AIDC representatives with the 2019 Leading Lights recipients.

The Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) is inviting applications for the 2020 Leading Lights program.

A collaboration between the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and Edith Cowan University (ECU), the initiative provides early career, Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) non-fiction practitioners with complimentary entry to the event, plus professional development and mentoring opportunities.

As part of the program, AFTRS and ECU will present a private pitching workshop introducing Leading Lights recipients to this essential industry skill.

Five Leading Lights recipients with projects in development will also be selected for the inaugural Leading Lights pitch, conducted in front of a closed room of industry experts including Leading Lights donors.

Additionally, all recipients will gain access to the Leading Lights Meet and Greet, where they’ll have the opportunity to network with fellow Leading Lights recipients and Leading Lights donors.

Donations are made to the Leading Lights fund, a philanthropic initiative which sees Australian screen organisations pledge money towards AIDC conference places, which are then awarded to early career, Indigenous and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) non-fiction practitioners.

This year, AIDC will match every donation enabling a newcomer to attend the conference, so that two new practitioners will be able to experience the 2021 event.

Donors that have already contributed to the 2021 Leading Lights fund include ABC, SBS, CJZ, Paul Wiegard, Wildbear Entertainment, Artemis Media, Closer Productions, December Media, Media Stockade, Mint Pictures, Projector Films, Virgo Productions and Wilding TV.

AIDC CEO Alice Burgin said the Leading Lights program was important in creating a more inclusive screen and digital media sector.

“We want practitioners from a range of backgrounds to establish themselves as part of Australia’s screen community – and giving them an opportunity to attend AIDC for the first time is a really valuable starting point,” she said.

“We thank all the companies and individuals who have supported the program so far.”

Her sentiments were echoed by AFTRS head of documentary Richard Welch, who said the program was dedicated to fostering greater inclusion and diversity within the Australian documentary landscape.

“Such initiatives are crucial in providing pathways and connections into the industry, offering unique opportunities for professional development, and crucially, helping to build a richer, diverse screen industry reflective of modern-day Australia,” he said.

Cathy Henkel director, WA Screen Academy, Edith Cowan University, said the institution was proud to be partnering with AFTRS and AIDC on the initiative.

“It’s exciting to further expand the professional development opportunities for Leading Lights participants by introducing mentoring, pitch training and an inaugural Leading Lights pitch session,” she said.

Since launching the Leading Lights program in 2018, 102 industry newcomers have attended AIDC as a result of contributions from 62 donors.

For more information about the Leading Lights program, click here.

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