Thomas M Wright backed up his AACTA Award for Best Screenplay earlier in the week with the major prize at the Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) Awards on Thursday, winning Best Direction in a Narrative Feature Film (Budget $1M or over) for The Stranger.
The actor, writer and director beat out Cate Shortland (Black Widow), Christine Luby (The Curious Case of Dolphin Bay), Claire McCarthy (The Colour Room), Justin Kurzel (Nitram), Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson), and Sophie Hyde (Good Luck To You, Leo Grande) to take out the category. It was his second time being nominated, having got the nod for his debut Acute Misfortune in 2018.
Wright, who was presented his award by none other than Russell Crowe, admitted he was “a little overawed” by the honour, given he “wasn’t really a director until a few years ago”.
“The only thing I’ve wanted as a filmmaker is to speak in a language of the filmmakers that spoke to me as a young person coming to the cinema,” he said.
It was one of 21 categories announced at The Actors Centre in Leichhardt, as directors across film, television, short film, commercials, documentary, and music videos were recognised for their work across the past 12 months.
Of the other feature film categories, Leah Purcell was awarded Best Direction in a Debut Feature Film for The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson while Best Direction in a Narrative Feature Film (Budget under $1M) went to Aaron Wilson for Little Tornadoes.
Female directors claimed the major television categories, with Sian Davies triumphing in Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Comedy Series Episode for Spreadsheet and Best Direction in a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Series Episode for Surviving Summer to become the only multiple winner of the awards.
Also victorious was Corrie Chen, who took out Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Mini-Series Episode for New Gold Mountain, while Emma Freeman won the award for Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Series Episode for The Newsreader.
Outgoing ADG executive director Alaric McAusland said the result reflected that “diversity is now a reality amongst Australian directors”.
“My congratulations to all the winners and my thanks to all those ADG nominees and members who celebrated our craft at today’s gala awards ceremony,” he said.
The documentary winners included Alec Morgan and Tiriki Onus, who received Best Direction in a Documentary Feature for their film Ablaze; Rhian Skirving and John Harvey in Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Documentary Series Episode or Documentary One-Off for Off Country; and Olivia Martin-McGuire in Best Direction in a Documentary Short Subject for Freedom Swimmer.
Veteran first assistant director Peter McLennan was announced as the inaugural recipient of the ‘JC’ John Clabburn Award, designed to honour the 1st AD who passed away last year.