Lottie Lyell.

The South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) today launched an annual award to commemorate the trail-blazing impact of silent film pioneer Lottie Lyell on the screen industry and to provide financial support to a female-driven screen project.

A writer, producer, director, actor, editor and art director, Lyell made 28 films with her work and life partner Raymond Longford.

She died from tuberculosis in 1925, aged 35. Their company, the Southern Cross Feature Film Co., was the first production company founded in South Australia and made its first feature, The Woman Suffers, regarded as Australia’s first feminist film, exactly 100 years ago. The following year they made The Sentimental Bloke, the most successful Australian film of its era.

AACTA’s Longford Lyell Award recognises a person who has made a truly outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Australia’s screen environment and culture.

Film historian David Donaldson says there will be centenary screenings of The Sentimental Bloke in Adelaide. He noted the film was first screened at the Wondergraph cinema in King William Street attended by C. J. Dennis, the author of the verses, Longford, Lyell, Arthur Tauchert (who played the Kid) and the master cinematographer Arthur Higgins, together with the investors in the Southern Cross Feature Film Co.

The new award is for a South Australian-based female screen practitioner who is as innovative now as Lottie was in her time. The $20,000 prize will go towards the development or delivery of a screen-based work which is bold, ambitious and full of promise.

It could be for a draft script for a feature film, a TV series bible, development materials for a documentary, a game or to finish a film.

SAFC CEO Courtney Gibson, Adelaide Film Festival CEO/artistic director Amanda Duthie and filmmaker Gillian Armstrong will judge the entries for the inaugural award.

In 1974 Armstrong made her first-ever documentary in SA for the SAFC, Smokes and Lollies, the first in a recurring series of documentaries produced by Jenny Day about a group of women growing up and growing older in Adelaide.

The director said: “I am delighted to be part of the selection team for the SAFC’s wonderful inaugural Lottie Lyell Award for a talented local female filmmaker. What a generous and needed initiative, as it is clear that it is sadly still not a level playing field for female talent in this industry. May they follow in the bold brave footsteps of writer, director, editor pioneers like our brilliant Lottie Lyell.”

The recipient of the inaugural award will be announced during the Adelaide Film Festival in October. Applications close on September 24.

To apply go here.

Join the Conversation


  1. Letter in The Advertiser 7 or 8 August about intended screenings to mark the centenary of the first show of The Sentimental Bloke. That was in the Wondergraph Cinema, King William st, 26 November 1918 – a hundred years ago.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.