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Film script character to award prize

13 December 2004

Film script character to award prize

There will be a strong sense of irony when Wellington Deputy Mayor Alick Shaw awards Marian Evans the 2004 Embassy Trust Prize for the top student in Victoria University's scriptwriting course tonight – he is a character in her winning film script.

Ms Evans' film script, Mothersongs/Chansons Maternelles, tells the story of a group of women who opposed the Springbok Tour of 1981, who are later divided over an environmental issue. One of the characters is Mr Shaw, who was a prominent anti-tour protester in Wellington. The script is also bilingual, with part set in New Zealand and part in France.

"I think it's wonderful that Alick will award me the prize. One of the characters in the film meets him and several know of him through the tour protests. It's a film that tries to explore who 'we' is and how notions of 'we' change when there is civil unrest."

Ms Evans, who is also a Research Associate with Victoria's Gender and Women's Studies Programme, chose to do the MA in Scriptwriting to improve her skills. Her film, Sister Galvan about the former Director of the Dowse Gallery, Galvan MacNamara, was shown at last year's Women’s Film Festival.

The Embassy Trust Prize was judged by prominent playwright and Auckland-based television scriptwriter, Gary Henderson.

"Each character has their own unique story, and each story supports the larger theme of the script. The characters and their relationships with each other are familiar and credible, but still idiosyncratic, and their voices are authentic," Mr Henderson says.

"There were surprises along the way, but in the end it was the conflicts that arose at the start of the story that were resolved, for better or worse, at the end. Put more simply, I found it the most satisfying read."

This is the third year of the Prize established by the Embassy Theatre Trust in conjunction with the Victoria University Foundation. It awards $1,000 to a top student from the Scriptwriting stream of the MA in Creative Writing taught at the University's International Institute of Modern letters. Judging took place on a selection of major works submitted at the end of the one-year course.

The scriptwriting major was introduced in 2002 to fill a gap in the market for an intensive qualification in scriptwriting that includes industry placement and the production of a full-length script at the end of the year.

Ms Evans had nothing but praise for the course and Ken Duncum, the Michael Hirschfeld Director of Scriptwriting at Victoria.

"Ken is an extraordinary teacher. It is not often that you find some who is a great practitioner and also a great teacher. He created a safe and stimulating space in which to experiment in developing your own voice and own ideas."

Mr Duncum thanked the Embassy Trust for its ongoing support for the programme, but said he expected Mr Henderson to have had a difficult task in choosing the winner.

"The Prize is continuing to grow in status and I believe it will eventually take its place alongside the Adam Prize that recognises the top student in Professor Bill Manhire's Creative Writing major. All the scripts this year were of a very high quality, so it was always going to be a bit of lottery for me as to who Gary would award the prize to. "

Mr Duncum said the 10 students on this year's course were a diverse group, with a mixture of ages and backgrounds. One student commuted from Auckland and another from Palmerston North to attend lectures.

David Carson-Parker, Deputy Chairman of the Embassy Theatre Trust, said the scriptwriting course and the creative writing programme were fulfilling a crucial niche in the industry.

"The scriptwriting is an essential part of the industry that is continuing to develop and mature in New Zealand, on television, in film and on the stage and so we're happy to recognise and support Victoria's programme."

The prize will be awarded at 5.30pm on Monday 13 December at the Embassy Theatre, in Kent Tce, Wellington, and media are welcome to attend.


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