By Travis Johnson

The next AACTA Awards will reflect the changing nature of screen content consumption with the introduction of the Best Online Video or Series category. The new award is  open to scripted Australian works “…that are intended primarily for online release and viewing.”  Nominees will be selected by a jury of experienced online practitioners and commissioners, with the winner determined by AFI and AACTA member voting.

AFI/AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella noted that the recent and continuing boom in online content made the new category an obvious step, saying, “Over the last couple of years a wealth of Australian content has been made specifically for online viewing, with hits including Bondi Hipsters, The Katering Show, The RackaRacka’s Versus,
Dafuq?, Aunty Donna: 1999, and Starting From… Now! which concluded in 2016 following five successful seasons.

“With Screen Australia’s Multiplatform Fund and other progressive funding initiatives including ABC’s Long Story Short and Fresh Blood, and Google’s Skip Ahead, the scope for online specific-content is only growing.

“AACTA is proud to extend the reach of our awards into dedicated online content, marking an exciting new pathway for recognising Australian talent working in the burgeoning online space.”

AACTA also announced changes to the the Feature Film Eligibility Policy following extensive industry consultation, with an aim to create greater inclusivity and diversity in the nominee pool.

In the past, feature films have entered the AACTA Awards through Direct Eligibility (via standard theatrical release), or Pre-Selection, whereby a jury assesses films on merit as opposed to their distribution path. Going forward, this system will be replaced by a single pathway model designed to lessen barriers to entry. The definition of a ‘theatrical release’ will be broadened to include major local and overseas film festival screenings.

Given how many films, especially independent features, are bypassing traditional theatrical exhibition altogether, these changes will hopefully ensure the AACTA Awards remain an accurate and inclusive reflection of contemporary Australian screen culture. As Trewhella said, “One of the key changes to the feature film eligibility policy this year acknowledges and embraces the significant role Australian film  festivals play in the discovery and fostering of local screen talent and, with the increasingly global nature of the industry, the contribution of international film festivals toward the recognition of some of our best and most innovative works.”

Qualifying Australian film festivals include the Adelaide Film Festival; CinefestOz Film Festival; For Film’s Sake (formerly WOW Film Festival); Gold Coast Film Festival; Mardi Gras Film Festival; Melbourne International Film Festival; and Sydney Film Festival. International festivals include the Beijing International Film Festival, China; Berlinale, Germany; BFI London Film Festival, UK; Busan International Film Festival, South Korea; Cannes International Film Festival, France; Cannes Critics Week, France; Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, France; Edinburgh International Film Festival, Scotland; International Film Festival of India, India; Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic; Locarno International Film Festival, Switzerland; Montreal World Film Festival, Canada; San Sebastian Film Festival, Spain; Shanghai International Film Festival, China; Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Spain*; Sundance Film Festival, USA; SxSW, USA; Telluride Film Festival, USA; Tokyo International Film Festival, Japan; Toronto International Film Festival, Canada; Tribeca Film Festival, USA; Venice International Film Festival, Italy; and Warsaw International Film Festival, Poland.

The inclusion of Women in Film and Television’s (WIFT) newly-minted For Film’s Sake Festival speaks to AACTA’s drive towards inclusivity, and the power of protest following the group’s famous ‘sausage party’ protest on the AACTA red carpet earlier this year. Although a nascent event, the festival’s stated aim of “…challenging audiences to actively engage with the problem of the lack of diversity in the film industry” makes it a valuable pathway for independent and emerging female practitioners to access the AACTA Awards.

Entries for Feature Film; Feature Length Documentary; Documentary Television Program; Short Fiction Film; Short Animation; Television Drama Series, Telefeature and Mini Series; Television Comedy Series; Light Entertainment Television Series; Reality Television Series; Lifestyle Television Program; Children’s Television Series; Subscription Television; and Online Video or Series are now open. For more inofrmation, head over to the official site.


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