Even before Errol Flynn swashbuckled his way onto the Hollywood backlot, Australians have been a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Over the decades, those ties have only strengthened with successive waves of talent crossing the Pacific to work in the industry’s premier arena. Yet despite major inroads, there still remains no easy path for emerging creatives to ‘make it’ in Tinseltown and as the industry evolves at an ever greater pace, Hollywood is still a tough nut to crack. That’s where Australians in Film (AiF), a non-profit organisation based in the US, comes in. The organisation was founded in 2001 with the goal of supporting emerging talent in the film and television industries who want to work in Los Angeles. Among the organisation’s key initiatives are scholarships and mentorship programs designed to catapult talented filmmakers into the industry’s inner sanctum.
Providing aspiring actors, directors, producers, scriptwriters, camera technicians and more with solid connections and unparalleled access to Hollywood’s leading and exciting creatives can make a real different to whether someone establishes a career in Hollywood says Ritchie: “Hollywood is a city, and an industry with a million opportunities so it is super important to have someone in your corner that doesn’t necessarily have a commercial interest in your career, but just provides opportunities to connect and gain knowledge.” Providing not just a metaphorical but a physical launching pad for Australian’s in LA, AiF have also unveiled Charlie’s, a chic co-working space situated a stone’s throw from the iconic Paramount Studio.
According to AiF’s Executive Director Peter Ritchie, the space, which boasts members like Sarah Scheller and Alison Bell, the writers of The Letdown and ABC’s forthcoming Goodwood, has been a game-changer. “Charlie’s is inspired, and is a more structured version of Heath Ledger’s old home in Los Feliz,” he explained. “When Heath passed away, the Ledger family got about 35 keys returned from his mates who had used the house at some point as an LA base. Charlie’s provides a structured work and networking platform and community for Australian screen creatives, who are nominated from the different state government screen funding bodies like Create NSW, who are our founding partners.”
Below, we’ve rounded up AIF’s key initiatives and a number of recipients who’ve already left their mark on Hollywood.
The Heath Ledger Scholarship
Now in its eleventh year, the Heath Ledger Scholarship is awarded annually to an actor who demonstrates exceptional talent and dedication to their craft. Kate Ledger, Heath’s sister and a member of AiF’s board is committed to keeping the $30,000 scholarship open to Australians, particularly “people from culturally diverse backgrounds, those from rural and remote areas, those with disabilities and people from the LGBTQI communities to apply.”
Notable recipient: actor Mojean Aria (2017) who will feature in Kriv Senders latest film, Danger Close.
AiF Upload is an Instagram based short film festival. Every year, AiF invite their members to share original works through their Instagram profile, with an open invitation for every type of genre. The top ten shorts are then hand-picked by AiF’s jury panel and posted onto the AiF’s IGTV for one week. Awards include $500 for the Jury Prize and a $250 prize awarded to the Fun Favourite, the short that has gained the most likes over the week. You can check out the highlights from last year’s competition here.
Every year AiF awards their highly-coveted Los Angeles based Entertainment Internship. The awarded applicant is invited to spend three months in the offices of both Animal Logic Entertainment (Peter Rabbit, The Lego Batman Movie) and Village Roadshow Pictures (Ready Player One, Ocean’s 8). The internship, valued at $20,000, equips the recipient with experience in the world of financing, developing and marketing motion pictures. Previous winners have gone on to positions in top production companies including last year’s winner, Petra Lovrencic, currently working as a post-production assistant at Animal Logic in Sydney, and 2016 recipient Melanie Jayne, who is at HBO Programming in Los Angeles.
Greg Coote Scholarship
The late Greg Coote was one of Australia’s most prolific screen producers. As a co-runner of LA-based production company, Larrikin Entertainment, Coote was responsible for both producing and financing films, television programs, and digital entertainment content. The Greg Coote Scholarship is awarded annually to a Queensland-based writer, producer, director or creative executive who demonstrates excellence in creating compelling drama for the screen.
Notable Recipient: In 2018, Queensland based writer, director and producer Darren Paul Fisher was awarded the scholarship, allowing him to travel to Canada to be part of the writing and development process for multinational mass media and entertainment company eOne’s long-form television series.
Every year the Mentor LA program pairs four lucky Australian Screen professionals with award-winning LA creatives including executive producer Betsy Beers (Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder), writer and producer of Emmy award-winning series The Handmaid’s Tale Yahlin Chang, Emmy-nominated director Jamie Babbit (Silicon Valley, Girls) and comedy writer and executive producer Peter Saji (Black-ish).
Notable recipient: Kodie Bedford, the current 2018/19 Mentor LA mentee who was paired with The Handmaid’s Tale’s writer and producer Yahlin Chang.
The Annual AiF Awards
The annual AiF awards support the company’s mission to usher Australian talent into the international market. Hosted by actor, producer, director, writer and academy award nominee, Josh Lawson, the 2018 fundraising event celebrated honorees including Damon Herriman, the star of Tarantino’s latest film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, and comedian Hannah Gadsby, the creator and performer of her smash-hit performance, Nanette.