2017 AWGIES – Leah Purcell honoured by writing community

Actor, writer and director Leah Purcell ultimately dominated the Writers' Guild annual awards with her stage play, The Drover's Wife.
[This is archived content and may not display in the originally intended format.]

Image: Leah Purcell in The Drover’s Wife, taken by Brett Boardman.

The night really belonged to Leah Purcell and her stage play, a re-imagining of Lawson’s short story, The Drover’s Wife. She received the Stage award, and then the David Williamson Prize for Excellence in Writing for Australian Theatre, and then the 2017 Major Award (formerly the Gold AWGIE), in which all the winners are pitted against each other.

It is not surprising. She has made a stream of powerful work as writer and director in the theatre. An early version of the play won the 2014 Balnaves Foundation Indigenous Playwright’s Award, while The Belvoir Street production of The Drover’s Wife brought her a Helpmann Award for Best Play and Best New Work. She won the Book of the Year in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. Then she went on to win the Victorian Prize for Literature, which comes with a comprehensive judges’ report and script extract.

She is also no stranger to the screen as she was the set-up director on The Secret Daughter, and directed episodes of both Cleverman series. She wrote and directed documentary Black Chicks Talking. She acted before the camera in productions from Lantana to The Proposition, Police Rescue to Redfern Now and Janet King. She is turning The Drover’s Wife into a film. 

Oh, and she was the lead actor in the play as well. 

Beyond the honours for Leah Purcell, the 2017 AWGIES turned out to be a night for familiar names, with a surprising shortage of nominees in the feature film categories, perhaps reflecting the way that writer/directors prefer to join the Directors’ Guild. 

As the emphasis in the local industry moves more and more towards television, we could eventually see a deal between the two guilds which enables directors to campaign for a feature or documentary category. And maybe – hush my mouth – be part of the judging team. 

Screenwriter, television producer and Guild stalwart Kelly Lefever received the Richard Lane Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Australian Writers’ Guild. Chaser satirist Julian Morrow was given the Fred Parsons Award for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Comedy. 

With tributes from Sigrid Thornton, Peter Duncan and Andrew Anastasios, Andrew Knight accepted the 2017 Australian Writers’ Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which we hope did not make him feel old. 

Here are the screen categories, with the winners in bold. 

FEATURE FILM – ORIGINAL

Hacksaw Ridge – Andrew Knight with Robert Schenkkan 
Hounds of Love – Ben Young

FEATURE FILM – ADAPTATION

Only one nomination and the winner will be announced on the night.

It turned out to be 

Lion – Luke Davies

SHORT FORM

Big City 
– Jordan Bond
Creswick – Christian White with Natalie Erika 
James Going Vego – Christopher Burke
Tender – Rebecca Greensill

DOCUMENTARY – PUBLIC BROADCAST OR EXHIBITION

Paris or the Bush: ‘The Story of the Cods’ – Wayne Groom with Carolyn Bilsborow 
Streets of Your Town: Episode 2 – Sally Aitken
The Panther Within – Edoardo Crismani
 
DOCUMENTARY – COMMUNITY, EDUCATIONAL AND TRAINING

Cyber Security – The Internet – Sam Meikle
Demons to Please – Jim Shomos with Amelia Walters

TELEVISION – SERIAL

Home and Away: Episode 6510 – Faith McKinnon 
Neighbours: Episode 7414 – Sam Meikle 
Neighbours: Episode 7477 – Sue Hore 
Neighbours: Episode 7492 – Peter Mattessi

TELEVISION – SERIES OR MINISERIES (MORE THAN 4 HOURS DURATION)

Janet King: ‘Playing Advantage’ – Greg Haddrick 
Seven Types of Ambiguity: ‘Alex’ – Jacquelin Perske 
The Wrong Girl: Episode 3 – Michael Lucas 
Wentworth: ‘Seeing Red’ – Pete McTighe

TELEVISION – TELEMOVIE OR MINISERIES (LESS THAN 4 HOURS DURATION)

Deep Water – Kris Wyld and Kym Goldsworthy 
High Life – Glen Dolman
Hoges: Part 1 – Keith Thompson
 
CHILDREN’S TELEVISION – P CLASSIFICATION (PRESCHOOL – UNDER 5 YEARS)

Digby Dragon: ‘Mungo’s Flight School’ – Tim Bain
Guess How Much I Love You: ‘Little White Fawn’ – Melanie Alexander
Hoot Hoot Go!: ‘Giggle Fangs is Too Good at Hoot and Seek’ – Wendy Hanna

CHILDREN’S TELEVISION – C CLASSIFICATION (CHILDREN’S – 5–14 YEARS)

Oh Yuck!: ‘Gastrov Flatulinsky’ – Timothy Lee
The Deep: ‘Beware the Sentinels’ – Thomas Duncan-Watt 
The Deep: ‘Finn Comes Aboard’ – Rachel Spratt
The Skinners: ‘Carpathian Cook Book’ – David Witt

COMEDY – SITUATION OR NARRATIVE

No Activity: ‘Silent Night’ – Trent O’Donnell
Please Like Me: ‘Burrito Bowl’ – Josh Thomas, Thomas Ward and Liz Doran 
Rosehaven: Episode 4 – Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola
Rosehaven: Episode 6 – Luke McGregor and Celia Pacquola

COMEDY – SKETCH OR LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Fancy Boy: ‘Three Wishes’ – Declan Fay and Anne Edmonds with John Campbell, Stuart Daulman, Greg Larsen, Jonathan Schuster and Henry Stone
Sammy J’s Playground Politics – Sam McMillan and Chris McDonald with James Pender
Suspect Moustache: Episode 1 – Fabian Lapham

INTERACTIVE

Ghosts of Biloela – Que Minh Luu, Christopher Burke and Anna Barnes 
VR Noir: A Day Before The Night – Mike Jones

ANIMATION

Counterfeit Cat: ‘Room of Panic’ – Tim Bain 

Motown Magic: ‘My Girl’ – John Armstrong
Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong: ‘Adventures in Holo Sitting’ – Charlotte Rose Hamlyn
Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong: ‘Happy Birthday Dear Dark Lord’ – Thomas Duncan-Watt

————–

Just to show you how a career can develop for an emerging writer, here is the release about the short film winners.

Warmest congratulations to former RMIT Screenwriting student Christian White, winner (with Natalie Erika James) of the 2017 AWGIE Award for Best Short Form screenplay for Creswick, presented last Friday in Sydney!

Christian co-created the television series Carnivores with Tony Ayres, currently in development with Matchbox Pictures and Heyday TV. Carnivores is inspired by his pilot script One Year Later, winner of the 2014 AWG Think Inside The Box competition.

His debut novel, Decay Theory, follows a Melbourne woman who questions her identity after an American accountant claims she is the child who was abducted as a two year old from Kentucky. Decay Theory recently won the 2017 Wheeler Centre Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript, and will be published in 2018 through Affirm Press.

Christian co-wrote the feature film, Relic, which will be produced by Carver Films (Snowtown, Partisan). Relic is a psychological horror film which follows a mother and daughter who search an isolated town for their missing grandmother. Creeping dread turns to sheer panic as they confront their worst fears and face a sinister manifestation of aged dementia. The film has received funding support through Screen Australia, and will be directed by Natalia Erika James.

He has also written short films Coma – which screened at Tropfest – and Small, supported through Open Channel’s Raw Nerve initiative, which screened at the opening night of Palm Springs International ShortFest.

ScreenHub
About the Author
ScreenHub​ is the online home for emerging and experienced Australian screen professionals.