Nine Network Australia has formalised its three-year sponsorship of the WA Screen Academy, School of Communications and Arts at Edith Cowan University at the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the partnership.
In attendance were David Mott, Nine Network Program Executive and Managing Director of STW-9 Perth, Wendy McKillop, local Head of PR and Communications, Director of the WA Screen Academy Franco Di Chiera, Head of School of Communication and Arts Professor Clive Barstow, Production Coordinator Natalie Bell and current students of the Academy. An elite screen production course, students specialise in writing, producing, directing, cinematography, sound, editing and production design.
The Nine Network sponsorship will go towards the production budgets of the Academy’s short film program and ten craft awards, to be announced at The Academy Films Gala Screening at the Luna Palace Cinemas in Perth on 25 September, 2014. Mott said, “The Channel is delighted to support the unique film collaboration between the WA Screen Academy and WAAPA. By sponsoring this acclaimed program we aim to help nurture local Australian screen talent and create a sustainable source of industry professionals.”
The WA Screen Academy students perform the majority of principal crew roles on the short films backed by a range of WAAPA students from actors onscreen to music composers, sound and lighting students. Screen Academy Director, Franco Di Chiera emphasised the importance Nine’s sponsorship of WA Screen Academy and the WAAPA collaboration. “It’s a formidable combination: Australia’s most successful commercial television network, a top screen production training institution and an internationally renown performance academy. What could be better than that?”
The Nine Network sponsorship coincides with a recent boost to the two Academies. The WA Screen Academy was voted among the top ten film schools in the world this year by Reelshow International, an online magazine aimed at film school students and WAAPA was recently identified as the first and principal recipient of the Jackman-Furness Foundation. WAAPA graduate Hugh Jackman and Foundation patron Jack Thompson were at ECU last month to launch the Foundation. Jackman and West Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest kicked off financial backing for Foundation, focusing on the performing arts.
The Nine Network support has also come during a particularly successful time for the WA Screen Academy with three of the four films nominated in the Best Tertiary Student Film category of the West Australian Screen Awards coming from last year’s graduates. These include All That Matters, Broken and Juliet. All That Matters was presented with the Nine Network Australia Award for Excellence in Producing and Cinematography as well as the Audience Award at last year’s Gala Screenings while Juliet won the Nine Network Award for Excellence in Script Writing and Production Design and most recently, the Palm Springs International Shortfest On-Line Audience Award in California a week ago.
Shortfest is one of the largest short film festival in the world and since its inception, has premiered films which have gone on to be nominated for Oscars, including Shaun Tan's Academy Award-winning short animation, The Lost Thing. This year’s festival featured 330 short films from across the globe, including short films featuring stars such as Danny DeVito and Sophia Loren. Juliet director Martin Høgberget and editor Pilar Missas attended the closing night ceremony on Monday, June 24 to accept the Award, meeting industry heavy weights such as producer and executive producer extraordinaire Ted Hope (21 Grams, American Splendour).
Other recent wins for WA Screen Academy graduates and their films include Justin Smith’s and Hannah Moran’s The Truth about the Monkeys, Best Film at the national Women Film Something Short Film Competition in Sydney and Ryan Svirac’s Anything, People’s Choice Award at the national 2014 FilmLife Project which he made with Jess Black, a graduate of ECU’s film and video course.
WA Screen Academy productions have been nominated in a number of other categories at this year’s WA Screen Awards including Best Documentary – Short Form for Gordon Anderson’s and Gabby Cole’s The Balloon Man and Best Music Video for Cody Cameron-Brown’s and Brett Dowson’s Words from Batman to Robin. Cameron-Brown’s music video is scheduled to screen at this month’s Revelation Perth International Film Festival in the Favourites section together with Svirac’s Post Break Up, which features WAAPA Graduate James Sweeny, winner Best Actor – Male at the 2013 Gala Screenings.
WA Screen Academy graduates and films have scored some 20% of this year’s WA Screen Awards nominations. With some 450 entries, Di Chiera reflects; “It’s an indication of the strength of the practical orientation of the super-intensive training the WA Screen Academy offers”. He also revealed, “Industry engagement such as the Nine Network sponsorship is one of many great opportunities to come.”
Di Chiera, who ends his two-year term as Director of the WA Screen Academy in September to go back to filmmaking, is excited about a soon-to-be-announced state-of the-art equipment purchase and sponsorship arrangement involving a major manufacturer and supplier. He’s confident it will elevate the WA Screen Academy’s advanced training program to a new level.
At a time when many tertiary institutions are moving away from practical production-based courses in media, ECU’s WA Screen Academy is strengthening both its practical and academic focus while building on its industry partnerships. It’s a strategy providing a distinct point of difference in the increasingly competitive University market while reaping great results for its graduates.
The course’s close collaboration with WAAPA ensures WA Screen Academy students work with some of the best-trained actors in the country. In return, the short films provide WAAPA’s third year acting students with essential screen training. Many of them go on to attract lead roles in Australia and overseas. It’s a synergy that both Di Chiera and Andrew Lewis, Director of Performance at WAAPA and Associate Director at the WA Screen Academy have continued to foster and are keen to maintain.
With the Nine Network support secure for the next three years, the WA Screen Academy and WAAPA students have more to look forward to in their coursework.