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EDITORIAL- 25/8/2011: AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY – AT LAST

By Andrew L. Urban

On Sunday, December 12, 2004, I sat down and wrote an outline vision for what I called an Australian Film Academy. It wasn’t a rush of blood to the head; I had been considering the idea for some time, having observed and reported on the Australian film industry since 1985, both for professional and consumer publications. 


It seemed time for Australian screen professionals to be embraced by a single body to encourage and recognise excellence and to provide various support services that an Academy traditionally strives to do. Awards themselves are merely glittering one night stands unless the accolades have the weight and stamp of authority from peers. The AFI Awards were, albeit much respected, neither ‘audience’ awards nor purely ‘professional peer’ awards. The Institute, just like the American Film Institute, grew from a different set of criteria than AMPAS, which is the home of the Oscars. There were grumblings round the industry to the effect that the AFI Awards were not satisfactory for the pros.

"a genuine peer assessed award system that would be on a par with international awards"

I nursed and considered the many competing ideas and the potential problems over many months, in between my work commitments, but there was little time for concentrated strategic development. It wasn’t intended to be a revenue stream for me or my business; it was something I felt the industry should develop for its own long term benefit – namely a genuine peer assessed award system that would be on a par with international awards of the same kind (eg Oscars, BAFTAs, Césars, etc)

So it took until June 2008 that the objectives, structure and activities of such an Academy had developed to a point where it seemed feasible to engage with representatives of the industry to seek their response. I enlisted the ever-effective unofficial but effective assistance of Jo Smith of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers to help network the idea with all the craft guilds and professional organisations within the industry.

By mid September 2008 – less than three months after we began lobbying (as it were) – the proposal that an Academy be established had received unanimous support from all the industry guilds and organisations. The one question that was never resolved was how such an Academy would co-exist with the AFI – the Australian Film Institute, which had tried for some years to accommodate industry voting into its general public, non-professional, membership ‘screen culture’ culture.

The Inside Film Awards continues to provide a platform for audiences to participate in the celebration of excellence in Australian film.

"on the public record"

I want to put on the public record that I am delighted that the AFI has itself given birth to the Academy and wish it every success. I hope that in time, as it grows in stature and resources, this new creature with its arm raised towards the heights of excellence will not only inspire the professionals who covet it, but will also find room for educational and supportive activities, for international exchanges and general screen culture activities the AFI has been unable to pursue in recent years.

The Academy will also be an ideal physical connector for inter-disciplinary networking. 

A decent bar in a dedicated HQ would be a good place for that to start.

Published August 24, 2011

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