VCA filmmakers get a seat at the table with Australians in Film in LA

L–R University of Melbourne alumna and actor Alison Bell with screenwriter Sarah Scheller at Charlie’s. Image: Costa Vakas.
L–R University of Melbourne alumna and actor Alison Bell with screenwriter Sarah Scheller at Charlie’s. Image: Costa Vakas.

Victorian College of the Arts Film and Television alumni will have the opportunity to work at the former home of Charlie Chaplin in Los Angeles, thanks to a new partnership between Australian’s in Film (AiF) and the University of Melbourne.

The $US60,000 three-year partnership, announced in Los Angeles this week, is the first of its type between AiF and a university, and will allow mid-career Film and Television alumni to apply for a hot desk at Charlie’s, an exclusive Australian Creative Embassy located in the heart of Hollywood, within Chaplin’s former bungalow on the lot of the historic Raleigh Studios.

Head of Film and Television at the VCA, Sandra Sciberras, said the partnership would give alumni an essential foothold in LA.

“The agreement with AiF is about connecting with early- to mid-career Film and Television alumni either based in or visiting LA while allowing for networking under the auspices of Australians in Film,” said Ms Sciberras. “Our industry is becoming increasingly global, with film and television makers working ever more commonly abroad and bringing that work back home to Australia as well as to the rest of the world. The AiF partnership is one of many ways we’re looking to support our alumni at a crucial point in their careers.”

Founded in 2001, AiF is a Los Angeles based non-profit film, television and digital content foundation that connects and develops Australian screen talent and stories to a global audience. It hosts regular screenings, industry sessions and special events to promote Australia’s impact on the entertainment industry internationally. Its career development and education programs include the prestigious Heath Ledger Scholarship, Mentor LA, Animal Logic Entertainment Internship and Gateway LA script development competition.

The first VCA alum to secure a hot desk at Charlie’s will be Nick Watson, a comedy and animation writer who has written for Hasbro's Littlest Pet Shop, and the Conan O'Brien produced Final Space. Watson is currently developing the animated children’s show, Log, as a co-production between Pirate Size Productions and Starburns Industries, with funding from Screen Australia.

Watson has also worked as a Screenwriting Lecturer at the University of Melbourne, and a Creative Executive in film and TV development in LA. In his spare time, he runs the entertainment industry satire blog The Salmon Pages, and hosts the popular TV Writing podcast Paper Team.

The executive Director of AiF, Peter Ritchie, said the partnership would be of great benefit to film and television creators as they develop their careers in the US.

“Hollywood is the epicentre of the English-speaking screen industry. With leading production companies and international streaming giants literally at our Raleigh Studios doorstep, Charlie’s is the perfect business centre for the Australian screen industry in LA. Hollywood is vast and ever-changing, and can seem impenetrable to an outsider. This new desk partnership with the University of Melbourne will provide an ideal home base in LA for its alumni, and offer access to a network of like-minded screen creatives, with a view to creating opportunities that can accelerate their projects and careers.”

The Charlie’s hot desk announcement was made at a University of Melbourne alumni event with Australian actor and VCA alumna Alison Bell in Los Angeles on March 3.

Also announced at the same event was the creation of the Melbourne Screen Fund, to be established and governed by the University of Melbourne, to ensure that Australia’s most talented future filmmakers receive the support they need to develop work.

“We are all aware of the difficulty of financing films and the vital need for gap finance to support ambitious work that might not otherwise get produced,” said Ms Sciberras. “I want to be able to capture the uniqueness of the filmmakers that come through our doors at the VCA who have the ethic of hard work and talent that will enable them to navigate a changing screen industry.”

Further information on the partnership and opportunities for alumni can be found on the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music website.