Good news! A short film that I got involved with a couple of years ago has been nominated for an AFI award in the category of Best Screenplay in a Short Film.
Paper & Sand tells the story of a young Afghan couple who have recently been released from immigration detention and are adjusting to their new lives in Sydney. It was recently also a finalist in the Dendy Awards that form part of the Sydney Film Festival, though it didn’t win either of its categories: Long Form Short was won by Stranded, which has also been nominated for an AFI in our category as well as a couple of others; and the Community Relations Commission award was taken by Switch on the Night, another refugee flick.
I co-wrote Paper & Sand with Queensland writer Ian Kennedy Williams. Co-writing can of course mean a lot of different things; in this case it meant that I took a perfectly good draft of Ian’s and messed around with it until it was superficially unrecognisable though (I think or at least hope) fundamentally the same.
If we were going by WGA attribution rules our names would accordingly be separated by an “and” in the credits; if we had both worked on the same draft we would have a “&” instead. I don’t know who decided that, but that’s how it is, and it’s why you sometimes get a mix of both in American films, as in “written by X & Y and Z”. (We won’t even get started on “story by” and “based on characters created by”.)
The AWG is a bit more flexible, which is why the writing credit for the also-AFI-nominated Candy goes to “Luke Davies (with Neil Armfield)”. But the WGA handbook makes interesting reading; the variations are many and convoluted, and you can see how you’d get into trouble when a lot of people are involved in the creation of a story and they all want to be acknowledged—as they should be (except for the director, who nobody wants to hear from).
My first gig writing for performance was a bit like this one; a very good playwright had written a complex epic about drugs and intergenerational blame that went for three or four hours, and I had to try to cut it down to an hour and a bit and make it more accessible to teenagers. For that they called me a “dramaturg”, which is one of those words nobody quite knows the meaning of, but which can be said with a gratifying sneer.
Anyway, congratulations to Ian and to director Sotiris Dounoukos. The AFI awards are held in Sydney on 7 December 2006 and will be televised on Channel 9, though the short film categories might be over by the time the telecast starts.
Update: We did not win the AFI award; Stranded beat us to it again. We did, however, win the Punters Choice award for February 2007 at Fitzroy Shorts. So that’s something!