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‘Making the ordinary extraordinary’: Australian screenwriter Sue Smith honoured with top industry Award

30 August, 2018

Saving Mr. Banks, Mabo and Brides of Christ screenwriter Sue Smith has been announced as the recipient of the 2018 Australian Writers’ Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the most prestigious honours in the industry, in recognition of the enduring mark her work has made on the Australian cultural landscape.

 Co-writer of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, Smith is perhaps best known for her many collaborations with screenwriter and friend John Alsop, including the iconic Australian series’ Brides of Christ, The Leaving of Liverpool, Bordertown and RAN: Remote Area Nurse.

With early credits including Australian screen classics The Young Doctors, Sons and Daughters and Prisoner, Smith went on to write acclaimed telemovies Mabo, Temptation and The Road From Coorain, feature film Peaches, and the gritty ABC retelling of the 1998 waterfront dispute, Bastard Boys

 Smith said she was incredibly grateful for the acknowledgment and recognition. ‘ I actually consider these awards to be collective rather than individual. Every generation of writers we produce in this country stands on the shoulders of the pioneering work of the generation of playwrights and screenwriters before them, and hopefully learn all over again from the generation after them.’ 

 ‘So I want to thank all those writers whose worked I watched when I was growing up and starting out, for their guidance and inspiration, and for their generosity in including me among them, and the new generations for what they’re teaching me. Huge thanks to the AWG for this, and for all the work they do for writers.’

 Oscar-nominated screenwriter and AWG President Jan Sardi said that it was impossible to overstate the impact Smith’s work has had on the industry: ‘Sue has written some of our most iconic and beloved stories and her work explores the lives of ordinary Australians with incredible warmth and humanity, making the ordinary seem extraordinary. Whether it be on screen or stage, it leaves a mark on all those it touches.’

As a screenwriter, script editor and playwright Smith’s work has long been lauded, with numerous AFI, Logie and AWGIE Awards across film, television and theatre to her name. In 2012 she received the Queensland Literary Award for Television for Mabo. In 2018 she was announced as the recipient of Sydney Theatre Company’s Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellowship.

In more recent years Smith’s pen has turned to the stage, with her professional theatre debut Strange Attractor premiering at the Griffin Theatre in 2009 to critical acclaim. Her stage credits include the libretto for Rembrandt’s Wife, an adaptation of Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata, Kryptonite, Machu Picchu, and the upcoming Hydra for Queensland Theatre. 

Smith was honoured by friends and colleagues a special ceremony for the Lifetime Achievement Award prior to the 51st Annual AWGIE Awards on Thursday 30 August 2018.

Awarded since 2015, the Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by Foxtel and recognises writers who have made a significant contribution to the Australian screen industry. 

Foxtel’s Head of Drama Penny Win said: ‘In television and film, everything starts with the writer and what is put on the page. We are honoured to present this Award to Sue in recognition of her incredible work and contribution to the Australian entertainment industry.’

The Award celebrates the accomplishments of Australia’s most revered and admired writers, those who have achieved critical and commercial success throughout their career and made significant contributions to our national film and television culture.

The Award is decided by a unanimous vote of the 13 members of the Australian Writers’ Guild National Executive Committee who are all professional writers.

Previous recipients of the Award are Laura Jones, Craig Pearce and Andrew Knight. 

The Australian Writers’ Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award is sponsored by Foxtel.


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