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Gerard Lee

Certificate Screenwriting, 1981

Gerard Lee is an Australian author, screenwriter and director. Born in Melbourne and raised in Brisbane, Lee began writing for The Telegraph newspaper at 16 years of age. A poet, musician and scholar, Lee studied at the University of Queensland before making his way to AFTRS.

It was here that he met fellow student Jane Campion and began a long standing creative partnership that continues today. Lee co-wrote Campion’s feature debut, Sweetie, which won Best Screenplay at the Australian Film Institute Awards, a Camera d’Or at Cannes, and many more. It is now part of The Criterion Collection.

Lee’s feature film All Men Are Liars, set in the Queensland cane fields, opened the Sydney Film Festival in 1995 and won awards around the world at San Remo Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival and more.

As a prose writer, Lee has published two novels, a collection of short stories and a collection of travel stories, all with University of Queensland Press. His second novel, Troppo Man (1990), set in Ubud, Bali, was shortlisted for the Vogel’s Young Writers Award.

In recent years, Lee produced and wrote the screenplay for the film My Mistress (2014), starring Emmanuelle Beart and Harrison Gilbertson. Lee was the principal screenwriter on Breath adapted from the novel of the same name by Tim Winton. It was released in the US in 2018, produced by Simon Baker (also director/actor) and Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad).

As a television writer, Gerard Lee is the co-writer with Jane Campion of the successful series Top of the Lake, which garnered eight Emmy nominations for its first series. The second season Top of the Lake: China Girl was the first television project to be screened in its entirety at Cannes Film Festival.

Lee is working on a number of projects including two feature film screenplays.



I did the writing course at AFTRS in 1980. Keith Thompson was my teacher and Jane Campion was my girlfriend. It was a great year. I made so many great friends including Ian David, Paul Hogan, and Jocelyn Moorehouse. There were many creative moments, break-throughs in technique and craft, being hit with new ideas, working with other minds that gel with your own and recognition by other creative partners of your contribution.



1. The most exciting experience was being in The Egyptian Cinema at Sundance Film Festival and watching with 300 viewers the entire first season of Top of the Lake for the whole day. No vacant seats, no drop-outs. American viewers tend to be more outspoken than Australian audiences and feeling everyone in the grip and charm of the story Jane (Campion) and I created was very satisfying.

2. The Cannes Film Festival Jury decided to play the entire second season of Top of the Lake: China Girl. This was the first time the jury had ever shown long form television. It was again, a fantastic day.  Full house and they had to book the cinema for two extra showings.

3. My own film, All Men Are Liars opened the Sydney Film Festival in 1994 at the State Theatre, the very theatre in which I had been born as a film-maker. It was a special moment.

4. The most glamorous event was the Governor’s Party at the Emmy Awards. This was the party to end all parties with lots of Aussie representation. Jane and I had been nominated for Best Screenplay in a Television Series and the bands that night were both Australian — Jessica Mauboy and the Tillers sisters.