Six emerging screen creatives announced for 2021 Emerging Writers’ Incubator initiative

Source: SBS: Top row (L-R) Sebastian Chan, Lâle Teoman, Nicholas Lin, bottom row (L-R) Ansuya Nathan, Alberto Di Troia, Cassandra Nguyen

Six screenwriting creatives from across Australia have been selected as the inaugural participants in the Emerging Writers’ Incubator, an initiative from SBS in partnership with Screen Australia, state and territory agencies Film Victoria, Screen Canberra, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Screenwest and the South Australian Film Corporation, and with the assistance of the Australian Writers’ Guild.

The Emerging Writers’ Incubator is a nationwide program launched earlier this year to bring the industry together to support the ongoing development of underrepresented writing talent telling Australian fiction stories for the screen. The initiative provides significant work experience in drama production in leading Australian production companies for emerging writers from backgrounds and with lived experience currently underrepresented in the sector. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; people who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; those who are living with disability; are female or trans/gender diverse; identify as LGBTQIA+; and people located in regional and remote areas.

The six successful candidates chosen this year will each be employed for 12 months in one of six award-winning production companies around the country, acclaimed for their delivery of Australian drama.

The successful emerging writers selected for 2021, and the production companies they are working with, are:

  • ACT: Sebastian Chan joins Bunya Productions, supported by Screen Canberra
  • NSW: Lâle Teoman joins Goalpost Pictures, supported by Screen NSW
  • QLD: Nicholas Lin joins Ludo Studio, supported by Screen Queensland
  • SA: Ansuya Nathan joins Closer Productions, supported by the South Australian Film Corporation
  • VIC: Alberto Di Troia joins Tony Ayres Productions, supported by Film Victoria
  • WA: Cassandra Nguyen joins Komixx Entertainment Australia, supported by Screenwest.

Over the next 12 months, they will each gain valuable work experience, further developing their skills, knowledge, and networks, while working across the production companies’ slate of drama productions. They will also be supported by the Australian Writers’ Guild, with access to creative and training workshops, to further develop their skills.

Donna Chang, Commissioning Editor, SBS Scripted, said: “The Emerging Writers’ Incubator is a really special and important initiative which SBS is incredibly proud to be working with our partners in the sector to deliver. There is an extraordinary pool of writing talent across Australia who have uniquely Australian stories to share, and through this program we’re excited to be supporting the development of the next generation of distinctive writing voices and contributing to a more inclusive industry.

“Thank you to the award-winning production companies who are also joining us in this initiative, and congratulations to all of the candidates who took part in interviews during the competitive selection process, especially the successful writers - we look forward to going on this journey with them.” 

Melissa Lee Speyer, Development Executive, Screen Australia, said: “Screen Australia are dedicated to supporting emerging creatives as they enter the screen sector and we are incredibly proud to support these six writers as they embark on the next stage in their careers. We were blown away with the quality of writing amongst the applications we received and the strength of the national shortlist. It is a testament to the high level of undiscovered talent we have in Australia from our underrepresented communities. Along with SBS, our partners at the state and territory screen agencies and the Australian Writers’ Guild, we are sure the participants will gain invaluable experience working at some of the leading production companies in the country.”

Susie Hamilton, Professional Development Manager, Australian Writers’ Guild, said: “It’s been a privilege to work with SBS, Screen Australia and our other state-based partners on this important initiative. The standard of writing talent we have seen through the selection process has been nothing short of extraordinary. We know that the successful writers and the participating production companies are going to reap enormous benefits from this program.”  

Caroline Pitcher, CEO, Film Victoria, said: “Congratulations to Alberto Di Troia and all of the Victorians shortlisted from an incredibly strong field our most talented writers. Tony Ayres Productions is one of Australia’s leading production companies with a proven track record for telling diverse screen stories and elevating new voices. We can’t wait to see Alberto’s career journey as part of this initiative and beyond.”

Monica Penders, CEO, Screen Canberra, said:“We are so pleased that Sebastian Chan from the ACT has been chosen to work with Bunya Productions. This will be a fantastic opportunity for Seb to get more experience as a writer and grow those all important networks. We’re excited to follow his journey and see him back in the ACT with a suite of experiences under his belt.” 

Jo Dillon, Chief Creative Officer, Screen Queensland, said “For early-career screenwriters, the opportunity to build networks and receive valuable mentorship via a year-long paid placement is immense. The shortlisted Queensland writers were outstanding, and we wish recipient Nicholas Lin all the best during his placement at Brisbane’s Ludo Studio, creators of the global sensation Bluey.”

Grainne Brunsdon, Head of Screen NSW, said: “As our home-grown film industry develops and grows it is imperative that we continue to support our creative workers and writers, and I am excited to see how this opportunity will propel Lâle Teoman's career forward as she learns from the best at Goalpost Pictures.”

Rikki Lea Bestall, CEO, Screenwest, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be supporting Cassandra Nguyen as part of this unique opportunity – it’s fantastic to have such a significant nationwide investment in our emerging writing talent. The number of competitive applications we received in WA exceeded our expectations, and I can’t wait to see the initiative continue in 2022 and 2023.”

Kate Croser, CEO, South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC), said: “The SAFC has been pleased to support this initiative as part of our ongoing commitment to grow and diversify the pool of credited South Australian key creatives. We congratulate South Australian writer Ansuya Nathan on being selected to work and collaborate with Adelaide’s award-winning Closer Productions.”

The six successful writers for 2021 were selected by SBS, Screen Australia and state and territory agencies from a national shortlist from hundreds of applicants, which included:

  • ACT: Laura Dawes and Zayaan Jappie
  • NSW: Renee Marie Petropoulos, Shane Salvador and Jess C Wheatley
  • QLD: Connor Bowman, Siobhan Domingo, Future Fidel, Katrina Irawati Graham and Tianna Roberts.
  • SA: Travis Akbar and Alies Christina Sluiter
  • VIC: Meaghan Palmer, Hannah Samuel and Alex Wu
  • WA: Penelope Harrold and Sukhjit Khalsa.

Co-funded by SBS, Screen Australia with participating state and territory screen agencies, the Emerging Writers’ Incubator will continue in 2022 and 2023, with six successful candidates partnered with production companies around Australia each year. Over three years, the initiative will support the careers of 18 emerging writers, further contributing to diversity in the pool of professional talent in the sector.  

About the 2021 Emerging Writers’ Incubator successful candidates:  

Sebastian Chan (ACT)
Sebastian is a prolific and ambitious writer/producer from the Australian Capital Territory. Sebastian graduated from the University of Canberra in 2015 with a Bachelor of Media Arts & Production. He has since gone on to earn an Advanced Diploma in Producing (Story, Audience, Finance) from AFTRS. An experienced filmmaker, Sebastian has a growing list of accomplishments and accolades including his award-winning short, Bus Trip (Focus on Ability Festival 2018), the ACT's first IGTV series, The Red Thread (Where You Are Festival) and most recently winner of the ABC iView 'Best Pitch' award for his project, The Family at the 2020 Melbourne Webfest.  

Lâle Teoman (NSW)
Lâle recently won the 2019 Australian Writers' Guild Monte Miller Award for her mystery thriller pilot, The Black Tulip, and was then funded by Scripted Ink to write the rest of the series. Lâle was also sponsored by Scripted Ink to work at Studiocanal, writing coverage on over 70 feature scripts for the European Film Market, 2021. In 2018. Lâle's pilot script, Blue Mountain, won Best Sci-Fi Screenplay in the Los Angeles Film Awards and Best Short Screenplay in Red Carpet Film Awards NYC. Lâle's first short film script, The Palace That I Live In, was produced in 2013 and had its world premiere at Palm Springs International Short Fest in 2014In 2015, the film also screened in NYC Independent Film Festival, the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, and in 2016 at the Tasmania BOFA Film Festival. The film was directed by Aimèe-Lee X. Curran and features Hunter Page Lochard (Cleverman), herself, and her real life mother, Diana Jeffrey. Lâle also production/costume designed for the film and has designed and acted in shorts, commercials, music videos and mini series including Foxtel’s Let’s Talk About (2017), and ABC’s Lessons From The Grave (2014), with Matilda and Bryan Brown. 

Nicholas Lin (QLD)
Nicholas is a passionate emerging writer/director based in Brisbane. His scripts and short films are largely influenced by his Chinese-Italian upbringing and centre around telling Australian stories through a multicultural lens. He has interned with the Asian Pacific Screen Awards, worked at the Brisbane International Film Festival, and he directed his graduate short film while completing his Bachelor of Film and Screen Media Production at Griffith Film School. Since graduating, Nic has spent the past two years working within broadcast news as an editor and transfers operator.

Ansuya Nathan (SA)
Ansuya trained as an actor at NIDA at the turn of the century, and has since studied and worked in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Not particularly good at waiting around for acting gigs after drama school, she was company producer and co-Artistic Director of Tamarama Rock Surfers - the resident independent theatre company at the Old Fitzroy Theatre in Sydney. Her time developing new Australian work there, and the countless scripts she has read as an actor, has helped her cultivate an innate sense of story and structure, which she is now applying to the screen. Her interest as a creator lies in taking the familiar – genres, narrative styles and character tropes - and infusing it with her ‘otherness’, whether that be her Indian culture, female perspective, Australian sensibility, or all three. After many years away she is excited to be back on home turf and finally unpack her model minority leanings. 

Alberto Di Troia(VIC)
Alberto is a writer, filmmaker and graduate of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Film & Television) and the Master of Writing for Performance at the VCA. He is the co-founder of award-winning performance company Stage Mom, whose work includes his plays Love You Bitch (Theatre Works 2021) and Truly Madly Britney (Theatre Works 2019, Max Afford Playwrights Award shortlist 2018), as well as participatory, immersive pieces I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Cooking For(2019, Melbourne Fringe) and Love Me (Bar)Tender (2020, Darwin Festival). Alberto has also presented writing with Melbourne Theatre Company, Australian Theatre for Young People, ABC Radio National, and Critical Animals. Prior to this he worked in film editing and post production, and in 2018/19 he ran the community filmmaking initiative, Into The Limelight. Most recently, Alberto was funded by Film Victoria to work as Script Coordinator on the Tony Ayres Productions series, Fires. 

Cassandra Nguyen (WA)
Cassandra is an emerging screenwriter and director based in Boorloo/Perth, Western Australia. Her first short film, Play Lunch, received international acclaim at numerous film festivals winning the “Jury Prize for Best Short Film” at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival in 2011. Her follow up project, Visiting Mum, screened at various festivals including the San Diego Asian Film Festival, and won “Best Director” and “Best Actor” at the Asians on Film Festival in 2015. She was selected to attend the inaugural AFTRS Talent Camp in WA and underwent a week-long storytelling intensive lead by Kath Shelper and Brita McVeigh. In 2019 she joined the writing team of The Heights (ABC TV & Matchbox Pictures) for season two, penning an episode. Her short film, Hold Up, was awarded Screenwest’s Elevate 30 grant, and had its world premiere at CinefestOZ 2021.  

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