THE AFI – KEEPING THE SCREEN INDUSTRY AND THE PUBLIC CONNECTED
For more than 50 years, the Australian Film Institute has supported the Australian screen industry and its practitioners. From administering the annual AFI Awards and providing financial opportunities to practitioners, to managing a dedicated resource library and film distribution arm, the AFI’s methods have changed with the needs of the industry, and it has continued to focus on keeping local and international audiences engaged with Australian film and television.
The inaugural AFI Awards were held in 1958, when aside from a few overseas productions filmed in Australia, local production was limited to commercials and sponsored documentaries.
In these first AFI Awards, 30 entries were received across six categories. The following year the number doubled, and continued to steadily grow.
By the 1960s it had become clear that the AFI Awards were raising the standards of the Australian film industry by providing an incentive for filmmakers to achieve excellence and a means for them to receive public recognition.
The AFI was instrumental in the revival of the Australian film industry in the 1970’s, playing a central role in persuading the Gorton government to commit to the Experimental Film Fund, a film school and a corporation for feature investment, which allowed feature filmmaking in this country to become a legitimate and thriving industry.
In 1976, a special award for Best Film was created, and won by Fred Schepisi for The Devil’s Playground. This also marked the first year that the AFI Awards were televised to a national audience.
In 1986, television categories were included in the AFI Awards for the first time. The Television section has continued to expand and become an important feature of the Awards, with categories across drama, comedy and light entertainment.
2001 saw the creation of two important roles for the organisation: that of AFI Patron (Dr George Miller) and AFI Ambassador (Cate Blanchett). With these two industry luminaries on board, the AFI continued to increase recognition of the Australian screen industry on a global scale.
In 2005, Dainty Consolidated Entertainment was appointed as the Executive Producer of the AFI Awards ceremonies. With Russell Crowe secured as host and the Nine Network as broadcaster, the ceremony moved to a new dinner format attended by Australia’s biggest international stars. Geoffrey Rush took on the role of host for 2006 and 2007 and has been a champion for both the Awards and the organisation ever since.
Over the years, the AFI Awards have expanded to recognise special achievements via a slate of specific awards. From the prestigious Board-selected AFI Raymond Longford Award, to the Byron Kennedy and International Awards, the AFI seeks to acknowledge Australian practitioners across the entire career spectrum, working both locally and internationally.
Recently, the AFI has also focused on career development, with the AFI Fellowship and the AFI Documentary Trailblazer schemes provid ing valuable opportunities for screen practitioners.
In 2008, the AFI celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala ceremony at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre. As we move forward from this auspicious occasion, the AFI will continue to recognise excellence in the work of Australian screen practitioners at all stages of their career, and connect the Australian screen industry with its audiences.