Out of the picture
Michael Bodey | December 01, 2007
GEOFFREY Rush once told of the time he was walking along Melbourne's Flemington Road after horseriding training for his role in the European film Les Miserables.
He'd just won a Golden Globe award for his performance in Shine and was weeks away from winning his first Oscar.
"I saw this truck belting down the road and there was this look of recognition from the driver, who yelled out: 'Hey Geoff, good luck with the Logies!'
"I treasure that as a divine moment."
It's a cautionary tale ahead of this week's Australian Film Institute Awards, as the country's petty cultural divide between the film and television sectors reopens.
The AFI Awards will be boycotted by the leading nominee in the TV categories, ABCTV, and will be without a number of high-profile nominees who either didn't want to enter, missed the inexplicably revised entry dates or didn't qualify, including the film recently adjudged best of the year at the Inside Film Awards, The Jammed.
"This film has been made outside of the film industry and been outside of the box in many ways," says its producer, Andrea Buck.
"It didn't seem to fit the grooves of many of the powers in the film industry, so it's a really, really big disappointment for us that it is just a bureaucratic thing that means we can't be included."
While there are inevitable anomalies and gripes surrounding any awards ceremony, this year's AFI Awards appear to have reached breaking point. The Jammed's exclusion is the least of its worries.
ABC TV's decision to boycott the ceremony has been widely supported by the industry. Television producers feel the AFI brought TV into the fold in 1986 begrudgingly in order to broaden its public profile and attract TV coverage.
"I was really encouraged by the flood of emails, comments and calls I've had from television producers in particular supporting the ABC's position, saying it's about time one of the broadcasters stood up," says the ABC's director of television Kim Dalton.
The ABC's concerns stemmed not from the institute's decision to spread the awards over two nights, only one of which would be broadcast, but from the "insensitive" moving of most TV categories to the first night.
What was formerly the Craft Awards and is now dubbed the AFI Industry Awards will take place on December 5, and the AFI Awards dinner will be broadcast on the Nine Network on Thursday, December 6, a non-ratings period.
While the split over two nights had been reluctantly accepted during its first two years, a class distinction has been instituted this year, with only a handful of TV categories being announced on the broadcast night.
"I suppose the icing on the cake was the insensitivity in which they dealt with the key creative teams," Dalton says.
The two most popular Australian TV programs of 2007, Kath & Kim and Thank God You're Here, did not enter the AFI Awards and the most popular new comedy, the ABC hit Summer Heights High, did not qualify, as applications closed on May 25 for eligible programs that were "produced for television and broadcast in Australia for the first time between October 19, 2006 (and) September 26, 2007".
The final application date, more than six months before awards are held in December, is incredibly restrictive and far earlier than in the case of any comparable awards ceremony anywhere in the world.
Indeed, this year the application date was moved forward, which caught some unawares, including producer Nick Murray, whose Jigsaw Entertainment wished to enter the previous award-winning comedy series Stupid Stupid Man.
"We tried to enter two weeks before the awards normally close but we were three weeks late," he says, noting the AFI sent out emails only to producers for whom it had email addresses on its database.
The AFI told the producers of The Jammed and Stupid Stupid Man that no exceptions would be made to the cut-off date. Yet three years ago, the AFI implored one high-rating TV program to enter the awards when it failed to do so. Apparently, the ceremony needed the audience the program's stars would bring.
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