The juggernaut that is Joanna Werner
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.
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: