Australian Directors’ Guild Awards 2020: More than half the winners are women

Announced in a virtual ceremony, the director's awards celebrated achievements of diverse newcomers and established talent in a year of much change.

The Australian Directors’ Guild announced the winners of the 2020 ADG Awards via a virtual ceremony hosted last night (Monday 19 October) from Sydney. You can watch it here.

A record 202 entries were received in this year’s ADG Awards, up from 117 in 2019. The Awards celebrate the outstanding work of Australian screen directors over the past year across 19 categories including film, television, online, music and advertising. The full list of nominees is over here.

Ben Lawrence won the Best Direction of a Feature Film (Budget $1M or over) Award for his feature film Hearts & Bones. Starring Hugo Weaving and Andrew Luri, the film was released in the US last week following its successful Australian release earlier this year, and is now available on Stan.

Ten of the 19 Awards were won by women, a reflection of the industry’s move towards gender parity, which has been a real challenge in the Director category, both here and internationally.

Among the many female directors to be awarded was Josephine Mackerras, who comes from a theatre and short film background. She won Best Direction of a Feature Film with a budget under $1M, for Alice, a story of a middle-class single mother’s journey into sex work after discovering her sex addict husband has frittered away their savings. Filmed in Paris, and in the French language (Mackerras moved there as an adult), this feature debut doesn’t look look or sound like an Australian film though it was apparently filmed in Mackerras’s own apartment, with her young son in a role, and follows a familiar low budget guerilla methodology. Alice showed at MIFF in 2019 and has been making its mark in small film festivals around the world for a while, with awards including the 2019 SXSW’s Grand Jury Award and Cherrypicks Female First Feature Award.

Other women winning ADG gongs included Maya Newell (Best Direction of a Documentary Feature for In My Blood It Runs); Emma Freeman (Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Mini-Series for Stateless: Episode 3); Rosie Jones (Best Direction of a Documentary Series for The Cult of the Family, Episode 1); and Kacie Anning (Esben Storm Award for Best Director of Children’s TV or SVOD Drama, for Hardball, Episode 6). Karen Pearlman continued her dream run with Best Direction of a Documentary Short Subject, for I Want to Write a Film About Women.

In the up and coming categories, Melissa Anastasi took home Best Direction in a Short Film for Chlorine, and Alies Sluiter won Best Direction of a Student Film for Ayaan. Here’s the trailer for Chlorine, about a young thief who ‘frequents the local aquatic centre searching for something more than the items she steals.’

Matthew Thorne was the winner of the award for Best Director of a Music Video for ‘The Only Boy Racer Left on the Island (for the artist The Howl & The Hum), and it’s evocative and moving, like a condensed Australian coming-of-age film set in a small town.

The Howl & The Hum – The Only Boy Racer Left On The Island from Matthew Thorne on Vimeo.

In the prestige TV categories, the much-awarded and very busy Jeffrey Walker received the Award for Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Drama Series for Stan’s eerily prescient The Commons Season 1, Episode 1;  while veteran Matthew Saville won Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Comedy Series for Upright – Episode 5, starring Tim Minchin and a very bashed piano, in a series that is far more drama than comedy but no less excellent for that.

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.’ 

Read: Be bold, be real, be rigorous. Samantha Lang on creativity and change in this weird moment 

Any Australian Directors’ Guild member is able to submit for the ADG Awards. The judging panels are drawn from ADG membership (Full Members).

The complete list of 2020 ADG Awards Winners is below.

ADG Awards 2020 Winners

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

Best Direction of a Feature Film (Budget under $1M)
Proudly sponsored by Panavision
Winner prize $10,000 Camera Package
Josephine Mackerras – Alice

Best Direction of a Documentary Feature
Proudly sponsored by Screenrights
Maya Newell – In My Blood It Runs

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

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Mini-Series
Proudly sponsored by Docklands Studios Melbourne
Emma Freeman – Stateless – Episode 3

Best Direction of a Documentary Series
Proudly sponsored by Media Super
Rosie Jones – The Cult Of The Family – Episode 1

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Comedy Series
Proudly sponsored by The Post Lounge
Matthew Saville – Upright – Episode 5

Esben Storm Award for
Best Direction of a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Program
Proudly sponsored by Australian Children’s Television Foundation
Kacie Anning – Hardball – Episode 6

Best Direction of a TV or SVOD Drama Serial
Proudly sponsored by Fremantle
Kate Kendall – Neighbours – Episode 8052

Best Direction of an Animated Project
Proudly sponsored by Animal Logic
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
Proudly sponsored by Kaleidoscope Digital
Winner Prize $1000 Screen DIrector’s Identity Package
(Social Media and Website Services)
Michael O’Neill & Dylan Hesp – Australia’s Best Street Racer

Best Direction of a Documentary Short Subject
Karen Pearlman – I Want To Write 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
Proudly sponsored by Panavision
Winner prize $5,000 Camera Package
Melissa Anastasi – Chlorine

Best Direction of a Student Film
Alies Sluiter – Ayaan

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