Following an outcry from Ozdox and the wider documentary community, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts has reinstated four documentary awards.
The restored categories are for direction, cinematography, editing and sound in feature-length documentaries and TV docos.
As a result, the TV directing awards will no longer encompass docos. The best direction in television (drama) will be renamed best direction in a TV drama or comedy. The best direction in television (non-drama) will be renamed best direction in a TV light entertainment or reality series.
The six new TV screen craft Awards announced in May will remain. This means 43 awards will be presented at the 3rd annual AACTA awards in Sydney next January, two more than this year.
Australian Film Institute /AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella told IF his organisation never had any philosophical objection to honouring factual productions and said the original decision to cut the documentary awards was based on the AFI’s “difficult fiscal” situation.
While he has no short-term solutions to the budgetary shortfall, he said he will continue to work with all nine industry guilds and associations to try to attract private sponsorship and to boost the ranks of AACTA’s membership.
He acknowledged that reinstating the four docos awards will require extra work and resources.
“AFI | AACTA has always considered documentary an important genre; it is responsive, creative and critical in capturing real Australian stories, and we are pleased to reinstate these awards with the industry’s support,” he said.
“A total of 187 documentary projects were undertaken in the last year in Australia, with a total budget of $145 million. It is therefore vital that we have a peer-assessed measure in place via the AACTA Awards in order to assess the health of this industry, and to provide a platform for further collaboration by bringing together our nation’s best documentary makers.”
He said Network Ten is keen to continue to telecast the awards again but the AFI will need to fund the costs of the production. He added the host broadcasters had not contributed financially to the awards for five years.
The AFI was badly hit when its major sponsor Samsung cancelled its $1.5 million deal last year. As a result, the AFI has depended on the non-screen sector for 90% of its funding; a level which Trewhella concedes is not sustainable in the current economic climate.