A record 400 people jammed into Doltone House by the Sydney Harbour to celebrate the 42nd AWGIE Awards for writers of film, television, theatre, radio and interactive media last Friday evening. Mark Poole stayed sober, to record this account.
Jonathan Biggins did a brilliant job as host for the night, ably assisted by Phil Scott on piano and vocals. The pair performed a medley of songs to begin the awards proper, and also entertained after the dinner break.
Tim Pye, as Guild President, gave the initial speech and indicated that the AWG continued to go from strength to strength, as evidenced by the evening’s Awards that were to hand out around $120,000 in cash for a number of categories and fellowships, adding a frisson to the night.
The evening’s pace was brisk and breezy although towards the end the speeches became noticeably longer. Not that anyone cared due to the caliber of the speeches and the winners making them. Indeed Greg Haddrick, in presenting an award, commented that the AWGIEs were more entertaining than either the AFIs or the Logies, and suggested they be televised. However another speaker retorted that the reason why the AWGIEs are so entertaining is precisely because they don’t have the albatross of television around their necks.
Patricia Cornelius delivered a number of spirited addresses, winning three awards over the night including the coveted Richard Wherrett Award which carries with it $40,000 in prize money, split between the writer and the theatre company that first put on the play.
The highlight was Warwick Thornton who won for best original Feature Film for the screenplay for Samson & Delilah. The film has done incredibly well at the box office, the best Australian result for a number of years (excluding Baz’s Australia). But as Warwick said, it’s not about box office but creating films that will stand up to scrutiny in 50 years time. “We’re making the Picnic at Hanging Rocks and the Wake in Frights that people will watch and remember,” he told the audience.
Thornton was also the recipient of the Major Award, which carries with it a cash prize of $20,000 courtesy of the CAL cultural fund. Clearly stoked, he said that his teenage children would now benefit from a well-stocked fridge.
Andrew Bovell picked up two awards, one for Feature Film Adaptation forBlessed, along with co-writers Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves and Christos Tsolkas, and a second for his acclaimed play When the Rain Stops Falling. He explained how he had written a press release on behalf of the South Australian branch of the AWG which someone had commented was the worst press release they’d ever read. Then his daughter had worked on an English assignment which studied his play, and Andrew had helped, and she got a C, with the comment that she had misunderstood the playwright’s intention. So at least this AWGIE confirmed that Bovell really can write!
The Foxtel Fellowship for excellence in television writing was awarded by Foxtel CEO Kim Williams to Christopher Lee, who said that years ago he got a phone call from producer John Edwards asking what he was doing in the next couple of days – and they’ve been working together ever since, onSecret Life of Us, Rush and other projects. Lee also picked up an AWGIE on the evening for penning an episode of Rush with co-writer John O’Brien.
Geoffrey Atherden couldn’t be at the AWGIEs so he created his own presentation, taking advantages of the technology of iMovie. He thanked Foxtel and the other supporters for their assistance with the Australian Writers’ Foundation, of which he is the President. And he said he was happy he’d been able to give his AWGIE suit an airing, if only for a few minutes to concoct the production.
There was a distinctly indigenous theme to the night, both in terms of winners and subject-matter, with Rachel Perkins picking up an AWGIE with Louis Nowra for their scripts for the documentary series First Australians – Episode One, screened on SBS, The Circuit scored in the Miniseries Original Category for the writing team on of Kelly Lefever, Dot West, Mich Torres and Wayne Blair, and of course Warwick Thornton for Samson & Delilah. Even the Documentary Corporate and Training prize was won by Scott Xavier Higgins for Not My Sister, about child sexual abuse within an indigenous family.
A popular winner was the team taking out the Kit Denton Fellowship for courage and excellence in performance writing, which was given by Andrew Denton to Back to Back Theatre.
And the John Hinde Award for Science Fiction was taken out by Shayne Armstrong and S.P. Krause for K9 – The Fall of the House of Gryffen – by my recollection the first time the award has been given.
I’ve been to many AWGIEs over the years, and I reckon this one surpassed even the All Frills AWGIEs held in Melbourne in 1993, to which Prime Minister Keating was the special guest. Like that one, this AWGIEs had an upbeat feel, a buzz, a sense of community and camaderie that is often lacking in the sometimes cutthroat film, television and theatre space.
Congratulations must go to AWG Executive Director Jacqueline Woodman, organizers Annabel Davis, Jane Ballantyne, Louisa Carlin and Brad Taylor for organizing this winning event.
Here is the list of winners:
Children’s Television – C Classification
CJ the DJ – Si’s Slide by John Armstrong
Children’s Television – P Classification
Zigby – Zigby and the Mango by Suzie Wicks
The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy – by Finegan Kruckemeyer
Theatre for Young Audiences
Tenderness – Slut by Patricia Cornelius
Community and Youth Theatre
Watermark by Alana Valentine
When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell
FIND815 by Anthony Mullins
Radio – Original Broadcast
There’s Something about Eels… by Nolle Janaczewska
Radio – Adaptation
Aurora Calling: The Results of a Joint Observation by Catherine Ryan
Documentary – Public Broadcast
First Australians- Episode 1 by Louis Nowra and Rachel Perkins
Documentary – Corporate Training
Not My Sister by Scott Xavier Higgins
Champions by Anita Beckman
Comedy – Sketch or Light Entertainment
Good News Week 2:07 – The 2008 Jet – Sparrow Awards
Ian Simmons, Dave Bloustien, Bruce Griffiths, Simon Dodd, Warwick Holt, and Paul Livingston with Mat Blackwell, Patrick Cook and Celia Pacquola
Comedy – Situation or Narrative
Review with Myles Barlow – Episode 3 by Phil Lloyd with Trent O’Donnell
Television – Serial
Home and Away – Episode 4649 by Sean Nash
Television – Series
Rush – Episode 4 by John O’Brien and Christopher Lee
Saved by Belinda Chayko
Television Mini Series – Original
The Circuit – Series 2 by Kelly Lefever, Dot West, Mitch Torres and Wayne Blair
Feature Film Screenplay – Adaptation
Blessed by Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius, Christos Tsiolkas
Feature Film Screenplay (Original)
Samson & Delilah by Warwick Thornton
Major AWGIE Award
Samson & Delilah by Warwick Thornton
Monte Miller Award – Long Form
Box by James Greville
Monte Miller Award – Short Form
Broken by Mitchell Forrester
Richard Lane Award
Recognising Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Australian Writers’ Guild
Hector Crawford Award
For a Significant Contribution to the Craft via a Body of Script Editing Work
Richard Wherrett Prize
Tenderness – Slut by Patricia Cornelius
FOXTEL Fellowship for Excellence in Television Writing
Kit Denton Fellowship
Back to Back Theatre
John Hinde Award for Science Fiction
Shayne Armstrong and S.P Krause
Mark Poole is the Chair of the Australian Writers’ Guild, Victorian Branch.
Mark Poole is a writer and director of drama and documentary. His recent documentary Fearless (co-produced with Rob George) screened on the ABC.