'Hearts and Bones' stars Andrew Luri, Bolude Watson, director Ben Lawrence and Hugo Weaving.

Ben Lawrence took home the main prize – Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget $1M+) – at last night’s Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) Awards, for his debut narrative feature Hearts and Bones.

Held virtually and hosted by Greta Lee Jackson and Nina Oyama, this year’s ADG Awards also saw female directors take home 10 of the 19 prizes – marking the first time ever that women have made up more than 50 per cent of winners. 

Among them were Josephine Mackerras, who took home Best Direction of A Feature Film (Budget under $1M) for the French-language Alice; Maya Newell whose In My Blood It Runs saw her win Best Direction of a Documentary Feature, and Emma Freeman, who won Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Mini-Series for Stateless: Episode 3.

The guild suggests this reflects the push for gender parity in the industry. Traditionally, women have been extremely underrepresented in director roles, and last week, industry-wide data released by Screen Australia showed that for the past four years, women made up only 18 per cent of feature film directors, 33 per cent of TV directors, 37 per cent of documentary directors and 38 per cent of online directors.

Starring Hugo Weaving and newcomer Andrew Luri, Hearts and Bones was released in the US last week, following on from its Aussie digital release and a festival journey that included last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Up against Lawrence in the category were John Sheedy (H is for Happiness), Thomas M. Wright (Acute Misfortune), Natalie Erika James (Relic), Sophie Hyde (Animals) and Wayne Blair (Top End Wedding).

Other winners on the night included Kacie Anning, recognised with Esben Storm Award for Best Direction of a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Program for Episode 6 of the Emmy Award winning Hardball; Jeffrey Walker who won Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Drama Series for The Commons Season 1, Episode 1, and Matthew Saville who won the Award for Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Comedy Series for Upright, Episode 5.

The guild also presented a special lifetime achievement award to the late Gary Conway. A prolific and respected director, Conway directed 786 episodes of Neighbours between 1988 and 2019, as well as a slew of other Australian TV drama, including Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, Cop Shop, Skyways, A Country Practice, Prisoner, The Flying Doctors, Boney and Blue Heelers.

ADG President Samantha Lang said: “The awards come at a moment when key creatives and organisations in our screen industry are lobbying government to ‘Make It Australian’ and keep Australian storytelling on our local and global screens. The films, television shows, music videos, student films and commercial work of directors nominated and awarded tonight are a shining example of the creative, cultural and fiscal success of Australian content. It’s also heartwarming to see an immense diversity of Australian directors awarded tonight – a reflection of who we are – both as content creators – and audiences.”

Best Direction of a Feature Film (Budget $1M or over)
Ben Lawrence – Hearts and Bones

Best Direction of a Feature Film (Budget under $1M)
Josephine Mackerras – Alice

Best Direction of a Documentary Feature
Maya Newell – In My Blood It Runs

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Drama Series
Jeffrey Walker – The Commons – Season 1 Episode 1

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Mini-Series
Emma Freeman – Stateless – Episode 3

Best Direction of a Documentary Series
Rosie Jones – The Cult Of The Family – Episode 1

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Comedy Series
Matthew Saville – Upright – Episode 5

Esben Storm Award for Best Direction of a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Program
Kacie Anning – Hardball – Episode 6

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Drama Serial
Kate Kendall – Neighbours – Episode 8052

Best Direction of an Animated Project
Jo Boag – Alice-Miranda Friends Forever

Best Direction of Commercial Content
Allan Hardy ACS – Volvo Penta Makes Australian Farming Possible (Allabah Pastural Co.)

Best Direction of Commercial Advertisement
Luke Shanahan – NZ Post – Little Fibs

Best Direction of an Online Drama Series
Husein Alicajic – One Sided – The Acquired Inability To Escape – Episode 1

Best Direction of an Online Comedy Series
Michael O’Neill & Dylan Hesp – Australia’s Best Street Racer

Best Direction of a Documentary Short Subject
Karen Pearlman – I Want To Make A Film About Women

Best Direction of a Music Video
Matthew Thorne – The Only Boy Racer Left On The Island (Artist: The Howl & The Hum)

Best Direction of an Interactive or Immersive Title
Matthew Sleeth – A Drone Opera

Best Direction of a Short Film
Melissa Anastasi – Chlorine

Best Direction of a Student Film
Alies Sluiter – Ayaan

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