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Meet the Creators @ AFTRS & ACMI

Meet the Creators @ AFTRS & ACMI is a series of free, in-person and live-streamed events for the screen and broadcast industry presented by AFTRS, ACMI, Film Victoria and Media Mentors Australia.

Hosted at AFTRS and ACMI with a small live audience, the events will feature inspiring discussions with industry luminaries and leaders, sharing insights into their current projects, programming, careers, and challenges.

Second Tuesday of the month at AFTRS 6.00 pm AEDT
Fourth Tuesday of the month at ACMI 6.00 pm AEDT

On-campus at AFTRS/ACMI or streaming live on the AFTRS/ACMI YouTube channel

Recordings will be available for catch-up viewing following the stream.

Upcoming events

Past events

7 July – So, You Want to be a Writer!

Everybody thinks they have a book, a film or a TV series in them – but this edition’s guests have real runs on the board. Learn how they gained successful careers as writers in this live-streamed panel.

In this edition, author, actor, podcaster and much-loved comedian, Kitty FlanaganBAFTA and International Emmy Award-winning journalist-turned-screenwriter David Hannam (Nowhere Boys, Wentworth, Dance Academy, Secret Bridesmaids) and Peter Mattessi (EastEnders, Neighbours, The Heights) discuss their work, success and all things writing.

read more

8 June – Te Ao Māori: Making ‘Cousins’

This edition of Meet the Creators features the filmmakers behind New Zealand film, Cousins: producer and co-director Ainsley Gardiner and writer, co-director and actor Briar Grace-Smith.

From the producers of Boy and The Breaker-Upperers, Cousins is an adaptation of Patricia Grace’s eponymous novel and features an all-Maori female cast and key creative team.  Tikanga Māori (Māori cultural practice) is an integral part of Māori culture and is at the heart of the Cousins’ story. Filming in Rotoiti at Te Waiiti Marae under the care of Muriwai Ihakara and the local Ngāti Hinekura and Ngāti Pikiao people meant the film was grounded in Te Ao Māori. Aunties, uncles and cousins all played a role, some as actors and others lending a hand to the production.

Join Gardiner and Grace-Smith, in conversation with academic and writer Amy Thunig, as they discuss their work on the film, the process of adapting the novel and their decision to co-direct the film.

The panellists –


Ainsley Gardiner (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Awa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Whakatōhea) has produced more than a dozen short and feature films, documentaries and television drama series. Notably Gardiner produced the short films Two Cars, One Night and Tama Tu written and directed by Oscar-winner, Taika Waititi. She went on to collaborate with Waititi on his feature films, Eagle vs Shark in 2005 and his  (original) No. 1 Box Office hit, BOY in 2009.

Gardiner has produced other features including The Pā Boys with writer/director Himiona Grace, as well as drama for television. Her first short film, Mokopuna, had a successful festival life, winning Gold at the Dreamspeakers Indigenous Film Festival. Gardiner also works as an external script assessor and mentors a number of emerging Māori writers, directors and producers. In 2015 Gardiner founded Miss Conception Films with Georgina Conder. Their production company is focused on female-lead character-driven projects with female key creatives, including the feature film The Breaker Upperers, documentary She Shears and the upcoming thriller Reunion, to be released later in 2020. In 2017, Gardiner joined a team of women directors and writers to create the critically acclaimed feature film Waru. Gardiner is also a producer on the upcoming Canadian-New Zealand co-production Night Raiders. In 2018, she was named a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to her work in film and television, and in 2019 Gardiner received the Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellowship with Briar Grace-Smith.


Briar Grace Smith (Ngåti Hau, Ngāpuhi)  is an award-winning director and screenwriter for the page, stage and screen. Her screenwriting credits for film include Fresh Meat and The Strength of Water, which earned her Best Feature Film Script at the NZ Scriptwriters Awards. Her plays have toured both nationally and internationally and won multiple awards, with her first play Ngā Pou Wāhine earning her the Bruce Mason Playwriting award, and Purapurawhetu winning Best New Zealand Play at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Grace-Smith’s extensive television writing credits include The Big Chair, Taumata, Mataku, Being Eve, Paradise Cafe, Kaitangata Twitch, Billy, When We Go to War and Fishskin Suit (Best Drama Award at the NZ Television Awards). She has director credits on two feature films, the critically acclaimed Waru and Krystal. In 2000, Grace-Smith received the Arts Foundation Laureate award, and in 2018 was recognised for her services to theatre, film and television, appointing her Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 2019, Grace-Smith won the Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellowship with fellow filmmaker Ainsley Gardiner.


Amy Thunig is an academic in the School of Education at Macquarie University, where she is also completing a PhD in education with a focus on Sovereign Indigenous women in academia. A Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi woman, Amy began her journey into formal education as a Primary School teacher, attaining a Masters Degree in Teaching before moving into her academic role. In 2019 Amy was invited to give her TEDx talk ‘Disruption is not a dirty word’ and was named ‘Emerging Leader in the Public Sector’ at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards. In 2020 Amy signed her first book deal for her forthcoming collection of personal essays titled Tell Me Again with University of Queensland Press (UQP) and launched her podcast Blacademia: yarns with First Nations/Indigenous academics. A freelance media writer and panellist, Amy regularly appears on television programs such as ABC’s The Drum and writes for publications such as Buzzfeed, Sydney Book Review, IndigenousX, The Guardian, Junkee, Women’s Agenda and more. A mother and active community member, Amy resides on the unceded Awabakal land.

1 June – Celebrating Collaboration

Director Beck Cole and Writer Samuel Paynter have just finished filming their chapter of an anthology feature film Cook 2020: Our Right of Reply (entitled Ngā Pouwhenua in Aotearoa New Zealand). Teams from both countries worked together to develop a cohesive film.

Producers Aaron Fa’Aoso and Paul Walton teamed up for Strait to the Plate – an exploration of life on the Torres Strait islands through an entertaining and vibrant cooking show for NITV and SBS.

In this edition, all four talk about their experiences of those shows – and many others from their long and successful careers – and how to get the best out of teams to make great programming.

27 April – Hitting It Out of the Park!

Focusing on shows that are ostensibly about sport but appeal far more broadly than just to sports fans, panellists Sam Pang (The Front Bar, Eurovision, Santo, Sam and Ed’s Cup Fever, Have You Been Paying Attention), Luke Tunnecliffe (Head of Content for JamTV; Making Their Mark on Amazon Prime) and Nicole Minchin (Lowdown, The Record on Amazon Prime) share insights into how they produce shows with wide appeal.

In conversation with Media Mentors’ Denise Eriksen, the panellists will discuss their careers, experiences and how they got into the business and why they stay there, along with the need for more industry creatives to keep up with the demands of big productions.

13 April – From Concept to Broadcast

Television showrunners have an extraordinary job: to take a raw concept and usher it through the brains and hands of hundreds of people, to finally make a piece of entertainment for Australians. Shows can begin with a throw-away comment in a conversation, or through a format deal – but they always involve the meeting point of creativity and crazy logistics.

This edition of Meet the Creators features some of Australia’s most accomplished television creatives positioned at this intersection, in conversation with MC Andrew Garrick.

Join Eureka’s Rikkie Proost, Screentime’s Deb Spinocchia and ITV’s Majella Wiemers as they discuss bringing the biggest shows on TV to our screens, from concept to broadcast.

The panellists –


Deb Spinocchia has over 20 years’ experience as a television professional, producing shows with crews ranging from 2 to 200. Kicking off her career on The Movie Show with Margaret and David on SBS she was given a thorough apprenticeship and eventually left the program as producerShe has a diverse background across a variety of TV genres but has spent most of her time in unscripted and reality. She is currently Executive Producer on SAS Australia for Seven and recent EP credits include: Zumbo’s Just Desserts, The Mentor, Back with the EX, Seven Year Switch, Bride and Prejudice and House Rules.

Deb spends a lot of her time in format development and had success with Back with the Ex which is now screening across the globe via Netflix. She has also been a Network Executive overseeing shows such as First Dates (Warner Bros.) and The Single Wives (Eureka) both for Seven. Prior to EP-ing Deb was a Series Producer for several years as well as producing in both field and post. Her credits include Undercover Boss, Don’t Tell The Bride, AGT, So You Think You Can Dance, MKR, Biggest Loser, The World’s Strictest Parents, Beauty and the Geek, Fat Pizza and JTV. On top of this, she ran her own production company and produced an ABC Doco commissioned through Arts and Screen Australia, Skimpy.


There are very few television genres ITV Australia’s Head of Entertainment Majella Wiemers hasn’t made. Her credits include Love Island, studio sensation The Voice, heartwarming transformation series This Time Next Year, The Cube, Takeaway, Shark Tank, The Great Australian Spelling Bee, Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, No Leave No Life and Aussie Pickers.

Queensland born, Majella began her television career as a news and current affairs presenter, reporter and producer, working on landmark Australian programs such as Today, A Current Affair, Nine News, Sunday, Nightline, RPA, Good Medicine, Changing Rooms and Getaway.

Her role as Head of Entertainment sees her overseeing ITV Studios’ biggest brands in this market, from casting through to show delivery, including social and digital arms of the formats.


Rikkie Proost is universally respected by the Australian production community as one of the world’s finest and most experienced unscripted producers. Proost has a unique background having developed and produced award-winning television shows across a wide range of genres including reality, light entertainment, factual entertainment and game shows.

Prior to joining Eureka as the Chief Content Officer, Proost held various senior positions at the Seven Network from 2008 to 2019 including Head of Reality Television, Head of International Production and Development and most recently Head of Unscripted Production. During this time, he was the co-creator on two of Seven’s most successfully stripped reality formats; My Kitchen Rules (Seven) and House Rules (Seven). He not only oversaw development and production of these franchises in Australia but was heavily involved in format sales and local adaptations for numerous territories including the USA, UK, the Netherlands, Israel and Germany. In this role, Proost oversaw a raft of original formats and local adaptations for Seven including First DatesBeauty and the Geek, Instant Hotel, Zumbo’s Just Desserts and Seven Year Switch.

Before joining Seven, Proost worked extensively on Wipeout (Nine), Gladiators (Seven), Big Brother (Ten) and The Amazing Race (CBS). His early experience extends across TV, Film and TVC’s, including running his own production company where he created a number of original children’s programs and game shows.

23 March – Every One’s A Winner

“Success” is up for discussion as the screen industry starts to flourish again.

In the first Melbourne outing of Meet the Creators @AFTRS & ACMI – live at ACMI and online around Australia – we are joined by four people who deliver some of Australia’s most successful programming: Tony Ayres, Laurence Billiet, Marty Benson, Naomi Higgins.

With MC Denise Eriksen of Media Mentors Australia, the panel will talk about their secrets of success, explain how they create the hits – and how they keep them coming.

Read more about the event and panellists here.

9 March – Celebrating Women

In celebration of International Women’s Day, writer/director Corrie Chen, factual executive producer Debbie Cuell, director/writer/actor Leah Purcell, documentary producer Laurie Critchley and producer/writer Samantha Strauss discuss their recent projects and share insights into their exceptional careers with legend-in-her-own-right, AFTRS alumna Anita Jacoby AM.

The Panellists –


Corrie Chen is a highly sought-after, award-winning writer and director whose work spans comedy and drama. She is currently directing New Gold Mountain, a ground-breaking Goalpost Pictures and SBS miniseries set in the Australian gold rush from the Chinese-Australian perspective. Most recently, she directed the latest season of Wentworth for FremantleMedia and Foxtel.

Her other episodic work includes Five Bedrooms (Hoodlum/Network 10); Sisters (Banks, Endemol Shine and Network 10); the ratings hit remake of beloved Australian drama SeaChange (Every Cloud Productions and Nine), and all three series of International Emmy-nominated Mustangs FC (Matchbox Pictures and ABC).

Corrie received an ADG Award nomination for Best Direction in a Children’s TV Drama for Mustangs FC. She directed and executive produced the SBS series Homecoming Queens, a semiautobiographical comedy-drama, which has been nominated for multiple awards including the AACTAs and the Australian Directors’ Guild.

Corrie is naturally drawn to stories that explore the themes of identity and belonging. Perhaps it’s something to do with her intercontinental background. She’s still trying to figure it out.


Debbie Cuell is a creative, visionary, Emmy winning Executive Producer and Head of Genre with more than 20 years’ experience specialising in Factual and Entertainment genres in Australian TV, public broadcasting and subscription TV.

In her current role at Endemol Shine Australia Debbie looks after the slate of factual programs, bringing her integrity, and proven storytelling skills to every project, resulting in entertaining and enlightening programs, that successfully engage a broad audience. Her recent series Old Peoples Home For 4 Year Olds, broadcast on the ABC in 2019, was not only a huge ratings success for the ABC but it touched the hearts of Australian viewers and shone a light on our often-forgotten older Australians. The series was critically acclaimed both in Australia and internationally touching the hearts of viewers across the country, and winning the International Emmy Award for Best Entertainment Program, AACTA for Best Documentary or Factual Program, New York TV and Film Festivals Documentary – Social Issues and the 2020 C21 International Format Awards for Best Factual Format.

In her previous role in 2017 as Head of Entertainment at the ABC she led a large national team and managed the production, and delivery of a mix of original content and formats, working closely and collaboratively with either in house production teams or co-production partners. Her expertise in factual and entertainment television has seen her in Executive Producer roles on series including The Great Australian Spelling Bee, Coast Australia for the History Channel on Foxtel and BBC2, The Gruen Sweat, The Gruen Transfer and many more.


Laurie Critchley is a leading executive in the highly competitive Australian media industry. As founder and CEO of Southern Pictures, which she established in 2009, she has successfully delivered 100+ hours of original blue-chip screen content to global audiences. Her many broadcast partners include the ABC, SBS, BBC, Nine Network and Discovery, as well as free-to-air and cable broadcasters and distributors around the world.

Laurie’s credits include six seasons of the Logie-winning history format, Dynasties (ABC, BBC, BSkyB, NHK); the AACTA-winning Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader (ABC); the New York Television-awarded series, The Mosque Next Door (SBS, TRT, Discovery Asia); Slim and I, winner of best feature film (2020, Gold Coast Film Festival); and the top-rating documentary on Australian television in 2020, Miriam Margolyes Almost Australian (ABC, BBC; Discovery).

Laurie began her 30-year career in radio and print media and was a commissioning editor with Penguin Books and The Women’s Press in London, where she worked with leading authors across a diverse slate of award-winning fiction and non-fiction, and successfully re-launched its Young Adult imprint.


Leah Purcell is an internationally acclaimed director, writer and actor.

Leah’s play, The Drover’s Wife (in which she also played the title role), premiered at Belvoir Theatre in 2016. The play won numerous prestigious awards including Best New Australian Work, Best Play, Best Direction and Best Sound Design at the 2016 Sydney Theatre Awards and Best New Australian Work, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Play at the 2017 Helpmann Awards and many more.

In 2016, she was the start-up director on the hit Seven Network/Screentime series The Secret Daughter, and in 2019 she was the start-up director on My Life Is Murder for Network Ten/CJZ. Leah directed episodes of Goalpost Picture/Pukeko’s critically acclaimed series Cleverman which aired locally on the ABC and on the Sundance Channel in the US and BB3 in the UK.

Leah was a writer for the Logie nominated ABC3 TV series, Ready for This, writer and director of the Foxtel documentary Who We Are: Brave New Clan, writer and director for episodes of the AACTA award-winning Redfern Now, series 1 and 2, and writer of an episode of the ABC series, My Place.

Feature film The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson was written and directed by Leah. She stars in the leading role of film and is a co-producer through her production company Oombarra Productions.


Samantha wrote, created and executive produced upcoming 10-part series The End for Foxtel and Sky Atlantic, produced by See-Saw Films. The Guardian has described The End as “devastating TV that shows what makes life worth living.” The Times reviewed it as “extraordinary and devastating” as well as “sharp and unlike anything I’ve seen.”

As an emerging writer, Sam created teen phenomenon and break-out Australian series, Dance Academy, which screens in over 160 countries and ran to 65 episodes. The series was nominated for two International Emmys, won the Outstanding Children’s Series Logie awards in 2012 and 2013 and has won or been nominated for multiple AACTA awards, Asian Television wards, Sichuan Festival Golden Panda awards, Banff Television Festival and New York Festivals awards.

Sam’s upcoming projects include the feature film, The President’s Astrologer, for Fox Searchlight and Film 4, directed by John Madden and produced by Damian Jones.

She’s one of the writers and executive producers on a television adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel Nine Perfect Strangers, starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy, produced by Made-Up Stories, Blossom Films and David E Kelley.

She has several exciting passion projects in development (yet to be announced) through her new company, Picking Scabs, which is a co-venture with See-Saw Films.

Sam has been nominated for seven Australian Writers’ Guild Awards and won three times.