'The Commons'.

Shelley Birse has taken home the Australian Writers’ Guild’s (AWG) 2020 John Hinde Award for Science Fiction Writing for Stan Original series The Commons.

Birse, the creator of the show, receives $10,000 for the drama which offers a glimpse into a not-too-distant future where climate change and biotechnology raise important ethical questions for humanity.

The annual award, first presented in 2008, is funded by a bequest from the late film critic John Hinde. It was Hinde’s wish that future generations of Australian science-fiction screenwriters be nurtured through industry opportunities.

Highly commended in the produced category were Antony Webb’s AWGIE-nominated short film Carmentis and episode 13 of The Unlisted, written by Mithila Gupta.

David Peterson’s feature script Untethered won in the unproduced category.

The screenplay follows a former refugee on a mission to Mars who must confront her lack of trust in her crew when their ship is damaged and grapple with unlearning the lessons of her deadly voyage with people smugglers 30 years prior.

The judging panel descripted the script as unique in its depiction of the past influencing the future in a realistic and dramatic way, it was praised for its originality, strength of craft and, much relevance to modern Australia.

Paul Jenner’s television pilot Grail and Fabian Lapham and Stephanie Crowe’s children’s animation Cosmic Lighthouse were highly commended.

The three projects will now be inducted onto AWG’s Pathways Showcase, with Peterson receiving up to $5,000 in professional development support to further develop Untethered.

More than 170 entries were received this year, with the judging panel stating: “It was really exciting to see the breadth of creativity and voices, especially within science-fiction; a genre we’ve typically shied away from in Australia.

“Writing sci-fi can be extremely challenging, and we would like to commend all the writers who submitted scripts. As judges, we all hope that these awards will give oxygen to further development and will bring the scripts to the attention of those who will enable them to be made.’

Produced by Playmaker Media, Birse’s The Commons recently sold to Sundance Now for the US and Canada.

Past winners in the produced category include Lucas Taylor’s Eleven Eleven in 2019, Cris Jones’ The Death and Life of Otto Bloom in 2017, and Episode Five of the acclaimed Indigenous series Cleverman.

In the unproduced category, 2019 winner Steve Mitchell has been inducted onto AWG’s Pathways Showcase and continues to develop Cowtown, while 2018 winner Georgina Love was recently awarded a scholarship by Final Draft to attend the Rocaberti Writers’ Retreat in the south of France, and won the Screencraft Screenwriters Fellowship. 2017 winner C.S. McMullen (Awake) saw her debut feature The Other Lamb premiere at Toronto International Film Festival in 2019. She is a writer on the recent horror anthology series Two Sentence Horror Stories for The CW/Warner Brothers Digital.

2020 John Hinde Award shortlist

  • Big Red by Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce
  • Black Mist by Ryan van Dijk and Alexei Mizin
  • Copy Cat by Millie Holten
  • Cosmic Lighthouse by Fabian Lapham and Stephanie Crowe (Highly Commended) 
  • Grail by Paul Jenner (Highly Commended)
  • The Longest Day by Ellen Shanley
  • Removed by Sarah Emery and Carl Firth
  • The Replicas by Adam Daniel 
  • Science Witch by Fabian Lapham

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