Screenwriting duo nominated for national award

Producer Brenton Pinsent, writer/director Dean Law and writer Katherine Chediak Putnam on set.

Griffith Film School alumni Katherine Chediak Putnam and Dean Law have been nominated for a prestigious Australian Writers’ Guild Award (AWGIE).

The AWGIE Awards recognise excellence in screen and stage writing, and previous winners include Griffith University creative arts alumni including Yolanda Ramke, Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall.

The pair were nominated for Best Short Film for their horror movie, Stray. The film was made as part of the Screen Queensland Shorts Program, and has received a run on the international festival circuit, garnering rave reviews at festivals in the US, Italy and Belgium.

‘A career milestone’

Dean said receiving an AWGIE nomination was a career milestone.

“It came as a complete shock, but it’s really thrilling,” he said.

“A lot of times these awards are very Sydney and Melbourne focused, but this year, three of the four films nominated for Best Short Film are from Queensland.

“This is a really special award – you are nominated by your fellow writers, and it’s judged solely on the script.

“It really lets the craft of screenwriting stand on its own.”

Originally from Brazil, Katherine worked as a film editor for almost a decade before travelling halfway across the world to study at Griffith Film School.

“English is my second language, and when I arrived here five years ago from Brazil, I barely spoke English,” she said.

“I think it’s a great achievement towrite a screenplay and be nominated for such a prestigious award.

“I think it legitimises you as a writer.”

Postgraduate studies provide foundation for industry projects

Katherine and Dean began collaborating on writing projects while completing their Masters degrees at Griffith Film School.

Griffith Film School alumnus Dean Law

“Our Masters projects got the attention of Screen Queensland and reassured them that we could deliver on our vision,” Dean said.

“We also got so much support from LiveLab and the Film School – and that support doesn’t end when you graduate.”

After completing the Masters program, Katherine decided to embark on a PhD, while Dean has established his own production company and is a sessional lecturer in screenwriting and production at GFS.

“The postgraduate programmes here are really unique — you are given the support and guidance to develop as an artist and make the best films you can,” Katherine said.

Building on success

Katherine and Dean are keen to leverage the success of Stray and make their first feature-length horror film.

“We’ve had a lot of meetings with agents, managers and production companies, so we are keen to start building on our short film and develop a feature,” Katherine said.

“I’ve loved horror since I was a kid –The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining.

“The genre allows you to discuss different issues like gender politics and racism without being preachy.”

Dream team

The pair are professional collaborators and life partners – drawn together by their passion for film.

“We had a lot in common, and in the past five years, we’ve gone from fellow students to being a complete creative team,” Dean said.

“We complement each other really well – sometimes it can be challenging, we both have strong personalities and we can be incredibly stubborn.

“But we are incredibly focused and passionate about what we do, and I think we inspire each other.”

Learning from the best

Griffith PhD candidate Katherine Chediak Putnam

The pair are keen to continue writing and directing together. As part of her PhD at Griffith Film School, Katherine recently had the chance to attend a directing masterclass in Italy where she learnt from the best, including Hollywood heavyweights Jane Campion and Frances Ford Coppola.

“It was a great opportunity to build a network of filmmakers and learn from the best,” she said.

“Jane is so good at assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and great at helping you build your voice.

“Francis Ford Coppola was so knowledgeable about the industry, and we got the chance to see the new final cut of Apocalypse Now on the big screen.

“Italy is such an inspiring place and I came back so inspired to write and more confident as a director.”

The 52nd annual AWGIE Awards will be presented on Thursday August 22 at the City Recital Hall in Sydney.