 1920s, and people were in dormitories. When I was interviewing older people in the documentary, who grew up in the dormitories, you see that people are still living with the after-effects of colonialism and they’re on this island where they feel like they’re living under a police state. You can argue the actual specifics of apartheid and apartheid law and how it’s different to the situation of Indigenous people  – you can argue the nitty gritty of it – but the overall feeling that people have has striking similarities.

AFI: One of the points the film makes is the huge power of the police. And when the police collude, it’s very difficult to fight that, and whether you’re Aboriginal or white, you could be in that position of powerlessness.

Tony Krawitz: Yes, and that happens. In Far North Queensland it’s so common for Aboriginal people to talk about things like being pulled over by the police just because of the colour of their skin. The only people who wouldn’t talk to us for the documentary (apart from the police!) were Aboriginal people who were too scared to talk to us because they thought the cops might see them and beat them up one dark night! So that’s a real kind of fear up north.

AFI: Are you concerned about how the police will view the film?

Tony Krawitz: It will be interesting to see how the police react to it. We’re not uncovering new evidence. Everything in the film has already been spoken about. It’s not an investigative documentary in that sense, it’s more about going through the emotional side of the case. So we’re not trying to make [policeman] Chris Hurley out to be some kind of demon, just to show him as a flawed human being, as we’re all flawed human beings.

AFI: The sound design and the score for the film are really atmospheric, creating both a sense of beauty, sadness and menace. Sam Petty was the Sound Designer, and Antony Partos and David McCormack did the music. You’d worked with them before?

Tony Krawitz: I’ve worked with Sam a lot. But not Antony and David before. It was quite hard in a way – we just wanted to make the people who are the subjects of the film the focus and not go too heavy on sound design or music. We didn’t want to make it too overly emotional. I was just lucky to be able to collaborate with them. I think they did a great job. We wanted to find a balance to not let the score be the main thing – finding a way to add to the experience, but still giving the interviewees the space to say things in their own words.

AFI: Right now you’re working on shooting a feature film adaptation of Dead Europe, Christos Tsiolkas’s novel. That’s quite a full-on book! 

Tony Krawitz: Yes it is pretty full on! And really hard to adapt. Right now I’m in the office and there are people running around madly getting ready for it. We start the shoot in Sydney for the Australian parts of the story and then we go to Europe, but it’s all very exciting and it’s a great challenge.

AFI: We look forward to seeing it. Best wishes for The Tall Man too, and thanks for your time.

The Tall Man releases nationally 17 November through Hopscotch.

The Tall Man is one of the four films nominated for the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary at the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards, with winners announced January 2012. Click through for A Closer Look at the Nominees for Best Feature Length Documentary.

A Closer Look at the Nominees for Best Feature Length Documentary

2011 Nominees-for-Best-Feature-Length-Documentary

Last week the nominees for the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary, Best Short Fiction Film and Best Short Animation were announced. You can see them all listed again in this previous post. AACTA and AFI members, as well as the film loving general public will be able to see these films on the big screen (along with the 22 Feature Films in Competition) at the Samsung AFI | AACTA Festival of Film, to be held in Sydney and Melbourne from 6 October to 14 November. The winners will be announced at the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards to be held in Sydney in January 2012.

In today’s post, let’s focus on the Feature Length Documentaries: Life In Movement, Mrs Carey’s Concert, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure and The Tall Man.  Interestingly, all four of these documentaries were made with assistance from the Adelaide Film Festival Investment Fund (AFIF) and each of them premiered at the 2011 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival (24 Feb – 6 Mar), with the exception of Shut Up Little Man! which premiered at Sundance in January this year. The nomination of these fine films is yet another reminder of how fruitful this judiciously managed fund (AFIF) has been, and also the talent that’s currently shining forth from the South Australian screen community.

Note: For offical synopses and key cast and crew details, visit the AACTA website here. This blog post is intended as an informal look at the nominees, with extra information, social media details and editorial commentary provided for keen readers. The information is by no means comprehensive.

Life In Movement

Producer: Sophie Hyde, Bryan Mason
Director: Bryan Mason, Sophie Hyde
Writer: Bryan Mason, Sophie Hyde
Cinematographer: Bryan Mason
Editor: Bryan Mason
Sound: DJ Tr!p, Adrian Medhurst, Tom Heuzenroeder, Pete Smith

Festivals, links and screenings:

  • World Premiere: 2011 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival (BAFF).Also played 2011 Sydney Film Festival (SFF) where it won the Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize.
  • Screened at2011 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), and official selection of Edinburgh International Film Festival (June 2011).
  • Was screened as part of the Sydney Spring Dance Festival on 3 September. Stay tuned for more info on the film’s release.
  • Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) are currently putting together a study guide to accompany the film.
  • Connect:  Website, Facebook and Twitter @closer_prods (Closer Productions).

What’s it about? Life In Movement tells the story of dancer and choreographer Tanja Liedtke who on the brink or artistic stardom and just after being announced as the new Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Company was tragically killed in 2007.  The film looks at her work, her creativity and the legacy and inspiration she has left behind for those she most closely worked with.

Mrs Carey’s Concert

Producer: Bob Connolly, Helen Panckhurst, Sophie Raymond
Director: Bob Connolly, Sophie Raymond
Cinematographer: Bob Connolly
Editor: Sophie Raymond, Ray Thomas, Nick Meyers
Sound: Sophie Raymond, Bob Scott, Doron Kipen

Festivals, links and screenings:

  • Premiered as opening night film at the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival on 24 February, 2011.
  • Mrs Carey’s Concert was also part of a program of films curated by Laurence Kardish at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, honouring the contribution by the Adelaide Film Festival to Australian film (MOMA program ran 7 – 14 April 2011).
  • The film then had an extremely successful platform release in Australian cinemas from 28 April, 2011. Opened in New Zealand on 21 July.
  • Mrs Carey’s Concert is available on DVD from 21 September, 2011. Special features include director’s commentary, deleted scenes, deleted characters, ‘Emily’s advice on performing’ featurette and more.
  • Connect: Website, Facebook. Twitter: @MrsCsConcert (Sophie Raymond).

What’s it about? The film follows Karen Carey, music director at a Sydney girls’ school, as she prepares her students for a classical concert at the Sydney Opera House. Mrs Carey requires participation from every student, while setting a dauntingly high performance standard. Mrs Carey’s Concert is a documentary about making music, coming of age and pushing against one’s own inner limitations.

Box Office info:  Of the four films in competition for the AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary,  only Mrs Carey’s Concert has had a general release in cinemas at the time of writing, and the film had an enormously successful run in Australia, exceeding $1 million at the Australian box office (Source: MPDAA).

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure

Producer: Sophie Hyde, Matthew Bate
Director: Matthew Bate
Writer: Matthew Bate
Cinematographer: Bryan Mason
Editor: Bryan Mason
Editor: Bryan Mason
Sound: Johnny Elk Walsh, Pete Best, Tom Heuzenroeder, Emma Bortignon, Scott Illingworth

Festivals, links and screenings:

  • Premiered at Sundance 2011.
  • Australian premiere Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival 2011.
  • Sydney Film Festival 2011 – Finalist Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize.
  • Official selection Edinburgh International Film Festival 2011 and Sheffield Doc/Fest 2011.
  • Screened Melbourne International Film Festival 2011.
  • Due for Australian DVD release October (TBC).
  • Currently in US release at these cinemas.
  • Connect: Website, Facebook and Twitter @closer_prods (Closer Productions).

What’s it about? The film captures an archive of two friends’ audio tape recording of their noisy, drunken neighbours fighting and cursing. The recordings created one of the world’s first ‘viral’ pop culture sensations, sprouting zines, comics, a stage play and film adaptations.

The Tall Man

Producer: Darren Dale
Director: Tony Krawitz
Cinematographer: Germain McMicking
Editor: Rochelle Oshlack
Sound: Sam Petty, Guntis Sics, Ian Grant, Robert Mackenzie, Antony Partos, David McCormack

Festivals, links and screenings:

  • The Tall Man had its world premiere at the 2011 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival.
  • The film has been selected to screen in the ‘Real to Reel’ program of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (8 – 18 Sept) where it has its international premiere.
  • The Tall Man will be released in Australia through Hopscotch on 17 November.
  • Connect: Hopscotch Website

What’s it about? Based on Chloe Hooper’s acclaimed book of the same name, the documentary looks at the tragic tale surrounding the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004. The film traces the Palm Islanders’ reaction, the trial, the police officer at the centre of the case and the Doomadgee family as they struggle to understand what happened to their brother.

So there they are, our four impressive nominees for the inaugural AACTA Award for Best Feature Length Documentary. Be sure to see them, and if you’re an AACTA member, make your vote count.

Stay tuned for subsequent posts, where we’ll take a closer look at the nominees for the AACTA Award for Best Short Animation and Best Short Fiction Film.

Video Highlights from the launch of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts

The new Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts was  launched on Thursday 18 August, overlooking the stunning Sydney Opera House – which will be the iconic venue for the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards in January 2012.

Also announced, the identity of the founding President of AACTA, Mr Geoffrey Rush. The beautiful new statuette, designed by sculptor Ron Gomboc, has also been unveiled, held aloft, and much admired. Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you just want to hold it?

Below are some video highlights from the night. We invite you to share in the excitement and raise a toast to celebrate a brand new era in Australian screen history.

In this first clip, see stars walking the red carpet and working the media wall; fireworks exploding over the Opera House; and the announcement of the new President, Geoffrey Rush.

Below, the always inspiring AFI Patron, Dr George Miller, gives a wonderful speech, praising the AFI for “being a home” for the screen industry for the past 53 years, and introducing the new President as an examplar of the pursuit of excellence for which the Academy has been formed.

The undoubted highlight of the evening was Geoffrey Rush’s hugely entertaining and funny speech, where he made his first pronouncements as ‘Prez’ –  “You’d be an idiot if you didn’t recognise that Australian artists, both in front of and in so many categories behind the camera are among the world’s finest.” He holds the golden ‘baby’ and calls for a ‘competish’ to name the beauty. A must-watch clip:

And finally, some of the most important news of the awards calendar, the announcement of the 23 Feature Films in Competition for the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards. Here’s a trailer compilation that’s sure to make you keen to see the ones you’ve missed, and revisit the ones you’ve seen already:

These 23 feature films, along with the nominees for Best Short Fiction, Best Feature Length Documentary and Best Short Animation will be shown on the big screen at the AFI/Samsung AACTA Festival of Film to be held in Sydney and Melbourne from early October.

For more information about all of these developments, visit the sparkling new website: www.aacta.org

For a gallery of photos from the AACTA launch, visit the AFI Facebook page here.

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/user/AustFilmInstitute#p/a/u/5/nN8oS2M7n1A]

Alan Finney’s Cannes Report #3

Philippe Mora and Alan Finney at Cannes 2011

Filmmaker Philippe Mora, left, and Alan Finney catch up at Cannes 2011.

AFI Chair Alan Finney attended the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (11 – 22 May) as a producer and member of the Australian film contingent. As an industry insider since the 1960s, as a filmmaker, distributor and exhibitor, Finney has been to Cannes many times before. This year Alan sent back snapshots, impressions and memories. In this third and final report, he reflects on the state of the international market and on how other territories, particularly the French, manage their business. He checks in with Philippe Mora, makes some observations on piracy, and recommends a couple of fascinating new documentaries.

You can catch the previous Cannes Reports, #1 here or #2 here. Read on for the final installment…

It’s pretty obvious that there’s a feeling out on the streets of Cannes that this has been a strong market (as opposed to a Festival which I’ll leave others to judge).

Plenty of films, together with enthusiastic buyers in a highly competitive mode, and newly emerging markets in Russia and Latin America have resulted in a litany of good deals, a somewhat surprising result given the recent softness of international theatrical performance and declining DVD performance.

Also, of course, China is discussed as one of the growing and increasingly valuable markets. Importation and censorship controls are being addressed and whilst China is not alone in imposing limits on non-domestic films, its quota regime is among the world’s tightest.

The shared opinion seems to be that the rules are changing, though one producer expressed the opinion that a US sale is just as important as it was in the past, because if a film fails in the US it will impact negatively on its business in the rest of the world.

Of course it wouldn’t be the film industry without someone casting doubt on the upbeat mood with the Hollywood Reporter commenting : “While some are hailing this year as a return to the pre-crisis glory days – ‘extraordinary’, ‘huge’ and ‘best-ever’ were the most used adjectives amongst sales heavyweights – there remains the big question of whether Cannes’ hot pre-sale titles, when delivered, can deliver at the box office.”

A Glance at the French Case

Learning how other territories manage their business is always interesting and attending a forum on film and television, I learnt that in 2010, French television contributed 400 million Euros to the French Film Industry. I hope I didn’t hear that incorrectly!

The last time I checked, the French system for financing films seemed unique in Europe:

  • French theatres must show French films for a minimum number of weeks each year;
  • Major TV channels must allocate 3.2% of their turnover to cinema as co-producer (including at least 2.5% to French films);
  • They must broadcast a minimum of 50% of French films and Canal Plus, a very popular pay channel must devote 20% of its turnover to buy the rights of films (12% European minimum including 9% French minimum);
  • On each cinema ticket, an 11% tax is allocated to the “Fonds de Soutien’, which is open to foreign films provided they are co-produced with a French producer.

 At a producers’ breakfast meeting, one speaker told of some buyers making offers based on the Internet Movie Database (IMD) ratings…. a rather strange way to make commercial projections I would have thought.

Anticipating Dali

Salvador Dali and Alan Cumming

Salvador Dali, left, and Alan Cumming, the actor who plays him in Philippe Mora's upcoming 3D biopic, 'Dali'.

I also had a great catch-up with an old friend Philippe Mora who is in Cannes getting buyers excited about his next film Dali, a 3D biopic which will star Alan Cumming as the surrealist artist, and Judy Davis as his wife Gala. This I want to see! You can read more about this fascinating project over at Indiewire.

Piracy

Piracy is also a topic that pops up frequently in conversations and over recent years AFACT (Australian Federation against Copyright Theft) has had a hard fight against Internet Service Providers and hopefully recent news will encourage them to keep up the fight.

The US entertainment industry has thrown its weight behind proposed legislation that would give law enforcement officials and others new authority to move against internet sites that traffic in copyright material without permission. The Bill was introduced Thursday into the US Senate and is called the Protect IP Act, for intellectual property, and it will take aim at foreign-owned sites that trade in pirated material by allowing US authorities to seek court orders directing domestic internet service providers, search engines and others to stop doing business with them.

Alan’s Documentary Picks

Documentary films were also a big topic this year at Cannes. According to a very interesting article in movieScope Magazine, “we live in a golden age of documentary. Worldwide, more docs are being made by more people about more subjects than ever before. The Internet has democratised distribution and marketing.”

Whilst I am leaving movie reviews to others, there are two films I recommend you look out for, two  docos that are very different, but both intriguing.

Roger Corman at Cannes 2011

Roger Corman, centre, attends the premiere of documentary 'Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel' at Cannes 2011.

First, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. It was well worth standing in line for over an hour along with hundreds of Roger Corman fans to see this movie! I not only remember Corman’s films from late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s,but also ushered at some of them in Melbourne, and then was later involved in marketing others in the early days of Roadshow Distributors.

For those unfamliar with Roger Corman’s unique career, he began in 1949 with a job at 20th Century Fox and worked his way up to become a story analyst but after he received no credit for notes he made on a screenplay he abandoned the Studio path and started “no Budget” films. His first film was Monster from the Ocean Floor in 1953 which led to a lengthy relationship with American International Pictures (AIP), where he produced and directed films for years. His films were always profitable so he accessed larger budgets and in the ’60s he developed a long string of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. He made the first biker movie (Wild Angels) and the first “drug” movie (The Trip). Then there was The Intruder, a movie about integration in the South, but unable to find a financier willing to touch the subject, it was self-funded and self-produced. Corman later left AIP to form his own company, New World Pictures, which not only produced Corman signature entertainment but also distributed renowned foreign films in the US, helping to introduce American audiences to Kurosawa, Truffaut, Bergman, and Fellini. Corman then sold New World and formed Concorde-New Horizon which is still in business today.

Corman’s World contains interviews with some big Hollywood names, including Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and Ron Howard. Roger and his wife Julie attended the screening and introduced the film as did Peter Fonda. The response from the crowd was enormous.

Conan O'Brien on tour in 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Conan O'Brien on tour in the documentary 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'.

The second documentary I’d like to highlight, is Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, which follows  the former Tonight Show host on a  two-month, 32-city comedy-and-music variety-show tour (“Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television”) shortly after his split with NBC in 2010. His staff are key characters in the film such as Andy Richter, Jeff Ross and his ever-understanding assistant, Sona Movsesian and we catch up with stars such as Jim Carrey, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  The back-stage encounters with his team are funny and fascinating. Conan is obviously a complex and complicated person – but that’s what being a comic is all about.

Finally, back to the AFI….

Its also been good to chat with the Australians attending the Festival about the role of the AFI and the exciting challenges we face in making it relevant to all sectors of our very broad industry. Overall the filmmakers see value in the AFI as a body that can do more than just present awards once a year, and thankfully they seem willing to work with us in becoming an energetic and relevant organisation. The years ahead are going to hard work but it will be worth it.

Stay tuned for further developments.