Applications open for 2024 Heath Ledger Scholarship as prize package increases to US$60,000

Bella Heathcoate.

Australians in Film (AiF) has opened applications for the Heath Ledger Scholarship (HLS), offering the most significant prize package yet at US$60,000.

Now in its 12th year, the scholarship was established in memory of the Academy Award-winning actor to assist emerging Australian actors 18 years and older who demonstrate extraordinary ability and dedication to their craft with their international career aspirations.

It includes US$10,000 towards a living allowance, rent, and transport assistance in Los Angeles, along with educational and career preparation, ranging from private acting coaching to immigration assistance. There is also a year-long mentorship from 2010 recipient Bella Heathcote.

Five finalists will be announced in September and flown to LA for an exclusive event, where the winner will be unveiled.

Tasked with selecting the group are a mix of US and Australian casting directors, comprising HLS patron Ann Fay, Amanda Mitchell, Barbara McCarthy, Alyssa Weisberg, Anousha Zarkesh, Jason Wood, Danny Long, J. McAlary, and Gail Goldberg. Joining Fay as patrons of the scholarship are Kim Ledger, Susie Dobson, and Gregor Jordan.

The judging panel to determine this year’s winners will be announced at the end of July. Previous HLS jury members include Matt Damon, Gary Oldman, Ryan Murphy, Carmen Cuba, Naomi Watts, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell.

For Heathcote, known for her roles in series Pieces of Her and Scrublands, the scholarship provided “a touchpoint and a connection” not just to home but to the first credit of her career in LA.

Toni Collette and Bella Heathcote in ‘Pieces of Her’ (Image: Mark Rogers/Netflix © 2022)

“When I won the Heath Ledger Scholarship in 2010, a friend told me how he’d actually received the first (unofficial) Heath Ledger scholarship as Heath had let him crash on his couch when he came to LA, essentially providing him with his first place to call home in the US,” she said.

“In a way, that’s what the scholarship did for me too. The scholarship springboarded me through every meeting and audition. It gave me something to talk about and take pride in. It provided me a financial cushion and perhaps just enough faith that I could book that first US gig. Almost 15 years have passed since that day and I’m still honoured to have been a recipient of this scholarship and blown away by every subsequent winner. Australians in Film are providing the couches these days. May the scholarship help you find the next stage of your career and ‘home’.”

Other past HLS recipients include Cody Fern, Ashleigh Cummings, Charmaine Bingwa, Ryan Corr, and Rahel Romahn, who was awarded the 11th scholarship in 2022.

AiF chair Emma Cooper said the scholarship had proven “time and time again to transform the career of emerging actors”.

“As in previous years, judges are looking for a unique quality in an Australian actor who has potential for an international career,” she said.

“In keeping with Heath’s generous spirit of helping others, our aim is to support actors in their journey and encourage applications from all members, including those from diverse and underrepresented communities.”

Applications for the 2024 Heath Ledger Scholarship close at 4pm Wednesday, July 31 PDT/ 9am Thursday, August 1. Find out more details on how to apply here.