AFTRS unveils emerging film talent at 2015 graduation

The Australian Film Television and Radio School has unleashed a new crop of talent on the industry with the 2015 Graduation Ceremony.    

A highlight of the ceremony was the awarding of the AFTRS’ Honorary Degree (Doctor of Arts) to broadcaster, commentator and filmmaker Phillip Adams.

Adams played a key role in the revival of the Australian film industry in the 1970s.  

He was the author of a 1969 report that led to legislation by Prime Minister Gorton in 1970 for an Australian Film and Television Development Corporation (later the Australian Film Commission) and the Experimental Film Fund as well as the eventual creation of an Australian national film School (now AFTRS). Phillip was one of the original members of council for the interim School.

The Dressmaker producer Sue Maslin present the degree.  

Maslin is a graduate of the AFTRS Masters of Screen Arts & Business degree.

Graduates include Imogen Banks, one of the producers of The Beautiful Lie for ABC TV; Chloe Rickard who achieved the first commission by a streaming service in Australia with No Activity, which premiered on Stan in October; David Gurney, whose 52-part children’s animation series Fanshaw & Crudnut went into production this year; and Paul Wiegard, who was executive producer and distributor of That Sugar Film, which this year became the highest grossing Australian documentary ever (excluding IMAX).

AFTRS chief executive, Neil Peplow also revealed a partnership with Foxtel to provide seed funding and facilities for a new business venture for an AFTRS MSAB graduate team.  

A new prize, The Foxtel New Media Award, went to Bridget Callow-Wright, Chloe Rickard and Peter Drinkwater. 

The team will receive a grant of $20,000 and mentorship from Foxtel executives and AFTRS lecturers as well as a workspace at the School.

The 2015 AV Myer Indigenous awards for Exceptional Talent were awarded to Kodie Bedford and Bernard Namok.

Peplow said this year’s graduation showed that students were already active in the industry.

"We were set up to serve when Phillip Adams and his colleagues helped establish the School in 1973," he said. 

"The Foxtel New Media Award is another fantastic opportunity for our students to help shape the future of that industry through the establishment of a new company.”

There has also been considerable festival success for AFTRS students.

A Boy Called Su (Vedrana Music, Graduate Diploma Directing 2014) won the Special Jury Award (Fiction) at this year’s Gold Panda Awards at Sichuan TV Festival in China.

The film premiered in September at Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival in the UK and has since screened at Uppsala International Short Film Festival, Sweden, both Academy qualifying festivals. 

The Wonderful (Erin White, Graduate Diploma Directing 2013) won Best Short Film at BOFA (Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival) in Launceston. 

The Wonderful also won Best Student Award at Atlanta Shorts Fest in the US.  Earlier in the year the film won Best Director and Best Original Score at the St Kilda Short Film Festival.

All God's Creatures (Brendon McDonall, Graduate Diploma Directing, 2012) won best short film at the Antipodes (Aust/NZ film fest) Film Festival in Saint-Tropez. Warwick Young’s (MSA 2013) Stuffed was runner up.

Three films screened at Dungog Festival last month – Beneath Land and Sea (Jacob Schiotz, Graduate Diploma Documentary 2014), Symphony of Strange Waters (Saba Vasefi, Graduate Diploma Documentary 2014) and Stuffed.

George-Alex Nagle’s (Graduate Diploma Directing 2013) film Embracehas been selected for the UK Film Festival competing in the Best International Short category. 

At Midnight (Amber McBride, Graduate Diploma Documentary 2014) was selected for Flickers: Roving Eye International Film Festival in the US. Foal  (Vanessa Gazy, MSA, 2014) was selected for this weeks’ Poitiers Film Festival in France.

Among other highlights in 2015, The Heart Thief (Ella Rubeli, Graduate Diploma Documentary 2014) won runner-up for Best Student Film at the Raw Science Awards in the US; Driftwood Dustmites (Malina Mackiewicz, Graduate Diploma Directing 2014) was selected for the prestigious Berlinale Film Festival; Deszcz, (Director: Malina Mackiewicz) which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was also selected for Chicago International Film Festival – an Academy Award qualifying festival.

Pull (Christopher Stollery, Graduate Diploma Directing 2014) and Silent Night (Nastassja Djalog, Graduate Diploma Directing 2014) were selected for this year’s Palm Springs Shortfest in the US, At Midnight (Amber McBride, Graduate Diploma Documentary 2014)  and Ballsy (Sinead McDevitt, Graduate Certificate Documentary 2014) screened at Sheffield Doc/Fest in the UK.

Eternal Return (Vedrana Music, Graduate Diploma Directing) was selected for the BAFTA qualifying festival Aesthetica Short Film and Animation Film Festival in the UK; Embrace (George-Alex Nagle, Graduate Diploma Documentary 2013) was selected for the Cleveland International Film Festival and the Nashville International Film Festival, both Academy qualifying festivals; and Stuffed also screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

2015 was the first year of the new three-year Bachelor of Arts (Screen).  

Seven short films completed by students for their Year 1 ‘Imagination’ Project were considered of high-enough standard to be submitted to the 2016 Berlin Film Festival.  

BA student Oliver Brighton has been selected as a finalist in the Dolby Sound Challenge for his short film Obscura.

AFTRS recent alumni are also making their mark on the industry: Angela McDonald has been offered a place in the Pathways program run by the Australian Writers’ Guild, having previously won a student membership from the Australian Writers' Guild for her accomplished pitch of her original series Purgatory's Lawyer; Amy Stewart has been invited to join the writing team for the animated series Lexie & Lottie for SLR Productions, where she has been commissioned to write a 30-minute script.

Hannah Pembroke is working for Benchmark Films as a freelance writer, where she is responsible for writing pitch documents and treatments for shows in development; Michael Gupta's film script The Lake was selected for Metro Screen Breaks 2015.

Derek Foster won a placement as an intern with the Neighbours script department where he was then invited to write a submission script for the show.

Britnie Jasmine Johnston won a note-taker opportunity with Werner Films as part of their Story Lab initiative, co-funded by Screen Australia; and 2013 Foundation student Alexander Gastrell won the Greg Bell Student Encouragement award at the recent Australian Screen Sound Guild awards.

AFTRS alumni also featured in this year’s AACTA with graduates wining the following awards at the Industry Dinner: Best Direction in a Television Drama or Comedy – Shawn Seet for Peter Allen – Not the Boy Next Door Episode 2; Best Sound in Television – Liam Price for Deadline Gallipoli Part 1 (with Des Kenneally, Robert MacKenzie, Jed Dodge, Justine Angus, John Simpson); Best Original Score – Antony Partos for Sherpa; Best Original Screenplay – Robert Connolly and Steve Worland for Paper Planes; and Best Editing – Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road.