Elissa Down’s The Black Balloon and Peter Duncan’s Unfinished Sky won six awards each at  the AFI Awards celebrations on the weekend. Kylie Boltin attended the joint Australian Directors Guild/AFI \'Meet the Directors\' conversation with both directors, and shares their recollections on making their films.
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8 Dec 2008 - 9:58 AM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2012 - 1:30 AM

Down says that unlike Tony Ayres\' The Home Song Stories (2007) or Louis Malle’s Au Revoir les Enfants (trans. Goodbye Children, 1987) there was never a 'memoir element" to the film.

She wanted to show what it was like growing up in this environment and used a 'bastardised version of Mike Leigh’s improvisation techniques" in combination with script development over many years in her scripting process, including at the Aurora Script Workshop run by the FTO.

Peter Duncan\'s Unfinished Sky is a remake of the Dutch film The Polish Bride (Karim Traidia, 1998), which also starred Monic Hendrickx in the lead role. For her reprisal, Duncan translated the script into Dari Persian for the actress. Duncan said: 'we translated the script and sent it to Monic in South Africa. She’d listen to it in the car and learn it word for word. She certainly wasn’t up for improvisation on the day!\"

\"It was different for me," Duncan said. 'My other films [A Little Bit of Soul (1998) and Children of the Revolution (1996)] have been very wordy. In Unfinished Sky, I cut dialogue and I found that the script got better, particularly the first half. I had to find a language other than the verbal to get them to communicate, other than with words.

'We only had two days for rehearsal. On the first day, William (McInnes) was in a foul mood – something terrible had happened to his computer and Monic’s plane had been diverted – they were both totally discombobulated. She didn’t know where she was or what was going on and William was not giving her any breaks. Knowing she had never been to Australia, he asked her 'So, you going to be starkers?" [For the shower scene.] William has two modes – one with stubble and one without. We shot the first half with stubble and then moved into post-stubble. It was only in the second half that Monic started to understand William and then they were laughing on set.

\"Their own relationship really reflected their characters."

The Black Balloon won the L\'Oréal Paris AFI Award for Best Film (Tristram Miall), the AFI Award for Best Direction (Elissa Down), the Macquarie AFI Award for Best Original Screenplay (Elissa Down & Jimmy The Exploder), the AFI Award for Best Supporting Actor (Luke Ford), the AFI Award for Best Supporting Actress (Toni Collette) and the AFI Award for Best Editing (Veronika Jenet ASE).

Unfinished Sky took the AFI Award for Best Lead Actor (William McInnes), the AFI Award for Best Lead Actress (Monic Hendrickx), the AFI Award for Best Cinematography (Robert Humphreys ACS), the AFI Award for Best Sound (Andrew Plain, Annie Breslin & Will Ward), the AFI Award for Best Original Music Score (Antony Partos) and the Macquarie AFI Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Duncan).

Check out the ADG - Australian Directors Guild at http://www.adg.org.au/