The AWGIE Awards are presented annually by The Australian Writers' Guild.
They are awarded for
excellence in screen, television, stage and radio writing. The award's name is
essentially an acronym of the Guild's name -- AWGIES -- but also echoes
that of Australia's major television awards, the Logies.
Inaugurated in 1967, the AWGIES are unique in the industry in that they are
the only writers' awards judged solely by writers, and the judging is based on
the written script -- the writer's intention -- rather than the finished
product. In order to be eligible scripts must have been produced in the calendar
year prior to the year of the AWGIE presentation.
Individual AWGIE categories are judged by specialist panels of three Guild Full
Members with experience in the relevant discipline. Individual category winners
in a year become eligible for the Major Award, awarded to the outstanding script
of that year.
AWGIE winners over the years have included David Williamson's Gallipoli
and Travelling North (two of the eleven AWGIES Williamson has won); Cliff Green's Picnic at Hanging Rock; Fred
Schepisi's The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith; David Parker's Malcolm;
John Duigan's The Year My Voice Broke; Geoffrey Atherden's Mother and
Son; John Alsop and Sue Smith's Brides of Christ, and Leaving of
Liverpool; Ian David's Joh's Jury; Tony Ayres' The Long Ride,
John Ruane's That Eye the Sky; Paul J. Hogan's Muriel's Wedding
and Michael Rymers' Angel Baby.
The list above includes major Awgie Award winners from the award's inception
in 1968 up to 1975. Full information on winners and nominees in each category is
difficult to obtain and any additional information would be most welcome.
History of the Australian Writers' Guild
(adapted from an article by Gina Roncoli)
The AWG was founded at a time of great uncertainty and hardship for drama writers in
Australia. Work conditions were poor -- low fees, no residuals, bad contracts
and poor professional status was the norm. This was largely the result
of the collapse of radio drama production after the advent of television, and subsequent mass
importation of English and American TV programs. Consequently, very little work was being offered to
local writers, most of whom were also unfamiliar with the new medium.
In March 1962 seventeen radio writers met at the Australia Hotel in Sydney
and decided to form a guild to represent their professional interests.
Originally entitled the Australian Radio, Television and Screenwriter’s Guild,
it was later modified to the Australian Writers’ Guild and was established as a
collective body to represent members and fight for basic professional rights.
The Guild’s first battle was in 1963, over fees and residuals. The
dispute centred on a TV series called Jonah. ATN 7 was only offering
per script in exchange for for all rights in perpetuity. The Guild considered this unacceptable
and instructed members not to write for the programme and with one exception,
members stood firm. Thanks to this solidarity, the first formal agreement
between the AWG and television management was signed and as a result the writing
fee was doubled, and a limit was placed on the ownership of the rights. Most
importantly, the AWG had been officially recognised as a bargaining power.
When radio serials were axed on all commercial stations in 1964, the AWG
campaigned vigorously on behalf of its members, but failed. The demise of radio serials saw the loss of
the main source of Guild members’ incomes. However the AWG lobbied for minimum quotas for Australian content in
television drama, and began of negotiations with the ABC to establish minimum
fees and conditions for radio and television writers.
1964 the Guild affiliated with the newly formed International Writers’
Guild, (IWG) thereby becoming part of a worldwide organisation of writers. In
1966 bi-lateral treaties were signed with the British and American Writers’
Guilds. However, work conditions were still tenuous, as only 7% of total television drama
was Australian, and at the time Crawford Productions’
Homicide was the only locally
produced continuing drama series .
The British Writers’ Guild came to the rescue by asking their members to
contribute a percentage of their Australian royalties to the AWG for a local
content fighting fund. They also joined forces with the IWG and threatened to
blacklist Australian production companies using non-Australian
writers to write offshore scripts for Australian programmes (although this was
later strongly opposed by expatriate Australian writers living in Britain).
This action assisted the Guild when it lobbied ATN-7 over their refusal to use local writers
for Riptide, a locally produced adventure series made largely with British finance
and starring an imported American actor, Ty Hardin. The
Guild demanded that 50% of the Riptide scripts should be written by Australian writers.
The campaign did not succeed, but it did establish a precedent of using
Australian writers for locally produced series.
Valuable support was received from the American and British Writers’ Guilds in
directly lobbying industry and Government over local content quotas. The result
was that in 1968 the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB) decreed that a
small but finite quota of local drama (12-18 hours per month) should be
shown on commercial stations during prime time. The Guild had asked for a far
higher amount, but it was still double the quantity of local drama being
produced at the time.
The first AWGIE Awards dinner was held in 1967 for outstanding achievements in
performance writing, with the guest of honour including the Prime Minister, John
Gorton and the ABC Chairman. Only 35 of the 250 guests at the inaugural awards
were AWG members.
When the ABC refused to
sign any Guild agreements on the basis that they would be seen to be showing
disproportionate favour to one group over others, the Guild joined forces with
The Council of the Society of Authors and Actors’ Equity and they lobbied the ABC as a
united front. They also joined with fourteen other film industry guilds to lobby
the Federal Government for the formation of an Australian Film Development
Branch (later to become the Australian Film Commission).
By 1969 the Guild had drawn up and signed eight different contracts and
agreements with individual networks and production companies as new programmes
were developed. These contracts were later consolidated into a standard Industry-wide
Agreement, based on similar British agreements. Remarkably though, it wasn’t until the early
that the ABC finally signed the Guild’s standard contract.
By then the Guild had more than doubled its membership and had also begun to offer a range of craft services to its members. A
lending library of professional scripts was set up, along with a registration
service to safeguard copyright. The Guild also began employing legal advisers to
offer advice to members on issues such as contract negotiation.
Around this time, the Guild protested to ATN-7 over the
broadcasting of repeats of the ABC series Contrabandits as a means of fulfilling
its drama content quota. Extensive lobbying of the ABC and politicians followed.
The Guild President lobbied other industry guilds and white-collar unions to
launch the "TV: Make it Australian" campaign. It was successful in lobbying for
higher content, but anecdotal evidence from some of the participants (such as
noted Crawford stars Gerard Kennedy and Charles "Bud" Tingwell") suggests that
the commercial networks were enraged by the campaign and eventually exacted
their revenge on the participants by cancelling all three of Crawford's police
series (Homicide, Division 4 and Matlock Police) within a
few months of each other in 1975.
By the late 70’s, 50% of all programmes were to be Australian, with a minimum of
six hours of first release Australian drama per month to be shown between 6pm and
10 pm. The regulations also stipulated that repeats could not be used to fulfil the quota.
The Guild also became involved in wider political and
industrial issues such as moral rights and copyright protection, censorship,
taxation and broadcasting legislation. By its tenth birthday in 1972 the Guild’s
affiliations included the Australian Film Commission (AFC) , ACSPA,
the Playwrights’ Conference, the ‘Make it Australian’ Committee, the Children’s
Film Council, the ASA, and the Copyright Council.
In the space of four months that year, the Guild mediated in seven disputes, negotiated a
Feature Film Agreement and Documentary Agreement with nine production houses,
and began developing guidelines and policies for writers for the stage –
culminating in the first standard Playwright’s Agreement. Writer Joan Long submitted a
21-page submission to the Tariff Enquiry, and wrote a 53-page submission to a
Senate enquiry on the arts.
Over the ensuing years, the Guild successfully lobbied to block visas for four USA writers being imported to write for a Crawford
Productions’ show. Government funding was also blocked for a theatrical
production of Patrick White's Voss, on the basis that it would employ a British writer and US
director. The Guild also negotiated a Serials Agreement with Reg Grundy
Productions that excluded non-members from being employed.
Work then began on amending the Industry-Wide Agreement to include clauses
regarding residuals, a move made necessary by revelations of a secret agreement between
the Federation of Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) and the Film Producers’ Organisation to boycott
producers who agreed to pay residuals to writers. However this amended Industry-Wide Agreement
was rejected by the major producers and residuals remained a major sticking
point. Among other problems, production companies were stockpiling episodes of
long-running series (such as Division 4 and Homicide) to satisfy local content
Heading into the Eighties the AWG continued to lobby for better pay and
conditions for its members, against vigorous opposition from both commercial production
companies and the ABC. As a result of AWG action, writers on the children's
series Here’s Humphrey had their fees
more than quadrupled, from $60 to $250 per script, with residuals for repeats and
overseas sales as well as proper contracts to be signed. However, this was only
achieved after a six-month writers' strike ending in March 1981, with Actor’s Equity standing beside
Residuals remain a major tumbling block (as they are in the music industry) but
the Guild has gained ground in negotiations with European countries, and
has already distributed AU$1.2milllion to their writers, with a substantial
increase expected on an annual basis.
The AWG has played a significant role in the development of Australia’s film and
television industries. From a Script Registration service to safeguard
script assessment, the provision of craft services such as conferences, seminars
and Craft Weekends, as well the annual AWGIE Awards, where writers are
nationally recognised for their skills.