AACTA Member Spotlight: Matthew Moore – Actor, Writer, Director

Matthew Moore

Actor, writer and director Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore caught the acting bug at the tender age of 11 when he reenacted Burke and Wills’ journey across Australia for his Year five class. Since then, he’s honed his craft by studying at WAAPA and scoring a supporting role in The Dish, thanks to his exceptional graduation performance. Over the years, Moore has worked across film, television and theatre, acting in everything from Home and Away, All Saints and Rake to The Dish and Burning Man. He claims his meatier rolls have come straight from the great bard himself, Shakespeare, but that the most fun he’s had was playing Jodee in Rob Carlton’s entertaining TV drama, Chandon Pictures.

Julian Poster

In what seems to have been a natural progression for Moore and his filmmaking talents, he has recently turned his hand towards writing and directing for the screen with his imaginative new short film, Julian. This shift to behind the camera appears to have paid off. Julian has recently earned Moore the Flickerfest Special Jury Prize for Best Short Film and the Crystal Bear Generation K+ at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival in February. He claims the key to creative success is simply not being afraid to create, of taking a good idea and making it into something tangible. Moore thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative filmmaking process and was particularly taken with his young cast. He is now keen to pursue a career that is both in front of and behind the camera. Perhaps, once again, inspiration can be traced back to Australia’s great auteur, Peter Weir.

Matthew Moore is one of our newest AACTA members, and we’re proud to welcome such emerging filmmakers into the new Australian Academy. In coming months, we look forward to sharing more of these profiles with you as we turn the Member Spotlight onto more performers and practitioners – both those working at home and abroad.

AFI | AACTA: Where did you grow up?

Matthew Moore: I was born in Frankston, Victoria but my formative years were in Canberra. I left Canberra at age 18 for University.

AFI | AACTA: What first inspired you to become an actor?

Matthew Moore: I wanted to be an actor from a very young age. I think the inspiration came from just doing it, experiencing it. I remember having to act out Burke and Wills’ journey across Australia in Year five and thinking then that this could be my thing. I would go to the local library and flick through old acting books. I’d pore over black and white photos of Ralph Richardson or Laurence Olivier wearing an outrageous latex nose, and be blown away by their ability to transform from role to role. By early high school, I knew that I wanted to audition for drama school.  But I kept it to myself until I absolutely had to come clean to a careers advisor in Year 12. Up to that point, acting was something I had only ever explored in drama class and in annual school musicals so I was hyper-aware of how ridiculous saying I wanted to act professionally would sound. My family was ultimately very supportive of my decision.

AFI | AACTA: You studied at WAAPA and were recruited for the role of Keith Morrison in The Dish, after Jane Kennedy saw your graduation showcase performance in 1998. This must’ve been an outstanding final performance and a bit of a dream come true. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like studying performing arts at WAAPA and then debuting in The Dish?

Matthew Moore: WAAPA was a special time for me and the work I did there still forms the foundations of my work. It prepared me for the industry. At that time, we had outstanding teachers at WAAPA such as Andrew LLoyd and Nick Enright. You’re working on your craft (voice, movement and acting) from 10am to 6pm, five days a week, and then performances on top of that, so it’s truly a vocational training. People either seem to love or hate drama school but I had a good balance of being challenged and nurtured.

Upon graduating, The Dish was my first professional gig. I had grown up listening to the D-Generation and watching The Late Show and Frontline. I was a huge fan of their (Working Dog’s) work. I remember in my first meeting with my agent, Lisa Mann, I said my dream would be to work with the guys from Working Dog. At the time, I didn’t know Jane Kennedy had seen my graduation show. A couple of weeks later, Working Dog asked me to fly down to Melbourne to meet them all and to discuss a role they had in mind for me. In hindsight, this may have set up somewhat unrealistic expectations for my next few meetings with Lisa Mann! Working on the film was as much fun as you’d expect. They are exceptional writers and have a great trust of actors.

AFI | AACTA: Since then, you have acted consistently across both film and television. Is there a significant difference to the way in which you approach these different formats? Do you prefer one to the other?

Matthew Moore: I really don’t have a preference. To be honest the majority of my work has been in the theatre. That’s where there is the most significant difference for the actor, the difference between the stage and any form of screen work. I think the joy is being able to work across stage, television and film. Each medium has different challenges and feeds you in a different way. The industry is likely to pull you in a particular direction but if you can find a balance it’s very rewarding.

AFI | AACTA: What is the meatiest role you’ve ever had?

Matthew Moore: Well the roles I would describe as ‘meaty’ would be the roles I have played in the theatre. That’s where I’ve had the opportunities to play some of the great roles in Shakespeare, Webster, Goldoni etc. In terms of film and television, I often think of what’s the most fun I’ve had. The most fun I’ve had in television was playing Jodee in Chandon Pictures, written and directed by Rob Carlton. I actually met Rob at the auditions for Chandon Pictures. I was the reader. We spent the day auditioning actors and just had a ball. He called me a week later and said he had written a role for me, playing Josh Lawson’s boss. Jodee was like a Wall Street Wolf. He was a finance man with a porche, a beautiful wife, a penchant for cocaine and happened to own a gay nightclub – only from the mind of Rob Carlton! When jobs are that fun, you just want the series to go on forever. Incidentally, it stopped at two series.

AFI | AACTA: Was turning away from acting towards writing, directing and producing your own short film a natural progression for you? How challenging and/or rewarding was this transition?

Matthew Moore: It was natural in that I’d always wanted to do it. When I was 16/17 years old I was equally interested in filmmaking and acting and made a couple of short films at the time. Then I just went down the acting path, training at WAAPA, spending years in the theatre and then on to working in film and television. By the time I looked up, more than ten years had gone by and I felt like it was time to start nurturing the filmmaking side of things again. I also felt it was important to create something myself. As an actor you are always helping to fulfill someone else’s creative vision. It’s a very healthy thing for an actor to do I think – to experience creativity from the other side and drive your own vision. I found it very empowering. It was great to work with all the different departments in a much more meaningful way. Film is so collaborative and by stepping behind the camera I really got to experience and appreciate the crew’s expertise much more.

Julian

Ed Oxenbould on the set of JULIAN

AFI |AACTA: Julian is your first short film. Where did the initial inspiration for this film come from? Was there anything in particular that you wanted to explore/capture in this film?

Matthew Moore: Before I had the idea for the film, I met Ed Oxenbould and Morgana Davies at an audition. They were both incredible little actors, both 10 years old, and I thought I’d love to make a short film with them one day, if I ever had the right idea. So, my initial inspiration was simply wanting to work with these two actors. About six months later, I had an idea for the first scene and the general conceit of the film. It was a good fit for the two of them. I won’t say what that general conceit was as there are some local festivals coming up and I’d love for people to experience the film afresh. The main idea I wanted to explore, however, was about a little boy who needs to speak his truth and identifying where that desire comes from. The original idea I’d come up with ended up becoming the icing on the cake.

AFI | AACTA: Is there a particular message that you are trying to communicate in this film or are you more interested in leaving it up to the individual to create his or her own meaning?

Matthew Moore: I think a level of ambiguity is always interesting and if you’ve managed to create discussion, I think you’ve had a win. The theme of speaking your truth is a clear one, I think, and the last line in the film gives a clue as to the side I personally lean towards. I certainly wanted the audience to follow and be with this little boy.

AFI|AACTA: Ed Oxenbould has been praised for his extremely convincing and disarming portrayal of the young Julian. Was this Ed’s first film performance?

Matthew Moore: Ed’s done some bits and pieces but he’s about to do a whole lot more. A friend of mine who is a writer saw the film, subsequently showed it to a very high profile producer and as a result Ed is about to make his debut in a new prime time TV show as a series regular. They cast him without an audition. I can’t say anymore than that at this stage. I believe it is being announced in the coming weeks. I’m thrilled for him.

Ed Oxenbould and Matthew Moore on the set of Julian

Ed Oxenbould and Matthew Moore on the set of JULIAN

AFI | AACTA: What was it like to be on the other side of the camera and to direct such a young person in this role?

Matthew Moore: Directing Ed and the other kids was really no different from directing adults. In some regards, it was easier. They are all very talented and professional. They had all been on sets before and knew the drill. They were open and available and took direction incredibly well. I think when working with kids it is important to have a very clear idea of what you want. We did have one rehearsal day, for an hour, where I got the three main kids together to run the main scene and I did have a moment that day, when I thought ‘Oh my god what was I thinking?’ The kids were sussing each other out and it was a little bit like spinning plates – one would get going and the others would lose focus. Sometimes I’d give direction and think ‘Nope, they’re not listening at all.’ But then we’d do a take and it would all be there. They were soaking everything up. Come shoot day, they were amazing. We had to move extremely quickly and they just bounced along. The best thing about Ed Oxenbould, Morgana Davies, Joseph Famularo and Will Cottle was that they are just such great people. They made the shoot fun.

AFI | AACTA: Julian has earned you the Special Jury Prize for Best Short Film at Flickerfest and more recently the Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. How does it feel to have won these prestigious awards with your first foray into filmmaking?

Crystal Bear

Matthew Moore (centre) accepting his Crystal Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival with Festival Section Director Maryanne Redpath and Section Co-director Florian Weghorn

Matthew Moore: Flickerfest was the first time I saw the film on the big screen and in front of an audience. That was very rewarding in itself. Listening to people react and enjoy the film in a festival atmosphere. Flickerfest has showcased a lot of local filmmaking talent over the years, many of whom have gone on to make feature films. It was great to compete against some of those filmmakers, filmmakers I’ve admired for a long time.

The Berlin International Film Festival had always been a dream for me. In the back of my mind, I’d always wanted to have a film screen in competition there. For some reason, it was the festival, of the big four, that had captured my imagination. So, it was quite surreal to experience it. Berlin’s an incredible city for artists all year round but during the festival it’s incredible. There are so many creative types in one place: directors, producers, writers, actors, cinematographers all smashed into Potsdammer Platz together. You’ll see an amazing Dutch feature in the morning, an independent American film in the afternoon, perhaps catch a program of shorts and then meet all the creative teams that night at the bar. You’ve seen all their work and they’ve seen yours. It’s incredibly exciting. Just in the shorts section alone, I competed against films from 23 countries. It’s like the United Nations of filmmaking. Winning the Crystal Bear at the end of those 10 days was very special. The whole experience has been an eye opener, a great focuser and very inspiring.

Crystal Bear

Matthew Moore with his wife Genevieve Hegney and the Crystal Bear Award

AFI | AACTA: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced during your career? What have been the highlights? What are you most looking forward to?

Matthew Moore: There are just so many challenging aspects of the industry that you have to navigate, particularly as an actor. I think, as actors, we try to make sense of these challenging aspects when often there is no sense to be made. Personally, I find not getting the opportunity to audition for a role harder than not getting a job. If you’ve had an audition, at least you’ve been in the mix and had an opportunity to act that day. More than once, I’ve had to fight like crazy to get into a room and then ultimately won the role. In terms of other challenges, watch Fiery Hawk on YouTube. Most actors I know who’ve seen it, regardless of personal success, feel like it sums up the actors experience… and it’s funny.

When I think of what my highlights have been I think of the people I have been lucky enough to work with. The relationships I’ve forged. The friendships I’ve made. For me, it’s the people. And what am I looking forward to? Well I’m looking forward to writing and directing more. I’m really excited by this shift and exploring my own creativity. I’m looking forward to nurturing my own ideas more and balancing that with my acting career.

AFI | AACTA: If you had to name three mentors, who would they be?

Matthew Moore: I actually love the idea of having a mentor. Whilst I haven’t really had an official mentor, I have been lucky enough to have people champion me and I have very talented and supportive friends. So, I have to mention more than three. Two of my closest friends happen to be writer/directors, which has been very handy as I move into this area.

Michael Petroni wrote and directed Till Human Voices Wake Us and has been working as a writer in Hollywood for many years, having written such films as: The Rite, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of Dawn Treader and Queen of the Damned. Michael was the first person I pitched Julian too and he encouraged me to write it just as I had pitched it. As Michael is now spending more time in Australia, it’s been great to bounce ideas off him, read each other’s scripts and get his advice.

Tony McNamara, who wrote and directed The Rage in Placid Lake and has written a prolific amount of television including Tangle, Love My Way and The Secret Life of Us, has also been great to bounce ideas off. More importantly, he also makes a delightful roast lamb with baked vegetables.

Steven Soderbergh was great when I told him I was planning on writing and directing my first short film. He gave me a fantastic reading list along with a list of films to watch for their various filmmaking aspects. There were some for editing, writing, cinematography (colour and black and white) and of course for directing. So, I’ve been devouring all of that.

John Bell has certainly been the most supportive and nurturing in regards to my acting career. He has given me many opportunities to play some of the great character roles in Shakespeare.

Annie Swann is a wonderful acting coach for both stage and screen and has been great to work with over the years.

My wife, Genevieve Hegney, insists she is both my muse and mentor. She has certainly been incredibly supportive and is, of course, the first person I bounce ideas off.

Finally, I often think about the late Nick Enright, writer, director, actor and extraordinary teacher. I was lucky enough to work with Nick in my 2nd and 3rd year at WAAPA and to this day, I still carry his wisdom and generosity with me.

AFI | AACTA: What advice would you give upcoming Australian filmmakers wanting to break into the industry?

Matthew Moore: Create something. There really isn’t any excuse these days. The technology is just so accessible. Julian was made for $7000. We didn’t receive any funding. We raised the money through a quiz night and through the generosity of friends and colleagues who either contributed their time, expertise or money. During the festival run, we’ve been competing against some films with budgets of over $150,000 but the great thing about short filmmaking is that it’s all about the strength of an idea. If you’ve got an idea, grab a 5D camera and make it. Create something.

AFI | AACTA: What is your all time favourite Australian film? Why?

Matthew Moore: I have to mention a few…The first Australian film I remember really having an impact on me in my youth was Peter Weir’s Gallipoli. Gallipoli is clearly an important part of our history that continues to define us and somehow Peter tapped into that in a profound way. I remember someone making the observation that the film was just as beautiful as the letters and poetry that the diggers would send back to their loved ones. Peter Weir is one of the top filmmakers working in the world today. His body of work is incredible.

Proof is one of my all time favourite Australian films. I love a writer/director with a unique voice. Jocelyn Moorhouse created an intimate, funny and moving film about trust. What a great pitch line it must have been… “Well, there’s this blind photographer…”

I also clearly remember the first time I saw Romper Stomper, from writer/director Geoffrey Wright. I had never seen Australia portrayed like that before, it was like a slap in the face. What I remember most from this film is the energy with which it was made and the power of the three main performances. Daniel Pollock, Jacqueline McKenzie and Russell Crowe.

Honourable mentions go to the Ausploitation films Razorback and Patrick for freaking me out and haunting my 10-year-old mind.

AFI | AACTA: Thank you for sharing your time with us.

Focus on the Television Nominees: Part 3 – The Acting Awards

By Simon Elchlepp & Rochelle Siemienowicz

In Part 1 of this series on the television nominees, we looked at the producers who stand to win the AACTA Awards for Best Television Drama Series, and Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series.

In Part 2, we took a closer look at the nominees for Direction and Screenplay in Television.

Now it’s time to learn a little more about those familiar (and sometimes unfamiliar) faces who appear in front of the camera and make watching the box essential and irresistible: the actors and actresses nominated for the television acting awards. Here they are, unpacked below. Make predictions if you will. All will be revealed when the winners are announced on 31 January at the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards Ceremony, which will be broadcast on the Nine Network.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Rob Carlton. Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo. ABC1
Alex Dimitriades. The Slap. ABC1
Don Hany. East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes’ Journey. SBS
Jonathan LaPaglia. The Slap. ABC1

Rob Carlton has come a long way since his early bit roles in High Tide and John Duigan’s classic The Year My Voice Broke. Working steadily throughout the 1990s in Australian TV in acting roles, Carlton made the shift to writing and producing with 2006’s Tropfest-winning short Carmichael & Shane. Just two years later, Carlton proved his impressive multiple talents once more with comedy series Chandon Pictures, which brought him two AFI Award nominations for Best Television Comedy Series in 2008 and 2009 and another nomination for Best Performance in a Television Comedy in 2008. His award nomination run continues with the AACTA Award nomination for his role as publishing magnate Kerry Packer in Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. And Carlton’s star continues to rise, with his 2012 projects including P.J. Hogan’s Mental, Working Dog’s Any Questions for Ben? and big-budget family drama TV series Conspiracy 365. (Find out more about Conspiracy 365 here in our Quick Quiz with the series’ star, Harrison Gilbertson.)

Alex Dimitriades third AFI | AACTA Award nomination is evidence that he has established himself as a character actor who’s not afraid to tackle challenging roles. No matter if it’s his turn as the dominant, violence-prone alpha male in The Slap or his explosive performance as rebellious homosexual youth at odds with his Greek family in Head On, Dimitriades brings a fierce intensity to his roles. He burst on the scene opposite Claudia Karvan in 1993’s romantic comedy The Heartbreak Kid and went on to star in popular teen series Heartbreak High. Shedding his teen heartthrob image with his AFI Award-nominated performance as Best Actor in a Lead Role in 1998’s Head On, Dimitriades went on to earn another nomination, this time as Best Actor in a Supporting Role for La Spagnola in 2001. Dimitriades recently also starred in Summer Coda, one of this year’s 21 contending Feature Films.

Don Hany scores a hat trick this year with his third AFI | AACTA Award nomination. Once more, he’s in the run for an award with his consistently excellent work as Detective Zane Malik in SBS’s highly-decorated East West 101, which already netted him nominations as Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama in 2008 and 2009. Before his breakthrough in East West 101, Hany had already established himself through his work on another crime series, White Collar Blue. After starring in AFI Award winning series Underbelly, False Witness and Tangle, Hany shifted gears and displayed his comedic talents as romantic lead in Offspring opposite Asher Keddie, another of 2011’s AACTA Award nominees.

For Jonathan LaPaglia, The Slap is a premiere in more than one way. Not only has the role of Hector, a passive husband and father with a disintegrating marriage, brought LaPaglia his first AFI | AACTA Award nomination, but The Slap is also LaPaglia’s first Australia production. Born in Adelaide, Jonathan (who happens to be the brother of Anthony LaPaglia) moved to the USA in 1994. He quickly carved out a niche for himself, starring in a number of crime series including New York Undercover, Seven Days, The District, Windfall and Cold Case from the mid-1990 onwards. He also made his feature film debut in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Henry in 1997.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Essie Davis. Cloudstreet. FOXTEL – Showcase
Kerry Fox. Cloudstreet. FOXTEL – Showcase
Asher Keddie. Paper Giants: The Birth Of Cleo. ABC1
Sarah Snook. Sisters Of War. ABC1

2011 has been a banner year for Essie Davis, with roles in two of this year’s highest profile Australian television productions. In Cloudstreet, for which she is nominated, Davis plays the beautiful and wayward wife of Sam Pickles, while in The Slap, she plays Anouk, a sexy,straight-talking career woman with dreams of becoming a novelist. Davis has built an impressive local and international career in film, television and theatre, with credits in Girl With a Pearl Earring, Sweeney Todd, and The Matrix Reloaded, as well as local films like AustraliaSouth Solitary and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. She received her first AFI nomination in 1995 for Best Supporting Actress in Dad and Dave: On our Selection, and her second in 2000 for her work in television series Halifax f.p. In 2003 she won the AFI Award for Best Actress in a Supporting or Guest Role in a Television Drama or Comedy for telemovie After the Deluge. Davis will appear in the lead role of Phryne Fisher next year in television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Starting out more than twenty years ago, Kerry Fox is one of New Zealand’s most prominent character actresses. After Fox made her feature film debut in Jane Campion’s An Angel at My Table, her career quickly expanded continents with her roles in Gillian Armstrong’s The Last Days of Chez Nous, Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave and Michael Winterbottom’s Welcome to Sarajevo. After her first AFI Award nomination for Best Actress in a Lead Role for Country Life in 1994, Fox received further awards accolades for her unflinching performance in the British relationship drama Intimacy, which netted her a Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. Working mostly in the UK, Fox was reunited with Jane Campion for Bright Star for which she received her second AFI Award nomination in 2010, this time as Best Supporting Actress. In 2011, Fox co-starred with fellow nominee Essie Davis in Cloudstreet and Burning Man.

Through her work in Australian TV and theatre,  Asher Keddie has become one of this country’s most recognisable and intriguing actresses. Starting out as a child actress in 1985, Keddie returned to the small screen in the mid-90s after a break and quickly landed roles in critically acclaimed productions like Janus and Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies. After performances in TV series State Coroner and Stingers, Keddie’s breakthrough role was her portrayal of endearingly neurotic new mother and wife, Julia Jackson, in Foxtel’s Love My Way. Her star-making turn brought her an AFI Award nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama in 2006 and several Silver Logie nominations. Two more AFI Award nominations followed soon: in 2009 for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for her role in Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities and in 2010 for her performance as Bob Hawke’s second wife Blanche D’Alpuguet in Hawke (Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama). In 2011, Keddie not only scored her third AFI Award nomination in a row, but also starred in two of this year’s highest-rating TV drama productions, Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo and Offspring. Her nomination recognises her fascinating and realistic portrayal of a real life wonder woman, editor extraordinaire Ita Buttrose.

In an awards category packed with seasoned veterans, Sarah Snook is the up-and-coming novice who represents Australia’s new acting talent. Snook graduated from NIDA in 2008 and appeared on the theatre stage in the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s production of King Lear. After a short foray into the film and TV industry via a guest role in All Saints in 2009, Snook has made her mark as one of Australia’s most promising new talents in 2011. Her roles this year included performances in controversial erotic drama Sleeping Beauty, AFI Award-nominated TV series Packed to the Rafters and Spirited and of course Sisters of War, which has already brought Snook her first AFI Award nomination. In this telemovie, Snook plays a beautiful young nurse captured by the Japanese in World War II Papua New Guinea and befriended by a young Australian nun (Claire van der Boom). There’s more to come in 2012, with Snook starring in TV movie Blood Brothers and opposite Ryan Kwanten in Not Suitable for Children.

 


AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Richard Cawthorne. Killing Time – Episode 2. FOXTEL – TV1
Aaron Fa’aoso. East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes’ Journey – Episode 18 ‘The Price Of Salvation’. SBS
Jacek Koman. Spirited, Season 2 – Episode 2 ‘Time After Time’. FOXTEL – W
Todd Lasance. Cloudstreet – Part 3. FOXTEL – Showcase

An awards nomination can be a breakthrough success for a rising star, or it can be the confirmation of years of hard work. For Richard Cawthorne, it’s a bit of both. He’s been around on Australian TV screens since his debut role in 2000 in Eugenie Sandler P.I. More guest roles in crime dramas were to follow and over the following years, Cawthorne appeared in Stingers, Blue Heelers, Rush and AFI-award winning feature film Noise. Following his performance in mega-budget TV mini-series The Pacific, this year Cawthorne caught viewers’ attention with his scene-stealing portrayal of Melbourne crime boss Denis Allen in Killing Time, which brought him his well-deserved first AACTA Award nomination.

Aaron Fa’aoso didn’t have to wait long for his first taste of success in the TV business. His debut role in the multi-AFI Award winning RAN: Remote Area Nurse brought him a nomination as Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama in 2006. Fa’aoso’s biggest acting role on the silver screen since that early success has been his turn as Detective Sonny Koa in acclaimed crime series East West 101. However, Aaron’s talents extend beyond acting: he was the writer and director of Indigenous short film Sharpeye and is the executive producer on one of 2012’s most hotly anticipated TV series, The Straits– in which he will also play one of the main protagonists.

Not many nominees in this year’s TV acting categories can look back on a career as long and varied as Jacek Koman. Born in Poland, Koman debuted on Polish TV in the late 1970s before he moved to Australia. His impressive international portfolio includes numerous roles in Australian, British and Polish TV and feature films. Koman’s most prominent roles on the small screen include turns in multi-AFI Award winning The Secret Life of Us, East West 101,  and Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies. In cinemas, audiences have seen Koman in production like this year’s The Hunter, Australia, Romulus, My Father and Children of Men – but chances are you remember him best for his impassioned performance as the heartbroken, tangoing Argentinean in Moulin Rouge!

Although still relatively young in years, Todd Lasance is already a veteran of the small screen. Like so many young actors, he got his break on Home and Away, where he played the role of bad boy Aden Jeffries for several years. His performance brought him a Silver Logie for Most Popular Actor in 2009 and promised greater things to come. And 2011 seems to be the year when the promises have come true, with Lasance starring in some the year’s highest-profile TV production including Cloudstreet, Crownies, Rescue Special Ops and Underbelly Files: Tell Them Lucifer Was Here. Lasance is already lining up TV event movie Brothers in Arms for 2012, but it’s his turn as the troubled and sensitive Quick Lamb in Cloudstreet that sees Lasance nominated this year.

AACTA AWARD FOR BEST GUEST OR SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION DRAMA
Diana Glenn. The Slap – Episode 3 ‘Harry’. ABC1
Rena Owen. East West 101, Season 3 – The Heroes’ Journey – Episode 18 ‘The Price Of Salvation’. SBS
Susie Porter. Sisters Of War. ABC1
Lara Robinson. Cloudstreet – Part 1. FOXTEL – Showcase

Diana Glenn’s quiet but sympathetic performance as the long-suffering wife of the unreconstructed Harry (Alex Dimitrades) in The Slap impressed juries this year, but she has a long film and television career behind her, stretching back to Neighbours in the late 90s, and progressing to top notch television drama series like The Secret Life of Us, Canal Road, Satisfaction, and Carla Cametti PD and film roles including performances in Somersault and Oyster Farmer. She was nominated for an AFI Award for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for her work in Satisfaction, Series 1, and also nominated for a Silver Logie for that performance. This year, Glenn has also appeared in television series Killing Time.

After a string of TV appearances, New Zealand star Rena Owen shot to international prominence in 1994 through her roles in Kevin Costner’s Rapa Nui and international arthouse hit Once Were Warriors. Owen’s performance as Beth Heke in Once Were Warriors  propelled her into an international career that occasionally brings her to Australia, most memorably in Rolf de Heer’s Dance Me To My Song (for which she was nominated for an AFI Award in 1998). Most recently, Owen impressed juries with her AACTA nominated guest performance as a suffering mother of violent sons in an episode of East West 101, Season 3. A star in her native New Zealand, Owen has appeared in television series Adrenalin Junkies and Shortland Street, and will star in the upcoming Matchbox/ABC series set in northern Queensland, The Straits, alongside Aaron Fa’aoso, Brian Cox and Firass Dirani.

Susie Porter is one of Australia’s most decorated actresses, with a long string of memorable and award winning performances on her credit list. These include roles in Idiot Box, Amy, Better Than Sex, Teesh and Trude and Bootmen, and AFI Award winning turns in Caterpillar Wish (2006), Remote Area Nurse (RAN) (2006) and East West 101, Season 2 (2009). Most recently, Porter has been seen on screens in Richard Gray’s feature film Summer Coda, and as the hard-nosed Julia Wilson in comedy series The Jesters. Her nomination for an AACTA Award this year comes for her performance as the resilient Australian Army nurse in ABC telemovie Sisters of War opposite fellow nominee Sarah Snook.

It’s rare for an actor or actress to be nominated as Best Young Actor as well as being nominated alongside their adult co-stars in a major acting category, but Lara Robinson, who has only just turned 14, has achieved this feat. The young actress starred in 2009 feature film Knowing (as Abby/Lucinda), and has also appeared in City Homicide, The Elephant Princess and had a brief but startling scene in the remake of Long Weekend, but it’s her touching vulnerability and maturity in Cloudstreet, as the ethereally beautiful young Rose Pickles, which impressed judges this year. She’ll also be seen next year in television’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, alongside Essie Davis.

So there they are, the nominees for the inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards for Best Lead Actor and Actress in a Television Drama; and Best Guest or Supporting Actor and Actress in a Television Drama.

The winners in these categories will be revealed on Tuesday 31 January at the Samsung AACTA Awards Ceremony in Sydney, broadcast nationally on the Nine Network. Stay tuned to find out more…

You can click through to our Facebook page to see fun polls where you can let us know which of these nominees would be receiving the statuettes if it were up to you.

AFI Quick Quiz: Harrison Gilbertson

Harrison Gilbertson

For an actor still in his teens, Harrison Gilbertson has already gathered an impressive portfolio of screen work, but then, he did start nearly ten years ago as a child actor, with a role in the 2002 feature film Australian Rules, directed by Paul Goldman. His subsequent performances have included playing the lead in Accidents Happen, as well as appearing in Ana Kokkinos’ Blessed, and playing the young and impressionable soldier Frank Tiffen in Beneath Hill 60. It was for this last role that Gilbertson was awarded with the AFI Young Actor Award in 2010.

Now Harrison Gilbertson is set to star on small screens in the new action drama series Conspiracy 365, which premieres on Foxtel’s Family Movie Channel (FMC) on 14 January 2012.

Harrison Gilbertson plays Cal Ormond, a fugitive on the run in Conspiracy 365.

Based on the series of young adult books written by acclaimed crime writer Gabrielle Lord and published by US publisher Scholastic, Conspiracy 365 is a 12-part series about Cal Ormond,  a 15-year-old boy on the run (played by Gilbertson). Cal is trying to elude sinister forces after the mysterious death of his father and he has just 365 days to solve the mystery or he’ll meet the same fate.

Julia Zemiro plays the villainous Oriana de la Force in Conspiracy 365.

Reported to have cost about $13 million to make, hopes are high for the action drama series. The news that Julia Zemiro and Rob Carlton are playing the baddies – the evocatively named Oriana de la Force and Vulkan Sligo, has certainly made older ears perk up. But youthful  fans of the immensely popular books will be hoping that Gilbertson carries off the role as the ordinary young man forced to become a hero. Chances are, he does just fine.

Here are Harrison Gilbertson’s answers to the AFI Quick Quiz.*

The AFI Quick Quiz:

Q. What is your favorite word? Love.

Q. What is your least favourite word? Hate.

Q. What turns you on? Photography.

Q. What turns you off? Self Indulgence.

Q. What sound or noise do you love? The sounds of the beach.

Q. What sound or noise do you hate? Stomach groans.

Q. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Carpentry.

Q. What profession would you not like to do? Dictatorship!

Q. The last film or DVD you watched? The Cider House Rules.

Q. The film that changed you and why? Dead Poet’s Society. because it opened me up to a new way of thinking.

Q. Your guilty television pleasure? Entourage. 

Q. Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is… the no-nonsense attitude.

Q. Three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you?

  • My dad – Brian Gilbertonson.
  • My mum – Julie Sloan.
  • My sister – Bridget Gilbertson.

Conspiracy 365 premieres on January 14 at 7pm on Foxtel’s FMC.

*The AFI Quick Quiz is a version of the Bernard Pivot Questionnaire. Bernard Pivot is a journalist, interviewer and host of French cultural television programs. He developed a list of questions based on Proust’s famous questionnaire. This then formed the basis of James Lipton’s questions to actors on American cable television program Inside the Actors Studio. Now the AFI has its own version. We hope you enjoy it!

Check out other Quick Quiz respondents. They’ve included:

Geoff Morrell | Hanna Mangan Lawrence | Kestie Morassi | Melissa Bergland | Lincoln Younes | Maeve Dermody and Leon Ford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish You Were Here

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

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

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

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

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