Babyteeth and Stateless haul in AACTA Awards in a strange year

Our democratic hearts would love to see a broad sprinkling of glory but two productions dominated. All the winners are listed here and congratulations to them.

Another year – though what a strange year – and another AACTA Awards, and they too were a little strange, though some would say they always are. Due to Australia’s current good luck and good management of the pandemic, an actual physical AACTA Awards Ceremony was possible yesterday (Monday 30 November), presented by Foxtel at the The Star Sydney event centre.

With social distancing in place, this came complete with red carpet, fancy frocks, musical performances by the likes of Tim Minchin (who won Best Comedy Performer) and lots of local talent in attendance to present and accept awards, in amidst the now-requisite sprinkling of homely pre-recorded segments.

2020 marks the tenth year of the Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, which grew out of the AFI Awards. The nominations process and awards are always an important celebration and survey of the past year’s achievements in Australian film, television and online entertainment. With production shutdowns and cinema closures this year, they were also a celebration of actual mere survival, and an occasion for many to call for further support of Australian screen stories.

New AACTA President Russell Crowe used his address to urge the Federal Government to support the local screen industry in the wake of the pandemic and to help facilitate the rise in Australian-based production seen in recent months, saying that, ‘Given the right support, the screen industry can be used as a powerful driver for economic recovery.’ You can watch his presentation here: 

As part of the AACTA Awards, the Industry Awards are generally celebrated with a non-televised luncheon to present the gongs for those all important craft categories, including editing, cinematography, costume and production design, score and sound design. This year, they were a purely online affair, announced on Friday 27 November and broadcast via AACTA’s ScreenFest website and Foxtel Arts. The Invisible Man took out Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Sound at these awards, while True History of the Kelly Gang took out awards for Costume, Hair and Makeup and Production Design.

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The full list of AACTA Awards Winners is copied below, but here are some quick highlights and observations:

  • We haven’t done the numbers, but women are fully represented and in some cases dominant across producing and directing this year, as well as in writing, cinematography, scoring, sound design, production design and makeup.
  • Our democratic hearts would love to see the Awards sprinkled across many productions, but as usual they are clustered. There there are some notable absences, like Natalie Erika James’s Relic not winning an award despite much critical and audience acclaim and being one of the dominant films in the nominations. 
  • The big winner this year was ABC drama series Stateless, with a total of 18 nominations and 13 Awards, including Best Telefeature or Miniseries, Best Screenplay in Television and all four acting Awards across television drama.
  • Produced by Cate Blanchett, Elise McCredie, Tony Ayres, Sheila Jayadev, Paul Ranford, Liz Watts and Andrew with  Matchbox Pictures and Dirty Films for the ABC, Stateless premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and has screened on ABC and Netflix around the world. It was inspired by the real-life story of German-Australian woman Cornelia Rau, who  found herself in an Australian immigration detention camp. With its difficult but important subject matter, it took about six years to get the series up, even with Cate Blanchett and Yvonne Strahovski attached to star. 
  • In film, the big winner was Babyteeth, which received nine Awards including Best Film, Best Direction for debut director Shannon Murphy, Best Screenplay for Rita Kalnejais, and all four acting categories for Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis. Given these acting awards, it’s fitting that Babyteeth won Best Casting too. The story of a teenage girl with cancer who falls in love for the first time, Babyteeth premiered in competition in Venice in 2019.
  • As producer Alex White told the ABC, the script adapted by Kalnejais from her play was the root of the film’s success helping it to attract finance. She said that releasing the film in July, during the pandemic, was difficult but praised distributor Universal Pictures and cinemas including Dendy for their support. No doubt all the AACTA wins will help Babyteeth get another lease of cinema life.
  • Best Indie Film went to Standing Up For Sunny, directed by Steve Vidler and produced by Jamie Hilton, Michael Pontin, Drew Bailey. The AACTA win is sending us scrambling to find out more about this one.
  • Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra won Best Documentary, directed by Nel Minchin and Wayne Blair and produced by Ivan O’Mahoney. Best Direction in Nonfiction Television was won by Larissa Behrendt for Maralinga Tjarutja.
  • Unsurprisingly Bluey won Best Children’s program.
  • There were two wins for composer Amanda Brown, who won Best Original Score for Babyteeth, and Best Original Score in a Documentary for Brazen Hussies.

The 2020 AACTA Awards Winners 

Best Telefeature or Mini Series: Stateless: Cate Blanchett, Elise McCredie, Tony Ayres, Sheila Jayadev, Paul Ranford, Liz Watts, Andrew Upton—Matchbox Pictures, Dirty Films (ABC)

Best Reality Program: Masterchef Australia: Marty Benson, Adam Fergusson—Endemol Shine Australia (Network Ten)

Best Entertainment Program: Have You Been Paying Attention? Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Michael Hirsh, Rob Sitch—Working Dog Productions (Network Ten)

Best Lifestyle Program: The Living Room: Sarah Thornton, Caroline Spencer, Nicole Rogers, Ciaran Flannery—Network Ten (Network Ten)

Best Online Entertainment: The Norris Nuts: Sabre Norris, Sockie Norris, Biggie Norris, Naz Norris—The Norris Nuts

Best Online Drama or Comedy: Love In Lockdown: Robyn Butler, Wayne Hope, Lucy Durack, Eddie Perfect—Gristmill

Best Children’s Program: Bluey: Joe Brumm, Charlie Aspinwall, Sam Moor, Daley Pearson—Ludo Studio (ABC)

Best Comedy Entertainment Program: Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell: Shaun Micallef, Peter Beck, Gary McCaffrie—ITV Studios Australia, Giant Baby Productions (ABC)

Best Drama Series: Mystery Road: David: Jowsey, Greer Simpkin—Bunya Productions (ABC)

Best Comedy Series: Upright: Jason Stephens, Helen Bowden, Melissa Kelly, Chris Taylor, Tim Minchin—Lingo Pictures (Foxtel)

Best Factual Entertainment Program: Gogglebox Australia: Howard Myers, David McDonald, Kerrie Kerr—Endemol Shine, Network Ten, Foxtel (Foxtel, Network Ten)

Best Documentary or Factual Program: Murder in The Outback: The Falconio And Less Mystery Andrew Farrell, Matt Campbell, Bethan Arwel-Lewis, Sophie Meyrick—CJZ (Seven Network)

Subscription Television Award for Best Presenter: Rebel Wilson—LOL: Last One Laughing Australia

Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama: Fayssal Bazzi (Stateless)

Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama: Yvonne Strahovski (Stateless)

Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama: Darren Gilshenan (Stateless)

Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama: Cate Blanchett (Stateless)

Best Screenplay in Television: Elise McCredie, Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come

Best Direction in a TV Drama or Comedy: Emma Freeman, Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come

Best Comedy Performer: Tim Minchin (Upright)

Best Film presented by Foxtel: Babyteeth, Alex White—Whitefalk Films

Best Indie Film: Standing Up For Sunny, Steve Vidler (Dir), Jamie Hilton, Michael Pontin, Drew Bailey—Ticket To Ride

Best Asian Film: Better Days, Kwok Cheung Tsang (Dir.), Jojo Yuet-Jan Hui

Best Documentary: Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra, Nel Minchin (Dir.), Wayne Blair (Dir.), Ivan O’Mahoney—In Films

Best Screenplay in Film: Rita Kalnejais (Babyteeth)

Best Direction in Film: Shannon Murphy (Babyteeth)

Best Lead Actor in Film: Toby Wallace (Babyteeth)

Best Lead Actress in Film: Eliza Scanlen (Babyteeth)

Best Supporting Actor in Film: Ben Mendelsohn (Babyteeth)

Best Supporting Actress in Film: Essie Davis (Babyteeth)

Best Short Film: The Mirror: Joel Kohn (Dir.), Mike Horvath, Tom Davies—Screen Invaders, Finest Hour Company, Savvy Cinema

Best VFX or Animation: The Eight Hundred: Tim Crosbie, Joy Wu, Jason Troughton, Tom Wood, Julian Hutchens—Rising Sun Pictures

The Byron Kennedy Award was also presented, recognising the impact of Australian low-budget genre filmmaking and celebrating the outstanding creative enterprise within the screen industry. Jennifer Kent was announced as the recipient for her international success on the AACTA Award-winning film, The Babadook.

The inaugural AACTA Reg Grundy Award, established to support new voices in screen entertainment and fast track original productions: Steve Bedwell, Bryan Cockerill and Geraldine Coy The trio received a $50,000 prize comprised of cash and development funds to create their winning television entertainment concept, Seven Pups.

Presented at the Industry Awards

Best Casting presented by Casting Networks: Kirsty McGregor, Stevie Ray (Babyteeth)

Best Cinematography: Stefan Duscio (The Invisible Man)

Best Cinematography in a Documentary: Nick Robinson, Jon Shaw, Caspar Mazzotti, Cam Batten (Australia’s Ocean Odyssey: A Journey Down the East Australian Current Episode 1: The Tropics)

Best Cinematography in Television: Bonnie Elliott (Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come)

Best Costume Design: Alice Babidge (True History of the Kelly Gang)

Best Costume Design in Television: Mariot Kerr (Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come)

Best Direction in Nonfiction Television: Larissa Behrendt (Maralinga Tjarutja)

Best Editing: Andy Canny (The Invisible Man)

Best Editing in a Documentary: Daniela Raulli (Can Art Stop A Bullet: William Kelly’s Big Picture)

Best Editing in Television: Mark Atkin (Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come)

Best Hair and Makeup presented by HASK: Kirsten Veysey (True History of the Kelly Gang)

Best Original Score: Amanda Brown (Babyteeth)

Best Original Score in a Documentary: Amanda Brown (Brazen Hussies)

Best Original Score in Television: Cornel Wilczek (Stateless Episode 6 – The Seventh)

Best Production Design: Karen Murphy, Rebecca Cohen (True History of the Kelly Gang)

Best Production Design in Television: Melinda Doring (Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come)

Best Sound: P.K Hooker, Will Files, Paul “Salty” Brincat (The Invisible Man)

Best Sound in a Documentary: Emma Bortignon, Paul Shanahan, David Williams, Gemma Stack (Suzi Q)

Best Sound in Television: Tom Heuzenroeder, Pete Smith, Michael Darren, Des Kenneally (Stateless Episode 1 – The Circumstances in Which They Come)

Highlights from the 2020 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel Ceremony will be included in AACTA’s Best of the Decade: Australia Decides – a reimagined broadcast celebrating a decade of Australian screen on Channel Seven, Wednesday 2 December at 8.30pm AEDT and encore on Foxtel Arts, Sunday 6 December at 9.30pm AEDT.

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