Monday musings on Australian literature: Some Australian screenwriters
Funny things sure do happen sometimes. I decided on the weekend that, with my comment about screenwriters in my post on Hail, Caesar and with the Oscars being screened today, Monday (downunder time), that I would devote this post to screenwriters. Then, I turned on the TV to look at the Oscars, and guess what? They changed the usual order of announcements and put the screenwriters first! A tribute to Trumbo perhaps? Whatever, the coincidence made me smile.
Now, I have written about screenwriters before in a post on Australia’s AWGIE awards, but in that post I focused on a few authors who had also written for screen or theatre. This time I’m going to focus on those for whom screenwriting is a major part of what they do. There are a lot of them, so all I can do is choose a few to represent the many. I’m not going to analyse their work – that would take too much time – but just introduce them, and identify some of their works because they are often just not known as the person behind these works. Here goes:
- Stuart Beattie would be the least known to me of the writers I’m listing, even though he’s the most prolific. He writes, it seems, in genres I tend not to watch, like thrillers and adventure. However, he was a co-writer on Baz Luhrmann’s controversial film Australia, and he adapted John Marsden’s bestselling young adult novel Tomorrow, When the War Began to a film of the same name.
- Andrew Bovell writes for theatre, movies and television, sometimes adapting his own work from one form to another, such as the films Lantana and Blessed which he adapted from his plays, Speaking in Tongues and Who’s afraid of the Working Class, respectively. Non-Australian moviegoers might know him for his adaptation of John Le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man.
- Laura Jones is the daughter of Australian writer Jessica Anderson (whose The commandant and One of the wattle birds I’ve reviewed here.) Jones started her career with television teleplays for Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC. Her first screenplay, an original, was Hightide made by Gillian Armstrong, and her next was Angel at my table, made by Jane Campion and adapted from Janet Frame’s memoir. She has gone on to write many adapted screenplays, including Portrait of a Lady, Angela’s Ashes and Possession. Some great films there …
- Jan Sardi has been nominated for an Oscar so, given today is Oscars day, I had to include him! The film was Shine. Sardi also adapted Nicholas Spark’s The Notebook and Li Cunxin’s Mao’s Last Dancer. He is apparently currently working on adaptations of Kate Grenville’s The Secret River and Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures (my review). He is also the current President of the Australian Writers Guild (AWG).
- Eleanor Witcombe is the oldest of my group and is not, as far as I can see, still working. She was born in 1923, and is had to be in my list because she adapted two significant Australian women writers, Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom and Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career. Witcombe wrote for theatre and television, including the television miniseries adaptations of two more classic Australian women’s books, Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians and Ruth Park’s The Harp in the South.
Many of Australia’s successful directors have also written for some of their films, such as Gillian Armstrong, Jane Campion, Baz Luhrmann, George Miller, Rachel Perkins, and Peter Weir. Such creativity. I’m in awe.
Now, just in case you are interested in writing for film yourself, I came across in my research a document by ScreenAustralia, published just last year, titled I’ve got a great idea for a film. You can read it online. It mainly lists resources, both Australian and overseas, for all aspects of script development.
Do you tend to be aware of screenwriters, and do you have any favourites?