Magazine article Variety

Celebrating Down Under's TOP TALENT

Magazine article Variety

Celebrating Down Under's TOP TALENT

Article excerpt

Australians in Film honors cross-section of bizzers

At first blush, it would be difficult to think of a foreign demographic in Hollywood less in need of help than Australians. After all, for a country of 23 million people located on the absolute opposite side of the world, Aussies have exerted an outsized impact on the worldwide film biz for years.

"For a country with a population pretty much the size of Southern California, there's an outstanding number of Australians who've had success in the industry," says Tracey Vieira, the prexy of Australians in Film.

Yet that's not to say the Aussie community couldn't stand to have a brighter light shining on its accomplishments, which is exactly what the 12-year-old nonprofit group Australians in Film, modeled largely on the British Academy of Film and TV, aims to do.

In addition to workshops, film screenings, educational endeavors and the Heath Ledger scholarship, the org launched an annual awards program in 2010, and its current batch of honorées offers an encouraging cross-section of Aussie talent old and new.

FOX STUDIOS AUSTRALIA ORRY-KELLY INTL. AWARD: Baz Luhrmann and Blue Tongue Films

The Orry-Kelly award spotlights Aussies who have helped their countrymen while pursuing their own careers.

Baz Luhrmann, who has shot all five of his feature films in Australia, including "The Great Gatsby," says oftentimes that simple acknowledgement of the Oz talent base can work wonders.

"From the Australian point of view, sometimes we don't recognize how unique it is to have such a large percentage of actors, directors and technicians, who are considered triple-A," Luhrmann says. "And there are so many actors and directors who Australians know nothing about - they don't realize they're out there directing or starring in huge films.

Blue Tongue Films - a collective comprising David Michod, Spencer Susser, Nash Edgerton, Luke Doolan, Joel Edgerton, Kieran Darcy-Smith and Mirrah Foulkes - started off as a loose conglomeration of like-minded actors, directors and craftspeople back in Australia. Even following the mainstream success of some of its members (particularly thesp Edgerton and "Animal Kingdom" director Michod), the group still meets regularly to read one another's scripts, critique rough cuts and star in one another's passion projects.

As Edgerton acknowledges, simply maintaining the possibility of working on both continents is a "luxury" in itself.

"Financially it might make more sense to stay (in Los Angeles) and keep pushing, but I feel compelled to go home. …

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