Natalie Miller and Sasha Close. (Photo credit: Peter Jackson)

Applications are open for the annual Natalie Miller Fellowship, a $20,000 grant designed to support female leaders. 

Established six years ago, the fellowship is open to all women working in the screen industry, and aims to offer financial assistance to allow the recipient to undertake attachments, mentorships, secondments and the like. 

Last year’s recipient was Sasha Close, who is both film programming manager for South Australia’s Wallis Cinemas, and a consultant for 20 regional cinemas across Australia. 

As part of her fellowship Close was keen to explore how a cinema chain operates in a different territory, and will be jetting off to the UK in two weeks to undertake a secondment with Picturehouse Cinemas. Once there, she will shadow key personnel in programming and marketing and view operations. Close said Picturehouse seem to be a really “innovative circuit”.

“They were one of the first cinema chains in the UK to experiment with event and alternative content. They seem to be able to navigate the programming challenges between mainstream and arthouse exceptionally well. Their growth in terms of box office year on year is pretty impressive, so they must be doing something right. I'm really interested to see exactly what that is when I get to spend a couple of weeks with them,” she told IF. 

Of particular interest is also how Picturehouse have navigated digital disruption while still growing their audience. 

“Hopefully the observations and findings from my secondment I’ll be able to bring back to the Australian landscape and look at what we might be able to adopt.”

While over in Europe, Close will also attend the Barcelona CineEurope conference, where she hopes to get an eye to global trends and best practice in exhibition in Europe.  

In addition to her travels, Close is also being mentored throughout this year by Adelaide Fringe CEO and documentary producer Heather Croall.

“I was really looking for someone who was a leader in their field and really interested in how they got to where they are,” she said. 

“It’s really interesting talking to someone who you regard as a leader, because everyone takes different journeys. Heather was great in talking about how she just was always open to saying yes.”

It is “hard to overstate” the opportunities and recognition afforded by the fellowship, said Close, noting it is a great chance for female leaders to expand their horizons. 

Close believes the industry needs a diversity of voices to succeed. “It’s particularly important that there are different voices at the table to determine what films are being made, what’s happening in the cinema environment. If you’ve only got a singular voice, it doesn’t cater for every audience."

Previous recipients of the fellowship have also included Rachel Okine (vice president, international production and acquisitions at StudioCanal in Paris), Harriet Pike (head of production & development, WildBear Entertainment), Rebecca Hammond (head of localisation & access services, Deluxe Australia), and Courtney Botfield (director, Goodship).

Applications close for the current Natalie Miller Fellowship close August 18. More information here:

The recipient will be announced in October at the 2017 Australian International Movie Convention on the Gold Coast.

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