Illawarra filmmakers are counting down the days until February, when they will learn whether their short film has won the Australian equivalent of an Oscar.
Balgownie woman Francisca Braithwaite's film Finding Addison is nominated for Best Short Film at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, the country's premier film awards.
It is one of six nominees shortlisted from over 80 films.
"It's an absolute honour and I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to watch the film and give us their vote," Ms Braithwaite said.
"Just to get to this point is such an incredible achievement and my heart is exploding with joy."
The 29-minute film is about best friends Isabelle and Lucy, who are forced to hide a life-changing secret but 31 years later, that secret comes knocking.
Ms Braithwaite - who wrote, directed, produced and acted in the film - was inspired by a close friend who discovered she was adopted after her grandmother died.
The film is her first major production, which she made under her own company Blue Sparrow Entertainment with the help of Bulli production company TEN ALPHAS FILMS, run by husband-and-wife team Nick Bolton, a producer, and cinematographer Jess Milne.
Ms Braithwaite said Mr Bolton was someone with determination and who she could learn from; then she discovered Ms Milne was a cinematographer, a role she was seeking fill.
"From the very first meeting I knew they were the perfect team to help me bring Finding Addison to life," she said.
"Jess and I were very much on the same page visually and creatively and it has honestly been a dream collaboration between us and an ongoing relationship for future projects that the three of us are working on together."
Mr Bolton said he was interested in the film because he was drawn to human stories.
"I love stories that touch the heart, that people can relate to," he said, adding that Ms Braithwaite's enthusiasm made him believe she was someone worth partnering with.
Finding Addison was made entirely in the Illawarra with a majority local cast and crew, save for some Sydney Film Students.
"We shot around the Balgownie and Berkeley areas of Wollongong and worked with local businesses and hired local cast and crew," Ms Braithwaite said.
"From the start this was something that was really important and high on our list of priorities, we wanted to support the growing screen industry in the Illawarra and will continue to do so for future projects."
Ms Braithwaite and Mr Bolton thanked Marcus Bolton (no relation) and his team at post-production house Cutting Edge, Nic Gody from Panavision, and Faith Martin for the casting.
Mr Bolton said the film was only finished a few months ago, so this early nominated boded well for its submission to film festivals around the world.
He is not only a producer but chair of Screen Illawarra, and hopes the film's nomination will show that there is a community of quality filmmakers in the region, and show those from out-of-town that they don't have to bring a crew: talented people are right here.
"I'm really excited about the future of the Illawarra now," he said.
Mr Bolton spoke of productions like One Night, the Paramount+ series starring Yael Stone which was filmed in the Illawarra, and said others were coming down here.
He and Ms Milne's company TEN ALPHAS has also found success: its film Mate was longlisted for the 2023 Oscars, and became the first Australian film to win Grand Prix Best Film at the Clermont Ferrand film festival in France.
"Having a short film longlisted for the Oscars, and another nominated for an Australian Academy Award, shows that we are on the right path to bigger projects," Ms Milne said.
Ms Braithwaite herself is no stranger to success: her first short film, Seven Stages, received 21 Official Selections at film festivals around the world and collected 14 awards.
Mr Bolton said he, Ms Milne and Ms Braithwaite had over a dozen other projects on their slate, and an AACTA win would help them secure development funding and partnerships.
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