Stars of Australian screenwriting share their insider's perspective

29 July 2011

Some of Australia's most accomplished screenwriters are sharing their professional insights in a Department of English course at the University of Sydney this semester.

Ian David, Nicholas Parsons, Stephen Sewell, Louis Nowra and Katherine Thomson will be lecturers in the Writers at Work: Screenwriters postgraduate course.

Dr Sue Woolfe, the course convenor, said, "This course offers a wonderful opportunity for students to benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience on offer from these screenwriters. Some of the students in the course are already working in the film industry, some hope to work in it, and some teach film appreciation.

"The course is unique because it highlights the life and work of screenwriters, the unsung heroes of film. We constantly hear from directors, producers, and endlessly from actors, but many people aren't even aware that films are first written by someone working with nothing else but their sheer and vast imagination."

The course is structured in stages - scenes from a film scripted by the writer is shown, then the screenwriter explains the genesis of the film, the process of writing it and the triumphs and tribulations of transferring the script to the screen.

Asked to reflect on the upcoming course the writers provided the following comments:

Ian David

"Writing is a continuous and tenuous three-way dialogue between the writer's life, beliefs and emotional survival. At certain times in one's professional life it's worth exploring all three separately. Every spring clean produces something worth keeping."

David's groundbreaking dramas Police State and Police Crop won AFI Awards in 1989 and 1990 respectively. Joh's Jury won the AWGIE Award for Best Television Screenplay. His three hour mini-series Blue Murder received the Logie Award for Most Outstanding Television Drama, AWGIE Award for Best Television Screenplay, and AFI Award for Best Screenplay. In 2007 he received the inaugural Kit Denton Fellowship, presented annually to a writer who has shown courage in their work.

Nicholas Parsons

"Drama is the most technically demanding literary form, in that it must be experienced in time. This means that the manifest meaning of a line of dialogue or action must be understood completely in the moment it happens, and yet its implications unfold over time. This requirement both constrains and frees the writer: we are constrained in how we convey our message, but what we choose to say and to write about is without limit."

Parsons is a writer and director in film, television and theatre. He has written episodes of television series and serials, a documentary series and several radio plays. He wrote and directed the feature film Dead Heart. Awards include the NSW State Literary Award, an AWGIE Award, the Australian Human Rights Award and the Ian Reed Memorial Grand Prize for radio drama.

Stephen Sewell

"If you imagine yourself to be an artist with something to say about the human condition, and wish to write for film, come and join me to discover how wrong you are, and how you will be lied to, betrayed and have your life stolen, in three acts, with an Act 1 Turning Point, a Mid-Point Decision a Major Setback and a Climax and Aftermath lasting no more than ten pages. By someone who's been there and lived to tell the tale."

Stephen Sewell is a highly acclaimed writer for stage and screen. His film scripts include The Boys which won an Australian Film Institute award for Best Screenplay. Stephen script edited True Love and Chaos, and Chopper. He is about to direct his first feature, The Gods of Love and War.

Louis Nowra

"My aim is not to teach them how to write screenplays, my aim is to try and get the students to think like a screenwriter."

Nowra is known as one of Australia's leading playwrights. His screenwriting credits include the multi-award winning SBS television series First Australians, a history of Australia from an Aboriginal perspective.

Katherine Thomson's screen credits include the international television mini-series Answered by Fire which won the Gold Awgie in 2005; the Blackjack telemovies; Killing Time; the documentary feature film Unfolding Florence - The Many Lives of Florence Broadhurst and the AWGIE nominated documentary mini-series Darwin's Brave New World for ABC/CBC Canada.

Contact: Verity Leatherdale

Phone: 02 9351 4312

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