Aussies Rejoice Over Production, Animation Wins

Sourced from hollywoodreporter.com – By Pip Bulbeck

Australia goes four for nine at this year’s Oscars, winning the Asian region’s only trophies.

SYDNEY — British royalty might have ruled the Oscars but, as in The King’s Speech, there was a distinct Australian twang to this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, from the shout-outs to Hugh Jackman, David Elsey’s “crikey” when winning for best make-up, and Emile Sherman’s acceptance speech for Best Picture as co-producer on The King’s Speech.

With the Oscar ceremony broadcast live on both pay and free-to-air TV on Monday daytime here, Australians at various Oscar lunches around the country tweeted and cheered on their compatriots in Los Angeles, lauding the four of nine Aussie nominees who were successful in bringing home the gold statuettes.

Initial disappointment when hometown favorite Jackie Weaver was, not unexpectedly, edged out by Melissa Leo in the best supporting actress category, giving way to excitement when Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann won for best animated short, the same category won four years ago by Adam Elliot with Harvie Krumpet.

Tan, who is best known here as an award winning children’s book writer and illustrator, made his directorial debut with The Lost Thing, which was backed by agencies Film Victoria and Screen Australia.

“This is for you Perth and Melbourne,” Tan said in his acceptance speech.

That win was backed up by expats David Elsey, who shared the Oscar for best make up on The Wolfman with long-time collaborator Rick Baker, and editor Kirk Baxter, who with Angus Wall, won for their work on The Social Network.

Sherman, who with Iain Canning through their U.K.-Australian production shingle, See Saw Films and Garth Unwin won Best Picture, rounded out the Aussie foursome. He is believed to be the first Australian independent producer to win a Best Picture Oscar.

Bruce Davey, then Mel Gibson’s producing partner, won the Best Picture gong for Braveheart in 1996.

Some local pundits were also keen to include King’s Speech helmer Tom Hooper as an Aussie – his mother is Australian and he holds dual Australian-British citizenship.

Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley congratulated all the Australian winners and gave special mention to Tan and Ruhemann’s The Lost Thing, which was produced by Sophie Byrne of Melbourne’s Passion Pictures.

“Winning an Oscar offers our Australian filmmakers fantastic recognition on the world stage. We are immensely proud of this remarkable achievement. Australian’s have a rich history in the short animation category at the Oscars. I think it demonstrates the incredible calibre of talent we have in the animation industry,” said Harley.

The Lost Thing was part funded under Screen Australia’s Talent Escalator program for short animation production, which supports leading emerging animation talent.

The Screen Producers Association of Australia meanwhile mentioned Sherman.

SPAA executive director Geoff Brown said the organization was “delighted by the Oscar win for Best Motion Picture for the See-Saw Films production, The King’s Speech.”  Emile Sherman, the 2009 SPAA Producer of The Year, along with Iain Canning and Gareth Unwin collected the Oscar at the 83rd Academy Awards Monday.

“I believe that this is the first time an independent Australian producer has been awarded the Oscar for Best Picture and we are just thrilled that Emile and his team have been recognized for this exceptional film. Not only has The King’s Speech received acknowledgment from the major international awards but it has commercially thrived in the Australian and international market. I look forward to Emile embracing this success back home with his upcoming projects.”

Indeed The King’s Speech has enjoyed significant commercial as well as critical success. Here it has taken AUS$25 million ($25.44 million) at the local box office to date after 10 weeks and is still going strong.

Local distributor Transmission Films, with whom See Saw has a first look deal here, said from Los Angeles, “Congratulations to the cast and crew of The King’s Speech. So much Oscars glory going on, it’s just too exciting. So proud to be a part of it.”

See Saw’s next release is an official Australian-U.K. co-production, Oranges And Sunshine, which is being distributed here by Icon Films. It’s Jim Loach’s directorial debut starring Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving and David Wenham.

And just to show how tight knit the Australian film pool is, See Saw Films’ Sherman and Canning are also partners in Fulcrum Media Finance, one of the backers of Animal Kingdom, the feature that has put best supporting actress nominee Jackie Weaver on a trajectory to a new Hollywood-based career at age 61.

Weaver has said she’s likely moving to Los Angeles after being offered numerous film and TV roles.

“I must have read 12 or 15 scripts the past five weeks and I have had some firm offers on quite a few things so I have to sort out my options and decide what to do,” Weaver told the Australian Associated Press.