Emerging creative Katie Huggins has been announced as this year’s recipient of development support via the AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes initiative, for her feature film pitch THE DEB. In partnership with Screenworks, and with support from the AWG, the initiative is in its second year and aims to foster films that explore and celebrate the idiosyncrasies of regional Australia.
Katie was interviewed today at the Screenworks Regional to Global Screen Forum in Lennox Head, where she spoke about her experience: “I saw the brief on Facebook and having come from regional NSW, I was compelled to do it. My process changed so dramatically from seeing that ad – I started out I talking through what I thought would be edgy, cool ideas and tried to think of an “Australian” story.
My original idea was so far from The Deb, I set it in Lightning Ridge where I had never even been, but the story didn’t resonate and I struggled to wrangle it. And it was only when I thought of where I was from in Tamworth and my own experience that the characters came and the story was so much more effortless. I wrote the story to what Australia is to me and it couldn’t have been set anywhere else.”
“I think that’s really exciting to hear,” responded Mark Woods “It’s not something that you pulled out of the bottom draw. AACTA came up with this thing that inspired you to write something, it’s like AACTA commissioned it in a sort of way…this initiative is really interesting because it’s giving impetus to create something for a need which is really unusual for feature film.”
THE DEB is about a teen boy in a small, rural town, who wants to take part in the town’s Debutant Ball – as his Drag Queen persona. A comedy-drama celebration of Australian diversity set against the lush backdrop of New England, THE DEB explores a town’s response to a boy’s search for identity and recognition.
One of seven finalists, Katie pitched her idea to a judging panel of industry luminaries that included actress Pallavi Sharda (TOM AND JERRY, LION), producers Virginia Whitwell (2040, NITRAM) and Isabel Stanfield (BREATH, JUNE AGAIN), Event Cinemas General Manager Claire Gandy and MIFF Industry Director Mark Woods.
“THE DEB presents a wonderful opportunity to explore the many angles to identity and the journey to discovering your true self. It is a thoughtful treatment but also a fun one that celebrates love and acceptance and we’re confident that with the support on offer, Katie will take the project to the next level and find the right collaborators to bring this heartening story to life” said Ivan Vukusic, AACTA Awards and Industry Development Manager.
Katie will receive professional script development sessions with highly experienced development executive and Senior Screenwriting lecturer at AFTRS, Kate Stone, invaluable feedback and mentorship from the esteemed judging panel, profiling and industry opportunities through the Australian Writers’ Guild Pathways program, complimentary flights and accommodation along with a three-day pass to all sessions at the Screenworks 2021 Regional to Global Screen Forum in Lennox Head, AACTA annual membership, Screenworks annual membership, Australian Writers’ Guild annual membership and two tickets to the 2021 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel Ceremony and After Party.
“The standard of submissions for the AACTA Pitch this year was incredibly high and encompassed a huge range of diversity in terms of regional representation both on and off-screen.
Encouraging and supporting stories that showcase regional Australia is really important to us at Screenworks, and we’re so pleased that we’ll be able to support Katie in the further development of her film through the benefits she will receive as a Screenworks Member and delegate at the three-day Regional To Global Screen Forum.” said Screenworks CEO Ken Crouch.
Launched in 2018, AACTA Pitch has grown into one of Australia’s premier talent and content initiatives, linking industry to emerging creatives and fast tracking the development of new productions and careers.
Across web series, TV Drama, short film and feature film, AACTA Pitch has collaborated with organisations such as car brand MINI, the Australian Writer’s Guild and Screenworks to shine a light on a host of new voices, leading to production and meaningful development and marketplace interest.
AACTA wishes to congratulate all of the finalists who were considered for this year’s AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes. All finalists will continue to receive support from AACTA and more information on them can be found here.