The decision by the AFI/AACTA to maintain seven awards for non-Australian films while combining the best TV comedy and best light entertainment series into one category has been challenged by several producers.
They question why money and resources are being poured into the AACTA International Awards in Los Angeles when the AFI/AACTA is struggling financially due to lack of sponsorship and screen industry support.
Other producers defend the International Awards as a way for the organisation to build the brand and strive to make the awards more valuable to private and government sponsors
AFI/AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella tells IF it is simplistic and wrong to believe that ditching the international categories would free up more money for the Australian awards. He says the international awards subsidise the Oz awards.
Producer Anthony Buckley decries ”the absurd pomposity of seven international awards” while financial constraints forced the organisation to combine the comedy and light entertainment categories. He contends the decision shows the organisation’s contempt for the local industry.
Buckley, who is seeking the support of industry guilds, associations and individuals on the issue, is so incensed he called for the resignation of the AFI board chaired by Alan Finney.
“I would add my support to any move to put foreign awards back where they belong – not in the AFI apart from maybe "most popular for the year" as a sop to whoever is doing the telecast,” says producer Sue Milliken, a former chair of the Australian Film Commission.
“This latest change to the awards reminds me of when the AFI changed the name of the Chauvel Cinema to the AFI Cinema in some kind of misguided attempt to draw attention to itself at the expense of a giant pioneer of the Australian film industry. There was outrage and it didn't last long,” adds Milliken, who credits include The Fringe Dwellers, Black Robe, Sirens and Paradise Road.
Producer Roslyn Walker asks, “There are many international awards yet Comedy and Light Entertainment have been lumped together to save costs. Doesn't the Academy only award one international award? Why so many for us?
“Isn't it just a bit try-hard?” said screenwriter Karin Altmann. “I totally agree with Ros.”
Producer Antony I. Ginnane supports the international component of the awards and the overall AFI/AACTA strategy. “I think it depends on whether or not you subscribe to the bigger picture of a future re-funded re-sponsored AFI,” says Ginnane. “If you do then these International Awards clearly have value in building the brand and making them more valuable at both the private and government sponsor levels going forward.
“I'm also aware that the AACTAs will never be seen as perfect by every industry stakeholder. Right now they are underfunded and AFI management are doing a Herculean job in keeping them afloat. I for one am prepared to trust their strategy as they try to work their way forward.”
Trewhella says the International Awards are cross-subsidising the Australian awards. He asserts that sponsors such as Foxtel (which will telecast the International Awards on January 12 on Arena) and Destination NSW see those awards as an important business development.
“Our primary focus is the Australian awards but there is very little direct screen industry support for the Australian categories," he says. "The AACTA International Awards are a substantial platform for the promotion of Australian production / facilities / potential / talent etc. We are showcasing forthcoming Australian releases at the event to a room of full of leading LA industry figures.
"Many Australians in the AACTA International Chapter (who determine these awards) are either based in or working frequently in or with international industry. Partners other than Foxtel and DNSW interested in the development and potential of this activity include Ausfilm, Australians in Film, Screen Australia and studios/distributors.
"The International Awards have been developed as part of a strategy to try to find/secure necessary support for the maintenance of the domestic awards and the AFI. They are also about Australian relevancy and connection in an increasingly global industry.
"BAFTA has increased its relevancy and connection immensely over the past 12 years or so via developing an international program.
"Additionally, we have worked very hard for the local screen industry through the introduction of six new television screen craft awards this year. This is occurring amid a very challenging time. Part of the industry consultation at the time was that comedy and light entertainment categories would be combined this year as the long campaigned-for television screen categories were a priority.
"The Australian industry is certainly the core priority. Maintaining our program on behalf of the industry is very challenging without the subsidies from retail sponsorship and innovation in the overall model is required."
Actor/director Josh Lawson is spearheading a campaign to try to persuade the AFI to have separate awards for TV comedy and light entertainment. Trewhella says he is talking to three potential stakeholders in a bid to boost the number of TV comedy awards.
There are 35 nominees in the seven categories in the non-Australian awards, for best film, direction, screenplay, lead actor, lead actress, supporting actor and supporting actress.
The winners will be decided by votes from the AACTA International chapter and announced at an invite-only event in Los Angeles, in association with Australians in Film, on January 10.
THE 3RD AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARDS NOMINEES ARE:
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST FILM
12 YEARS A SLAVE
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
12 YEARS A SLAVE – Steve McQueen
AMERICAN HUSTLE – David O. Russell
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS – Paul Greengrass
GRAVITY – Alfonso Cuarón
THE GREAT GATSBY – Baz Luhrmann
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY
12 YEARS A SLAVE – John Ridley
AMERICAN HUSTLE – Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
BLUE JASMINE – Woody Allen
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
SAVING MR. BANKS – Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
Christian Bale – AMERICAN HUSTLE
Leonardo DiCaprio – THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Tom Hanks – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
Matthew McConaughey – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Amy Adams – AMERICAN HUSTLE
Cate Blanchett – BLUE JASMINE
Sandra Bullock – GRAVITY
Judi Dench – PHILOMENA
Meryl Streep – AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Bradley Cooper – AMERICAN HUSTLE
Joel Edgerton – THE GREAT GATSBY
Michael Fassbender – 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Jared Leto – DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Geoffrey Rush – THE BOOK THIEF
AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins – BLUE JASMINE
Jennifer Lawrence – AMERICAN HUSTLE
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Julia Roberts – AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Octavia Spencer – FRUITVALE STATION