For Film’s Sake selects 13 filmmakers for Sydney Film Festival Platform incubator

Platform 2023, top L-R: William Duan, Jess Barclay Lawton, Luke Agius, Nick Bolton, Vidya Rajan, Lizzie Cater
. Bottom L-R: Jessica Pearce, Matt Bostock, Shelly Lauman, Rocky Rose, Debbie Zhou, Thomas Larkin, Alex Vaughan.

For Film’s Sake has selected 13 filmmakers to come together for an intensive that will see them form teams and generate new projects in just five days, culminating in a public pitch at Sydney Film Festival.

The Platform talent incubator, run in partnership with the festival, is designed to create more “agile development behaviours and outcomes”, and is focused on newly-generated projects as a means to spotlight talent, rather than existing works or slates.

The creatives selected include Debbie Zhou, Jess Barclay Lawton, Vidya Rajan, Nick Bolton, William Duan, Alex Vaughan, Jessica Pearce, Thomas Larkin, Lizzie Cater, Matt Bostock, Luke Agius, Rocky Rose and Shelly Lauman.

Originally the call out was for 10 filmmakers, but For Film’s Sake executive director Sophie Mathisen said applications “exploded expectations”.

“In the end we couldn’t separate our shortlisted filmmakers as they each articulated their passion, courage and curiosity for the unique challenge and opportunity of Platform. Without the safety of a project, the skills and insights of the filmmaker take centre stage. Although crucially that’s how global projects begin – networks of peers and collaborators sharing their knowledge and experience of how to best craft, position and launch their ideas,” she said.

“Platform links Australian creatives to global storytellers as well as to each other at the point of inception, making exploration of creative process and instincts possible. With such a vibrant, ambitious and energetic group, Platform is bound to create connections and collaborations lasting long after the five day intensive.”

The lab has been designed and will be delivered by For Film’s Sake executive director Sophie Mathisen alongside UK producer and creator of the BFI’s Producer Programme and Visions du Reel’s Development Lab, Samm Haillay. The lab will have a focus on design principles, in an aim to shift focus “from project to process”.

Participants will also receive feedback from international guests of the festival, including producer/director of Against the Tide, Sarvnik Kaur; Fabien Altenreid, producer of Piaffe, and director of Joram, Devashish Makhija.

The public pitch will be held on the last weekend of Sydney Film Festival, Saturday June 17, in the festival hub in Lower Town Hall.

Deanne Weir, who is the chair of both Sydney Film Festival and For Film’s Sake, said she couldn’t be happier to see their partnership continuing and strengthening.

“To celebrate the 70th edition of the Festival, Platform will be an important reminder of the role of festivals in not only bringing stories to audiences but also bringing storytellers to national and international attention,” she said.

“The Platform pitches will be a fascinating event for audiences to catch a glimpse of how ideas begin their circuitous journey to screen and an important opportunity for filmmakers to see firsthand how the Australian industry engages, shapes and supports storytellers find their voice in development.”

Platform is created by For Film’s Sake and supported by principal partner Screenrights through the Cultural Fund initiative. Additional support comes from the Sydney Film Festival and the board of For Film’s Sake.

Bios of the filmmakers selected are below:

Debbie Zhou (NSW) – Debbie Zhou is a producer, lawyer and arts critic – selected as a 2022 Screen Producers Australia ‘Ones To Watch’. When not reading television contracts, she can be found advocating for Lust, Caution as Ang Lee’s best film, or giving her unwarranted movie opinions on talkback radio or (less eloquently) on Twitter.

Jess Barclay Lawton (VIC) – Jess Barclay Lawton’s films have screened at 70+ festivals, including: Tribeca, Locarno, Sapporo, SFF and MIFF, as well as Nowness and Vimeo staff picks. Her work is characterised by a hybrid style combining documentary and narrative practises. Lawton is a TIFF Filmmaker Lab and MIFF Accelerator Lab alumna, and Creative Victoria ‘Creators Fund’ recipient.

Vidya Rajan (VIC) – Vidya Rajan is a multi-disciplinary artist working across screenwriting, performance, comedy and digital space. Her work is often funny, interested in tech, contemporary pop culture, and south asian history and experience. 

Nick Bolton (NSW) Nick is a regional filmmaker passionate about growing the local screen sector as Chair of Screen Illawarra. His multi-disciplinary practice spans writing, directing and producing disciplines, with credits in feature, documentary, TVC, branded and social impact, theatre, and online. He is the founder of production company Ten Alphas.

William Duan (VIC) William Duan (he/they; Sagi sun, Virgo moon & Aquarius rising) is a Naarm/Melbourne based award-winning filmmaker who has been behind more people texting their mother’s asking for their birth-times than any other person in the Australian film industry.  They work predominantly in the narrative space as a producer and writer-director, they are ADG nominated and were previously selected as one of SPA’s Ones To Watch.

Alex Vaughan (NSW) Alex Vaughan, the unrivalled epitome of slapstick hilarity. Picture them mistaking a turtle for a hat or grooving in a funeral conga line. From theatre to worldwide photography acclaim, their work exhibited globally. Now conquering the world of filmmaking while nailing a spot-on Britney impression. Laughter guaranteed! Written by ChatGPT, the accomplice.

Jessica Pearce (VIC) With her company One Curious Cat, Jess uses storytelling to generate understanding of different perspectives. Credits include bio-epic feature film The Legend of Ben Hall; female-centric series Dee-Brief; upcoming Goodall & Gallagher Skip Ahead series The Followers as well as award-winning short films including AACTA-nominated Nathan Loves Ricky Martin and ABC Kaleidoscope film, Namaste Yoga.

Thomas Larkin (QLD) Thom is a performer, producer and VCA alumna. His producing credits include Laura Eason’s Sex with Strangers, Matthew Whittet’s Cinderella and Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks’ Medea for the Brisbane Powerhouse, QPAC and La Boite. In 2020, Thom utilised the Brian Boak Fellowship to explore co-production possibilities with leading UK screen production companies.

Lizzie Cater (NSW) Lizzie is a creative producer and filmmaker. Credits include Thomas Wilson-White’s The Greenhouse, which premiered at BFI: Flare and won Best Film at The Gold Coast and Melbourne Queer Film Festivals; Shelly Lauman’s short Birdie which premiered at TIFF and was acquired by Fox Searchlight. She currently holds the role of development producer at Easy Tiger.

Matt Bostock (NSW) Matt is an emerging Filipino, Chinese-Australian creative. A graduate from NIDA’s MFA Writing for Performance, he was also a finalist for AACTA’s 2021 Sony Pitch Competition. Matt has always loved storytelling as a way of speaking truth and moving people, to ground socially conscious stories in emotion to resonate with audiences.

Luke Agius (NSW) Luke Agius, a Western Sydney writer, director and filmmaker since age 12, has a diverse portfolio spanning shorts, music videos, a web series, and a feature length film. He thrives on creating alongside fellow artists, loves a sick tune and likes to indulge in a good cuppa (or two).

Rocky Rose (VIC) Much to the disappointment of his parents, Rocky is a committed screenwriter from Melbourne. Completing the Master of Screenwriting course at VCA allowed Rocky to make money writing TVCs while continuing to develop a diverse slate of film and TV projects, often delving into confronting subjects through a comic lens.

Shelly Lauman (NSW) As director, Shelly’s former life in the theatre and deep love of performance most informs her filmmaking choices. Her award-winning short Birdie premiered at TIFF and was acquired by Fox Searchlight. Her first feature, Sparrow, is in advanced development with producers Kristian Moliere (The Babadook) and Rebecca Green (It Follows).