Australian Film Awards Move to January

The down under film and television awards brings its scheduling in line with similar events in the US and UK.

SYDNEY -- Australia’s pre-eminent film and TV Awards, the Australian Film Institute Awards are shifting from their traditional early December slot to January to bring them into line with the US and UK awards seasons and the buzz around the Golden Globes Awards, Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards, organizers said Wednesday.

The change is part of a strategic review of the AFI’s programs and activities currently being undertaken, with the aim of building the organization into a more professional Australian Academy and allowing all film and TV projects that have been released in a calendar year to be eligible for the awards.

The new approach to the awards comes as the 2011 Awards ceremony, which will now take place in January 2012, moves to Sydney, after a decade calling Melbourne home.

The establishment of an Australian Academy is aimed at “building a refined and more inclusive professional structure,” CEO Damien Trewhella said and will be based on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

As the AFI announced the changes, patron George Miller said, “The importance of community, screen culture and the pursuit of excellence, driving forces of the AFI for over 50 years, cannot be underestimated. These factors were pivotal to our industry’s acceleration from the late 1960s and are certainly no less important today. The 21st century offers immense opportunities and the AFI’s proposed development of an 'Australian Academy' cleverly adapts successful elements of the world’s leading screen organizations to local traditions. This unifying of common purpose and effort makes such good sense. It’s a very exciting proposal."

Film industry executive, Greg Coote, who has developed the new vision for the AFI said, “More than ever it’s critical that a national and international Australian screen community is nurtured. With a long and rich tradition, the AFI Professional Membership is well placed to be developed into a more universally recognizable and understood model, an Australian Academy. The establishment of an ‘Australian Academy’ is not just overdue, but eminently possible and extremely useful."

At the same time the AFI announced two new board members – actress Sigrid Thornton and entertainment lawyer Jennifer Huby. They replace retiring directors Peter Thompson and Todd Sampson.

In addition Renato Rispoli has been appointed as AFI Awards event director reporting directly to AFI CEO Damian Trewhella. Rispoli was formerly with Events NSW, the state government body underpinning the move of the awards from Melbourne to Sydney.

The AFI is seeking industry and public comment on the changes. They can be made at, until June 30, 2011.