Introducing the team: Helene Carter, AFI Awards Manager

In a new series on the blog, we’ll be introducing members of the AFI team. In this, our first installment, we talk to one of the busiest people in the office, Helene Carter, the AFI Awards Manager. Always calm in the eye of the storm (and it must be said, always stylish and perfectly groomed!) Helene’s job involves overseeing the entire Awards process. This includes reviewing the Rule Book and Awards Policy, calling for entries, organising and chairing the jury meetings, producing our screenings cinema trailer and nominations clips packages, overseeing the Awards content for these events, right on through to working with our show’s Producers on the pre-production of the AFI Awards Ceremony and broadcast. On the big night of nights, Helene works back stage ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Employment history: Helene came to the AFI Awards team in April 2008 from a commercial production background. Having studied a Bachelor of Arts at Deakin University, Helene started her television career as a scriptwriter and producer at WIN Television in Ballarat, working on everything from TVCs to producing live sporting outside broadcast.  After four years, in 2000 the bright lights of Sydney beckoned, as she took on the role of Production Manager of Medal Ceremonies for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. A career highlight, working under the watchful eyes of the world’s media as part of the Ric Birch, Ceremonies team was a truly a remarkable work experience. Following the Games, Helene moved back to Melbourne and back into advertising production, taking the role of Senior Television/Radio Writer and Producer at THE BRAND AGENCY, working on retail accounts such as Red Rooster, Bunnings Warehouse, Toyota and more. From here Helene’s career has included some freelance producing with H2 PTY LTD on shows such as In:Entertainment hosted by Antonia Kidman, and a full time position as Senior Commercial Producer at 9mm for the Nine Network. Advertising clients here included The City of Melbourne, L’Oreal Paris, Cadbury Schweppes and more. Passionate about large scale special events and television production, the annual AFI Awards are a rewarding challenge.

Talking to Helene about the Job:

Q: Can you tell us briefly about the shape of the year in the Awards department?

I would say it is a circle – that seems to speed up as the year progresses!

AFI Awards ready to be presented to the winners

AFI Awards ready to be presented to the winners

OK seriously, we operate under a very process driven calendar in the Awards department, each process feeds directly into the next.

We conduct an annual review of the Awards Policy & Rule Book and Call for Jurors and Entries in the first quarter.

We then process all of these entries, build our juries and distribute materials for judging. The meaty task of facilitating the judging process in over 13 jury meetings occurs across April – October.

Parallel to this we produce [along with our Events Manager] the AFI Awards Screenings program in Melbourne and Sydney, screening all of the Feature Film contenders, along with the nominated Short Fiction Film, Short Animation and Feature Documentaries.

We move through Screenings, manage member voting [with our Membership department and KPMG] and slide into Nominations Announcement territory. This is rapidly followed by the annual AFI Awards celebrations.

We grab a glass of champagne, catch our breath, and then take off again!

Q: Who are the people in your Awards team, and what are their roles?

It’s girl power in the AFI Awards department; we are comprised of three full time staff:

Our Assistant Awards Manager,  Sofie Ham, has been with the AFI since August last year. Incredibly capable, Sofie is gearing up to welcome our 2011 entrants as she works hard to put the finishing touches on our updated online entry system for the year.

Our team is completed by the effervescent and extremely competent Awards Coordinator – Vanessa McKeddie. Vanessa has been with the Awards department since May 2009 and has worked with me on preparing the policy review, in readiness for entries in 2011.

As a small team we work very closely together and interchangeably throughout the course of the year. As an entrant, it is likely that you will get to know all three of us.

Q: What are the most exciting and satisfying parts of your job?

Witnessing the effect that gaining an AFI Award nomination or win has on the individuals and teams that work so hard to produce their productions.

This, coupled with seeing the broadcast come together each year, as it is a cumulative celebration and stock take of our production successes across all genres.

Q: If there was one thing you could remind people about entering the AFI Awards and filling in the applications, what would it be?

It is nice to know that no matter how accomplished someone has become in their career, recognition and acknowledgement by your peers and your industry, is always meaningful.

To start it early and double check everything before you submit it, please. We’d hate you to leave someone out!  

Q: What’s it like to be up close and seeing a person win an AFI Award? What’s the significance to a career to win an AFI Award?

Some moments in the Ceremonies will stay with me forever; I think these have been the moments of pure surprise, elation, delight or responses from winners that have been simply overwhelmed.

Some examples off the top of my head: I was moved by how genuinely surprised Catherine McClements was last year to win her AFI Award for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for Tangle. That was a really beautiful moment for me.

I consider it an honor to have seen Dr Reg Grundy win the AFI Raymond Longford Award in person. He was deeply touched. It is nice to know that no matter how accomplished someone has become in their career, recognition and acknowledgement by your peers and your industry, is always meaningful.

Seeing Chris Lilley receive the Byron Kennedy Award and AFI Awards for Best Performance in a Television Comedy and Best Comedy Series in 2008 for Summer Heights High, was also another really special moment; he was so unassuming about his wins.

Being on side of stage as the Ledger family received Heath’s posthumous AFI International Award for Best Actor for The Dark Knight in 2008, was one of the most moving moments of my life. It still brings a tear to my eye on recollection.

I don’t think it is for me to say what the significance of an AFI Award win can mean to an individual, as this will vary for every single AFI Award winner. (I sincerely don’t mean any offence to all of the many other AFI Award winners that I have witnessed, by singling out these few examples).

Helene rehearsing for the AFI Awards Ceremony

Helene (in red scarf) rehearses on stage with presenters Nick Giannopoulos and Alex Dimitriades

Getting to know Helene on a personal note…

We asked Helene to fill in our Quick Quiz Questionnaire.

The AFI version of the Bernard Pivot* Questionnaire

  1. What is your favorite word? Onomatopoeia
  2. What is your least favorite word? No
  3. What turns you on? Imagination and the deepest dark brown eyes that you can dive into and drown in…
  4. What turns you off? Anger
  5. What sound or noise do you love? The sounds of a working TV studio and crew, just about to record.
  6. What sound or noise do you hate? Construction early on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
  7. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Entertainment law
  8. What profession would you not like to do? Horse trainer
  9. The last film or DVD you watched? Buitiful
  10. The film that changed you, and why? Oh, so this is really embarrassing, but I will answer honestly. Dirty Dancing!  As a 12-year-old, I skipped and danced all the way down the street after seeing that film. I knew at that point that I wanted to work in the film and television industry; there was never anything else. I was mesmerised by the magic of the moving image and music.  Can I remind you that I said I was 12…?
  11. Your guilty television pleasure? There are so many, currently The Good Wife.
  12. Complete this sentence:  The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is… all of the dedicated, talented, skilled, creative, solution orientated people that you work with and meet.
  13. Three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you? Two of my secondary school teachers: Mick Dowlan and Paul Richardson. I would not have had the courage to follow my dreams and aim for my chosen career path without their passion and influence. Also, my Mum, Cynthia, is always inspiring and helping me.

AFI Awards Note: Some key dates are looming large on this year’s AFI Awards calendar. Be on the alert for our Call for Jurors on 12 April, and Call for Entries later in the month. Make sure you’re subscribed to our free e-news for updates.


Guest Post: Paul Anthony Nelson introduces WHY I ADORE: AFI EDITION.

angry person image

Ah, the Internet. It’s brought the world together, changed the way we communicate and given everyone a global voice. Trouble is, for the ‘first world’ Film and TV fan, it’s also given birth to the phenomenon of the Troll. You know the ones: disproportionate sense of entitlement fused with a perpetual state of cynicism and negativity, prone to personal insults and general buzzkill. Yet, so prevalent are these attitudes, they’ve found their way into mainstream media discourse.

The only house rule? NO NEGATIVITY. We’re here to celebrate what moves us and, perhaps, bring positivity back in style.

And you know what? I’m tired of it.

So I created WHY I ADORE, a blog with the sole aim of welcoming people to write about something they love about film and television, in defiant response to this pervasive culture of hate and snark. Guest writers can gush about any aspect they choose:

A film. TV show. Actor. Filmmaker. Technician. Scene. Shot. Genre. Period of time…

Almost a year after starting the website, it’s my honour and privilege to launch our first spin-off: WHY I ADORE: AFI EDITION, where Australian film and TV practitioners and fans wax rhapsodic about their filmic objects of adoration! WHY I ADORE seems right at home at the AFI, an institution devoted to celebrating our nation’s screen achievements. What’s more, they were crazy enough to let me kick it off…

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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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Flickerfest director Bronwyn Kidd talks up short films.

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

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

Bronwyn Kidd Headshot

Flickerfest Director Bronwyn Kidd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What achievements are you most proud of?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flickerfest 20th Anniversary DVD

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

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