The jug­ger­naut that is Joanna Werner

The Riverine Herald - - MONDAY CONVERSATION - By Kim­ber­ley Price

IT’S SAFE to say, Joanna Werner has made a name for her­self since leav­ing the twin towns. The three time Emmy nom­i­nated, multi Lo­gie award win­ning and now ACCTA Award and C21Me­dia In­ter­na­tional Drama Award nom­i­nated film and tele­vi­sion writer and pro­ducer. Not only has she forged a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the tele­vi­sion in­dus­try, in 2008 she founded her own pro­duc­tion com­pany Werner Film Pro­duc­tions.

Now, Werner Film Pro­duc­tions has been nom­i­nated for a stag­ger­ing 11 AACTA Awards and a C21Me­dia In­ter­na­tional Drama Award for their tele-se­ries Riot.

For Joanna and her com­pany be­ing nom­i­nated for the show they all felt so pas­sion­ate about mak­ing is in­cred­i­ble.

‘‘It was a huge sur­prise,’’ Joanna said.

‘‘The script for Riot came as Werner Pro­duc­tions had a call for con­cepts where over 500 ap­pli­cants sub­mit­ted their two-page ideas.

‘‘Riot was one of the fi­nal­ists and I fell in love with the con­cept.

‘‘I pitched it im­me­di­ately to the ABC as I thought it would be great to co­in­cide with the 40th an­niver­sary of the Mardi Gras.’’

Riot is set in 1978 and fol­lows a group of ac­tivists when the push to de­crim­i­nalise ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity has stalled. They de­cide to make one fi­nal at­tempt to cel­e­brate who they are. Led by for­mer union boss, Lance Gow­land, they get a po­lice per­mit and spread the word. On a freez­ing win­ter's night, they cloak them­selves in fancy dress, join hands, and pa­rade down Ox­ford Street. But they have no idea an­gry po­lice lie in wait, and the courage they find that night will fi­nally mo­bilise the na­tion. The fic­tional se­ries is a re- telling of Jef­frey Walker’s true story of Aus­tralia’s gay rights move­ment in the 1970s and the cre­ation of Syd­ney’s LGBT Mardi Gras.

‘‘Mardi Gras is a quintessential Aus­tralian event but many peo­ple don’t know how it be­gan,’’ Joanna said.

‘‘Riot tells the in­spir­ing sto­ries of real peo­ple.

‘‘We were able to talk to ev­ery­body de­picted in the show or their fam­i­lies.

‘‘It was in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to us to have their con­sent as some of the sto­ries are very per­sonal.

‘‘They were able to come on set and talk ex­ten­sively to us.

‘‘It be­came a kind of heal­ing process for them too.’’

The one hour and forty-five minute drama was shown on ABC on Fe­bru­ary 25 to rave re­views, which tran­scends to the nu­mer­ous ac­co­lade nom­i­na­tions.

‘‘Riot was our first prime-time show,’’ Joanna said.

‘‘Dance Academy was in the kid’s cat­e­gory and only had one cat­e­gory.

‘‘But for Riot, be­ing nom­i­nated in so many cat­e­gories, it’s quite hum­bling.

‘‘The nom­i­na­tions came as a huge sur­prise.

‘‘Hav­ing a one-off screen de­but, en­gag­ing an au­di­ence was hard.

‘‘Now it’s gone on to be screened around the world and it has been in­vited to all these dif­fer­ent fes­ti­vals. I just wish I could go too.

‘‘It’s been so im­por­tant to get the mes­sage out there.’’

The AACTA Awards, Aus­tralia’s ver­sion of the Os­cars, cel­e­brates Aus­tralia's best film, tele­vi­sion, per­form­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers.

This year, Riot has been nom­i­nated for; best tele-fea­ture or mini se­ries, best lead ac­tor in a tele­vi­sion drama, best lead ac­tress in a tele­vi­sion drama, best guest or sup­port­ing ac­tor in a tele­vi­sion drama, best di­rec­tion in a tele­vi­sion drama or com­edy, best screen­play in tele­vi­sion, best edit­ing in tele­vi­sion, best orig­i­nal mu­sic score in tele­vi­sion, best pro­duc­tion de­sign in tele­vi­sion, best cos­tume de­sign in tele­vi­sion and best cast­ing pre­sented by cast­ing net­works.

In the C21Me­dia In­ter­na­tional Drama Awards Riot was nom­i­nated for best TV movie along­side Black Mir­ror: USS Cal­lis­ter, King Lear, KURARA: The Daz­zling Life of Hoku­sai’s Daugh­ter, The Boy with the Top­knot and Twisted.

Ear­lier this year, Riot was nom­i­nated for two Lo­gies in the cat­e­gories; most out­stand­ing ac­tor and ac­tress.

The AACTA Awards will be held on De­cem­ber 5 and the C21Me­dia awards will be an­nounced on Novem­ber 28 in Lon­don.

Mark Rogers

ON A ROLL: A still from Joanna Werner's highly nom­i­nated tele-se­ries Riot (above) and right Joanna cer­tainly has plenty to smile about. Photo:

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