08 March 2012
Snowtown screenwriter takes out AACTA award
RMIT University alumnus Shaun Grant has been honoured with the AACTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film Snowtown.
RMIT screenwriting alumnus Shaun Grant with the AACTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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The AACTA Awards, previously known as the AFI Awards, are the most prestigious in the Australian film and television industry.
Mr Grant wrote the script for the crime drama Snowtown while halfway through RMIT's Advanced Diploma of Screenwriting.
His first feeling upon hearing the announcement was surprise, followed by pride, he said.
"I was proud of how far I had taken this idea that I had several years ago and I was proud of what everyone associated with the film had done to bring that idea to life.
"Then when I got on stage I just tried to do two things: thank those people that made my award possible and not fall over."
Clare Renner, Program Manager for the Advanced Diploma of Screenwriting, said the screenwriting industry was notoriously tough, so it was always exciting to see students and graduates acknowledged.
"Many fine screenplays never even make it to the screen and for Shaun to win an award of this calibre so early on in his career says a great deal about his talent, skill and focus," Ms Renner said.
The AACTA Award was not the first prestigious acknowledgement Snowtown had received.
Last year the film was one of seven shown at Critics' Week at the Cannes Film Festival.
But the experience of having celebrities and people he admired coming up and congratulating him was still surreal, Mr Grant said.
"There where several people whom I admire that I was fortunate enough to speak to during the AACTA ceremony.
"However, I couldn't bring myself to approach Cate Blanchett, as I'm such a huge fan.
"I just remember looking up and seeing her in the crowd as I began my speech and then proceeding to keep my head down for the rest of it so as not to get too nervous."
Mr Grant thanked Snowtown's director, producers and cast members – two of whom also received awards for their roles in the film.
Daniel Henshall, who played serial killer John Bunting, won the award for Best Lead Actor, while Louise Harris took out the award for Best Supporting Actress.
"What each one of these people brought to my script I will forever be grateful for," Mr Grant said.
The idea for the screenplay came several years ago, when Mr Grant came across a book by Andrew McGarry on the high-profile murders that occurred in Snowtown, South Australia.
Although not normally a big fan of crime dramas, he was intrigued by the people and relationships the book described.
"It's the story of a son looking for a father. The murders were never my main concern," Mr Grant said.
He bought the rights to the book with his own money, and spent the next year writing the script while working as a primary school teacher and finishing the scriptwriting program at RMIT.
Snowtown eventually premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival, where it won the Audience Choice award.
"We encourage students to begin working in the industry while they study with us," Ms Renner said.
"The comprehensive training we provide in first year gives them the skills they need to do this, while the flexible, project-based focus of second year is one of the screenwriting program's main attractions."
Another RMIT alumnus, Kris Mrksa, was recognised at the AACTAs with a nomination for Best Television Screenplay for his work on The Slap.