Geoffrey Rush Named Founding President of New Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

January date set for Academy's awards designed to tie into international awards season.

SYDNEY -- Geoffrey Rush has been named founding president of the newly minted Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), the industry’s peak peer body which will oversee the country’s annual film and TV awards, replacing the long running and prestigious Australian Film Institute Awards.

Launching the Academy on Thursday night in Sydney, Rush said: “I am honored to represent our industry as President of the newly-formed Australian Academy. Over half a century ago the AFI was founded and since that time our film and television industries have developed beyond our wildest imaginings. Through the timely creation of AACTA we have a unique opportunity to galvanize the craft and talent this country endlessly produces.

“Now is the time to celebrate at home and abroad the brilliance and originality of our seasoned screen professionals, and establish AACTA as a stamp of success - a measure which is recognized around the world as the mark of excellence it represents."

Rush’s appointment and the decision to move the awards to a January date is expected to “add international weight to the organization and its awards from an industry and public perspective."

Its designed to integrate the Australian awards with the international awards season, and will assist in positioning the Awards ceremony as a global event and more friendly for local TV broadcast.

AACTA will be administered by the Australian Film Institute with the with the inaugural AACTA Awards to take place in January 2012 at the Sydney Opera House.

AACTA will be overseen by an honorary council and made up of 15 chapters of professional memberships, based on crafts and expertise - from actors to screenwriters, and from distributors and exhibitors, to television networks and screen culture organizations.

A heavyweight list of council members of actors, reactors, producers and composers includes Jack Thompson, Fred Schepisi, Jan Chapman, Claudia Karvan, Jessica Hobbs, Jan Sardi, Stuart Beattie, Rolf de Heer, Cappi Ireland, Tony Murtagh, David Hirschfelder, Aphrodite Kondos, Antony Partos, Elizabeth Drake, Ian Gracie, Jonathan Chissick and Andrew Mason.

Screen guild and professional association nominees include Tony Ginanne (former President of SPAA), Jacqueline Woodman (executive director, Australian Writers Guild), Ray Argall (president, Australian Directors Guild), Simon Whipp (director, Equity Section, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance), Ron Johanson ACS (president, Australian Cinematographers Guild), Jason Ballantine ASE (president, Australian Screen Editors), Trevor Harrison (president, Australian Screen Sound Guild), George Liddle (Secretary, Australian Production Design Guild), and Jo Smith (Executive Director, Australian Guild of Screen Composers).

The exhibition, distribution and production companies are represented by Mike Baard (managing Director Universal Pictures Australia, also AFI Director), Mike Selwyn (managing director and vice president Australia/New Zealand, Paramount Pictures), David Seargeant (managing director, Amalgamated Holdings Ltd), Chris Mapp (managing director, Omnilab Media),Bob Campbell (executive director, Screentime), Greg Coote (chairman, Latitude Entertainment), Natalie Miller (Cinema Nova/ Sharmill Films), Chris Puplick (chair, NFSA), Tony Forrest (CEO Movie Network Channels) and Stuart O’Brien (CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Sydney).

The awards, like their AMPAS and BAFTA counterparts, will have a two-stage voting system for feature films which sees AACTA members short-list nominees based on their area of specialization, with the short-list then voted on by the wider AACTA membership.

AFI CEO Damian Trewhella said that by establishing an Academy, Australia is providing more opportunities for its talented screen professionals.

“Ultimately, through the AACTA Awards, we are sharing and celebrating Australian stories, and showing that we have some of the most talented people in the world bringing these stories to life via the screen.”

The AFI will continue to operate as a screen culture and content organization.