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SWANZ: second album is a success

Noting that doing it twice makes the event a tradition, Oscar Kightley again hosted the most fun awards bash of the year. Like an early Christmas turkey, it was stuffed full – mostly with laughter. But writers know one note isn`t a tune, so a few tears were shared as well.

The event received some sponsorship this time around, adding to the future security of the tradition. SPP sponsored the Best TV Drama Episode for which, as it happened, only SPP shows made the finalist list. The other guaranteed winner going into the evening was Rachel Lang. Travelling solo or with a co-driver, she was a finalist for each of the shows in that category: Go Girls, Outrageous Fortune and Nothing Trivial.

And the winner is … “SPP,” called out one member of the audience.

“I`m shocked and surprised,” Lang said, accepting the award for herself and the absent Gavin Strawhan, who missed out on receiving two awards by being down in the Caitlins: “we`ll hear more of that later, I`m sure,” Lang observed. Her second trip to the stage was to deliver what Kightley called the “Why We Write speech.”

Among lighter observations, she thanked funders and networks. But mostly, she spoke of her joy in being a writer, calling it “the best job in the world, and it certainly beats working for a living.”

She also noted the shift in NZ from regarding writers as people of dubious status and worth to showrunners. Sharing the love, she acknowledged that the benefit of this was not in becoming all-powerful, but in having the opportunity to interact regularly with so many other talented folk in all the other departments that contribute along the way from script to screen.

Observing that any crap in a writer`s life was OK because you could call it research, she also noted that writers were like elephants and never forget … the bounced cheque, the missing credit, the lines that were cut.

Above all, she praised local writers. “We have built an audience that likes, loves, our work.”

Early on in the proceedings, Kightley had explained that, despite the relatively small writing community, the judging process had been transparent and that, regardless of whom one slept with, it hadn`t influenced decisions. “I was disappointed when I heard that,” said Best One-off Drama winner Fiona Campbell, “because I slept with a lot of people to get this made.”

“All of them were dead,” she added, underlining Rachel Lang`s earlier assessment of writers as “funny and talented … sick, disgusting and disturbing.”

Samuel now has the distinction of being the only person to have won at every (both) SWANZ bashes, having won the Best Play award last year for Ghost Train.

Three awards not voted on by judges were presented during the evening. The first went to departing NZWG staff member, Dara McNaught, who – having worked at the guild for 11 years – remarked on the development of the role of the writer and the organisation of writers during her tenure.

Introducing the presentation, NZWG president Peter Cox paid tribute to Dara`s work over the years, but struggled with fulfilling his brief of making a funny introduction speech. “She`s really good and competent at her job,” he said. “And that`s comedy death.”

Comedy death was also noted elsewhere. Despite the vaunted comedy revival in NZ (which pre-supposes the arguable point that there was a thriving comedy scene at some previous point), fewer than the required three entries were submitted for the Best Comedy script award. Nonetheless, the judges offered a special commendation to Madeleine Sami and Thomas Sainsbury for Super City.

Given that the commendation was being made in the absence of other entries in the category, it was ironically appropriate that nobody was present to accept the award.

Nobody was present to accept the industry mentor award either. The choice of mentor hadn`t been made by judges, Kightley said, since, “God intervened.”

“I wanted to make a short speech, but Graeme wouldn`t let me,” Nick Ward opened his celebration of the life and work of Graeme Tetley, who died on 13 March. “Legend has it he died sitting at his computer. I want to believe it, because it`s appropriate that he died in the saddle,” Ward said.

Ward recounted Tetley`s career, from his first award-winning script Vigil with Vincent Ward, through his long-running association with Gaylene Preston, to his writer`s award win for Out of the Blue and his final produced script Aftershock.

He also spoke of Tetley`s friendship and commitment to helping and developing other writers, Ward included. Ward concluded his celebration in tears, and there were more than a few brightly damp eyes in the audience.

Co-host Lisa Chappell said to Ward, “I want to book you for my funeral.”

The winners were, marked ***:

Best Short Film Script
Das Tub, Nick Ward
***Hauraki, Dianne Taylor
Be Careful, Alan Brash

Best Television Drama Episode
Outrageous Fortune, Season 6, Episode 18, James Griffin, Rachel Lang and Tim Balme
Go Girls, Season 3, Episode 9, Rachel Lang
***Nothing Trivial, Episode 1, Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang

Best Documentary Script
***Wild River Journeys, Episode: Rangitata, Craig Potton
Wild Coasts, Episode: East Coast Gems, Craig Potton
Brother Number One, Annie Goldson

Best One-off Television Drama
Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Kate McDermott
***Bliss, Fiona Samuel
Rage, Tom Scott and Grant O’Fee
Tangiwai, Donna Malane and Paula Boock

Best Play
Don’t Mention Casablanca, Michelanne Forster
***On the Upside Down of the World, Arthur Meek
Sheep, Arthur Meek

Best Feature Film Script
The Orator, Tusi Tamasese
***Matariki, Michael Bennett and Gavin Strawhan
Pierre (Lovebirds), Nick Ward
The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell, Brendan Donovan and David Brechin-Smith

A commendation was given to Madeleine Sami and Thomas Sainsbury for SuperCity, nominated in the (not-awarded) Best Comedy category.

A special award was made to departing NZWG staff member Dara McNaught.

The industry mentor award was presented posthumously, to Graeme Tetley.

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