Screen Forum awards scholarship to Darlene Johnson, honours Collette, Luhrmann, Bilcock

- New York, NY - 3/22/19 - NY Premiere of "Top End Wedding" at the Australian International Screen Forum -Pictured: Darlene Johnson -Photo by: Patrick Lewis/Starpix -Location: Francesca Beale Theatre

Darlene Johnson at the Screen Forum (Photo credit: Patrick Huban).

The Australian International Screen Forum presented its inaugural scholarship, a placement with an American director on a US film, to Indigenous filmmaker Darlene Johnson.

Toni Collette and editor Jill Bilcock each received the Pioneering Woman in Film award while Baz Luhrmann was presented with the Trailblazer award at the forum, which ran from March 19-22 at the Lincoln Centre in New York.

Johnson, who directed episodes of the ABC drama serial The Heights for Matchbox Pictures and For Pete’s Sake Productions, will get a three-month attachment on a film that is due to shoot in New York later this year. The forum organisers expect to confirm the title in the next few weeks.

Announcing the award, Australian International Screen Forum chairman Chris Beale said: “Darlene is an award-winning documentarian who is moving to narrative filmmaking. She came to our attention through our short film program, Australian Short Film Today.

“We showed her narrative short Bluey in eight cities around the world, where it won two audience awards. Darlene has an important voice that needs to be heard.”

Accepting the $US10,000 scholarship, Johnson told her Facebook followers: “I still can’t believe it! Feeling blessed.”

The American Australian Association and the Australian International Screen Forum created the scholarship to foster international-based learning and career development opportunities for the next generation of Australian filmmakers.

Collecting her award, Collette thanked PJ Hogan for believing in her, recalling she was delivering pizzas before he cast her in Muriel’s Wedding.

Jill Bilcock (Photo credit: Arin Sang-urai).

Around 500 people attended screenings, labs and workshops over the four days, a far bigger turn-out than last year. Bilcock was on hand for a screening of Alex Grigor’s Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible.

The forum’s co-founder Michael Kelleher said: “Most of the sessions were full and people had to stand in the back or on the stairs.”

A session with Blumhouse Prouctions’ Jason Blum was so well attended it was moved to a bigger room.

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale screened on opening night and Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding was the closer.