'Red Dog' Has its Day at Aussie People's Choice Awards

Matchbox Pictures also wins big at producers guild awards

SYDNEY - Australia’s favorite canine, Koko, aka Red Dog, and the producers of high end TV drama, The Slap, were the major winners at two separate industry awards nights here this week.

Red Dog topped the IF Awards – Australia’s annual “peoples choice” awards - Wednesday, winning in seven categories including best film and box office achievement.

The Aussie breakout hit of 2011, Red Dog has amassed $21 million to date at the local box office. It also picked up nods for best director (Kriv Stenders), best actor (Josh Lucas), best cinematographer (Geoff Hall), best script (Daniel Taplitz) and best music (Cezary Skubiszewski).

See Saw Films’ Oranges and Sunshine, a look at the forced migration of English children to Australia, won best production design, and its star, Emily Watson was named best actress at the IF Awards.

In other categories Brendan Fletcher’s Mad Bastards won the Independent Spirit award, the Out Of The Box award for TV talent most likely to make the jump to feature films was picked up by actress, Anna McGahan, for her role top rating drama Underbelly: Razor and indigenous producer-director, Rachel Perkins, known for doc series First Australians and 2010 feature Bran Nue Dae won the IF award for contribution to television.

The living legend award was shared by film critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton who this year celebrated 25 years on the small screen with their weekly show, At The Movies.

And while the public voted for the winners of the IF awards, the Screen Producers Association of Australia handed out its gongs Monday, with Melbourne based Matchbox Pictures winning the Independent Producer of the year award.

In a banner year for the company, founded as a collective between film and TV producers Helen Bowden, Helen Panckhurst, Tony Ayres, Penny Chapman and Michael McMahon four years ago, Matchbox released their eight part drama, The Slap, to much critical and audience acclaim on both the ABC here and BBC4 in the U.K. In May, NBC Universal International acquired a majority stake in the  company and on Tuesday they were successful in shutting down Dutch based pirate site diwana.org, which had been providing links to episodes of The Slap on its site to Aussie expats around the world.

SPAA executive director Geoff Brown said “Matchbox Pictures have demonstrated a leading strategy fro their business and vision fro their productions.”

Other producer of the year awards went to Oscar winners See Saw Films for The Kings Speech in the feature film category; Sticky Pictures with animated series The Dukes of Broxstonia in children’s’ television, Essential Media and Entertainment for legal series Rake in TV drama and Shine Australia’s Junior Masterchef in TV light entertainment while Jigsaw Cordell’s landmark observational documentary series Go Back To Where You Came From, won in the documentary category.

Elsewhere at SPAA, Blue Rocket Productions’ website for kids series, My Place, won the new media category; independent distributors the Hopscotch Group won for service and facilities, while crowd-funded and online-distributed feature, The Tunnel, won the breakthrough award.