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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday August 22, 2019 

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As the sun set on Sydney on Friday September 25, 1998, film industry executives were heading for the Balmain Town Hall – where the 10 best movie ideas were pitched in the first "Sunrise – the dawn of new ideas" event, organised by Shani Dowling and sponsored by film industry companies such as Beyond Films, Fox Studios, Australian Film Television and Radio School and others.

The crowded Balmain Town Hall heard Frank sing (courtesy entertainer Frank Bennett), saw a young girl paint wildflowers, and a foursome in underwear and headmasks. The pitches were theatrical, some were historical and a couple were hysterical.

It began with an old man on a crucifix (Messiah Park) and ended with a young couple spray painting graffiti onto a cigarette poster (When We Were Glass)- both representing radicals of their time. In between, the show brought forth a variety of staged mini-dramas, and one clear winner. Unanimous in our decision, the judging panel awarded the main prize - with its promise of further development and a dash of cash - to Frank Hatherley for his movie concept based on the true love triangle and famous mind reading act of the 40s and 50s, The Piddingtons. He calls it Shine meets The X Files.

Below is a list of the entrants, each of whom won a modest prize from the industry, ranging from a subscription to Encore magazine, a tour of Fox Studios, a video of Australian Cinema and a cash prize of $200, up to the Australian Film Television and Radio School's one week course and pitch analysis with a scriptwriting lecturer. (The entries are listed in prize order.)


By Frank Hatherley
They were an Australian mind reading cabaret act in the 1950s, and had the world at their feet but their fragile relationships face the acid test in the world of entertainment. (See at left.)

By Danny Sheehy
Back in the 1900s men could be artists but women could only be painters. The Flower Hunter is the true story of one brave woman who took on the giants of the arts establishment sacrificing her love and her family as she pursued her love of painting.

By Ian Rochford
On the road with Charlie Fisher, who’s lost his wife and is in search of his daughter. His companion is Charlotte, a strange character who is running from the man in the black hat.

By Susan Wood, Tim Cronin, Matt Clarkin
A black comedy with a sinister plot exploring the nature and consequences of temptation. It revolves around the bizarre manipulative relationship between three young men sharing a house.

By Michael Stanford and Jason Ross
A young man’s colourful journey in search of a grandfather he hardly knows but who is his only hope in his quest for the most important thing in his life.

By Richard Hurford
The true story of an extraordinary 1870s adventure when Irish Americans set sail to free their countrymen from a Western Australian jail. The price of freedom is the risk of war on the high seas.

By Mark Cornwall
A love affair that was never meant to be, set during an historic event that almost didn’t happen. While the controversy over Frank Sinatra’s 1974 tour was raging in Australia, two young journalists were thrown together.

By Peter Ness
All hell breaks loose when a group of former activists from the 1980s decide to have one last go at making the world sit up and take notice. Old passions are reignited while others are better left in the past.

By Stephen Lynch
The fictional background to the making of an Australian-American coproduction about the life of Ned Kelly.

By Eric Watson
The ultimate thorny question: what if instead of one Jesus, there were 10,000 of them

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By Andrew L. Urban

The film industry turnout at last weekend’s "Sunrise – the dawn of new ideas" suggests that producers, directors, distributors and perhaps even writers, are thirsty for new movie concepts. Balmain Town Hall was crammed, offering ten movie ideas; the plan was to encourage anyone at all, even those with no writing expertise nor entry to the film industry, to pitch their movie idea.

Of the nearly 300 ideas entered, Dowling selected the top 10 to present on the night. One – the winner – had clear potential for a film. Another (Strangers in the Night) could also be developed into a screenplay. Maybe. Both are drawn from real events with differing angles.

But if usable ideas are so scarce (2 out of 300), imagine how much harder it is to get to a shooting script. Writers of great talent and experience struggle for months, even years, to create scripts – which can still lead to films that fail to ignite our imaginations.

Ideas, in fact, are far easier to generate than this exercise suggests: as the winning pitch suggests, real life offers hundreds of potential story ideas. It is not necessary to dramatise real events, it is enough to be inspired by them.

But in the end, all scripts need the imagination of a writer to turn the idea into an engaging movie.

While Sunrise is to be applauded, professional producers and writers are the ones who should be leading the search for fresh new stories – and perhaps looking more keenly at the many ‘amazing but true’ moments in the human condition which occur before their eyes every day.


Almost 300 entries were received, from entrants ranging in age from 18 to 72, from professional writers to butchers. Each entrant had five minutes to pitch their movie idea, which was assessed by a panel of judges, including Andrew L. Urban, Editor of Urban Cinefile. (See full list below.)

Arranged to identify potential new ideas from otherwise untapped sources, Sunrise attracted 250 industry representatives from distribution, sales and production companies.




JOSEPHINE BYRNES – Australian actress

DAVID HELY – Creative Director, TropNest

ANDREW L. URBAN – Editor, Urban Cinefile

KIM WILLIAMS – Chief Executive, Fox Studios Australia


Shine meets The X Files? In Changi prison during the war, two bored soldiers develop what their fellow POWs believe is a stunning little diversion - reading each other's mind. The act later even helps them escape and evade capture. After the war, they develop their hobby into a fabulously famous act, mystifying all Sydney and Melbourne - and soon all of London as well. But by then, a young woman has joined them, romantically attached to one of the men. Jelousies and closeted sexuality questions arise to strain the relationship and the routine. The brilliant mind readers had consistently misread each other's minds and emotions.


Main Prize:
Beyond Films Movie Package
$500 development cash
Creative meeting with Gary Hamilton, GM, Beyond Films
Legal & Business Affairs advice
Panasonic hand held digital video camera
Five VHS copies of Beyond released films


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