Sydney Film Festival launches $20,000 First Nations fellowship

Darren Dale, Nashen Moodley, Leigh Small and Glenn Morgan.

Through a new partnership with Deutsche Bank, Sydney Film Festival is launching an annual $20,000 fellowship for a First Nations creative.

The winning fellow will be awarded a grant to further develop their skills through an international placement, or other professional development.

The fellowship is open to screenwriters, producers, directors, actors, and craftspersons, is aimed at those at an emerging to mid-career level with a proven track record.

SFF board member and Blackfella Films co-director Darren Dale said: “We encourage all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander film creatives, who have already started a career in any discipline within the film and television industry, and who are currently based in Australia, to apply.”

“The Fellowship is an important investment in developing and nurturing the talents of local creatives and enhancing global awareness of Australia’s vibrant Indigenous filmmaking talent.”

While it is up to the creative to put a proposal together of what they want to do via the fellowship, SFF CEO Leigh Small tells IF the festival will leverage its networks to assist them.

“Hopefully through the festival’s contacts nationally and internationally, we could expand their ambitions of where they could be placed and what they could achieve,” she said.

In addition to the Fellowship, Deutsche Bank will support SFF through a partnership alignment with the Festival’s First Nations Film program, which is also supported by Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department.

Over the past seven years Sydney Film Festival has screened 258 Australian films across features, documentaries and shorts, of which roughly 50 were made by First Nation filmmakers.

Small hopes that the fellowship will allow the festival to continue support Indigenous filmmaking talent in a “sincere and deep way”.

“Unlike Adelaide Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival, we don’t have a film fund. What we can do is support filmmakers and create opportunities to further their careers,” she tells IF.

In that sense, the fellowship builds on other corporate partnerships, such as the festival’s Lexus Short Film Fellowship, launched in 2015.

In Australia, Deutsche Bank has previously supported the Sydney Contemporary, the Biennale of Sydney and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Over the past four years, Deutsche Bank has also been a partner to the Clontarf Foundation, which is aimed at improving the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

Deutsche Bank Interim CEO Glenn Morgan tells IF the partnership is a “natural extension” of its support of both arts and Indigenous organisations.

“It couldn’t be happier marriage for us of those two things,” he says.

“For the fellowship in particular, it’s great to be supporting emerging talent We’re really excited to see what comes out of that program.”

The successful candidate will be selected by a panel of key industry personnel, and the fellowship awarded at the 68th Sydney Film Festival which will take place August 18-29.

Applications are due May 18.