Monte Miller Award winners announced: Exceptional craft on display

21 April, 2021

Screenwriters Justin Olstein and Campbell Banks have been announced as the winners of the 2020 Monte Miller Awards, the premier awards for unproduced scripts in Australia.

Olstein took home the award in the Long Form category with his feature film Shoshanna while Banks received the Short Form award for his comedy pilot Artifice

At a time when our Australian stories are under threat, the Monte Miller Award winners and shortlist are an important reminder of the exceptional talent to be found when we support and invest in Australian writers, with projects ranging from the deeply personal in Shoshanna, which follows a Chassidic Jewish woman grappling with a burgeoning desire, to the sharp humour of Artifice, an examination of Australia’s football culture. 

‘I am thrilled and deeply grateful to have won the Monte Miller Long Form award this year’ said Olstein. ‘The acknowledgement of a story about a culture scarcely seen on Australian screens is deeply heartening, and I look forward to seeing what further opportunities for the project arise as a result.’

Reflecting on the often doubt-ridden process of writing, Short Form winner Banks said that the recognition was an enormous boost: ‘I am stunned and grateful to win this award – the year to forget has been transformed into one to savour. I can’t wait to make the most of this and put the script in front of more industry eyes.’ 

It was a record-breaking year for the awards, with the winners selected from a pool of over 470 entries. The final judging panel praised the creativity and craft on display in the shortlist: ‘Highly original, well-crafted and captivating - the future of Australian writing is in excellent hands. Thanks to the expansion of support for emerging writers, our stories now compete with the best on offer anywhere.’ 

The Monte Miller Awards are an Australian Writers’ Guild tradition stretching back to the 1970s. Each year they recognise excellence in screenwriting and playwriting among the Guild’s Associate and Student membership, celebrating the exciting future of Australian storytelling.

The awards will be presented at the upcoming AWG Victorian event in May, an opportunity for the winners and shortlist to meet and network with AWG members and industry decision-makers, including some of the country’s most accomplished writers. 

The winning, shortlisted and highly commended projects are now available to view on AWG’s prestigious Pathways Showcase, joining an outstanding collection of projects available for development.  

The 2020 Monte Miller Awards

Long Form category 

Winner 

  • Shoshanna by Justin Olstein [Feature Film] - A Chassidic Jewish woman grapples with a burgeoning desire for the woman she hires to help care for her ailing husband.

Shortlist

  • Remote by Nathan Fielding [Feature Film] - A devoted android must protect his human family from the imminent A.I. apocalypse.  
  • Undercurrent by Rebecca Ingram [Television] - On a small tourist island, the new Officer-in-Charge is thrown into the dangerous unknown when she investigates the bizarre death of a young activist.  
  • Mr Doom by Nick Watson [Television] - Divorced dad Dick Dümberg must juggle being a good father to his two kids with his secret dual-life as a supervillain named Mr Doom.

Highly Commended

  • Sunny and The King by Alexandra Adornetto [Feature Film] - An unlikely friendship blossoms between a twelve-year-old girl with no time to waste and an aspiring musician who is wasting his time.  
  • Cul de Sac by Alex Von Hofmann [Feature Film] - When Ray receives a package containing an ancient Mayan idol he unwittingly releases a curse that brings his neighbours’ nightmares to life.

Longlist

  • Alexander Stella for Chasing The Stoke
  • Alies Sluiter for Boy on Fire
  • David Morris for Pole Moles
  • Justin St. Pierre for The Love Palace
  • Nicole Pesa for Guardian

Short Form category 

Winner

  • Artifice by Campbell Banks [Television] - To save the club, a third-string footballer fakes a panic attack and becomes the poster boy for the AFL’s new mental health program: art therapy.

Shortlist 

  • Burning Bright by Renée Crea [Short Film] - In 1917 Grace gets a well-paid factory job painting luminescent clockfaces, but must choose between money or her wellbeing when she discovers the beautiful paint is toxic.  
  • Golden Soil: Into The Woods by Jayden James [Television] - Six Australians find themselves in the nexus of a xenophobic government and must decide what it means to be a true patriot.  
  • Raising Thunder by Jesse Laurie [Short Film] - A young farm girl must raise an infant storm cloud and catch its lightning in a bottle to reignite her grieving father’s diminishing spark.  
  • Dawg and the Stonefish by Boyd Quakawoot [Short Film] - A fisherman struggles to save himself and his sanity as he deals with pain and hallucinations on a secluded beach after he is stung by a Stonefish.  
  • Viktor by Eva Justine Torkkola [Short Film] - The future where death imitates art – a young girl witnesses her grandfather’s choice of euthanasia in a joyful beach scene at his FUNeral. 

Longlist

  • Ashley Pollard for The Perpetual Motion Machine
  • Stacey Hargroves for About Adam
  • Jason Reed for Sugar Daddy
  • Chloe Wilson and Kathleen Westcott for Shame on You
  • Joshua Wenden for Percy Bay
  • Neale Irwin for Queen & Country
  • Joanna Beveridge for Web Warriors
  • Rebekka Schafferius for Up and Away
  • Michael Long for Kiddieporn
  • Ann Crossan for Blood Test
  • Dannika Horvat for Are We Still Friends?
  • Jennifer Crocker for Laces
  • Michelle Grgich for Life as We Know It
  • Alex Barry for Chocolate Cake 
  • Cameron Williams for Overtired
  • Alison Benson for Maxi
  • Matt Porter for Lay Long And They'll Carry You Away
  • Katharine McPhee for Sunk
  • Sunny Grace for Almost Paradise 

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