10th Anniversary Heath Ledger Scholarship Finalists Announced

Heath Ledger Scholarship FinalistsAustralians in Film is pleased to announce the finalists of its 10th anniversary Heath Ledger Scholarship (HLS), which this year is being presented by leading Australian winery Bird in Hand.

The non-profit screen foundation, which brings together the Australian and global entertainment industries, is also proud to announce a record number of applications and an increase in applicants from diverse and underrepresented communities in its 10th year.

The finalists are: Aaron Glenane (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Danger Close), Bethany Whitmore (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Girl Asleep), Charmaine Bingwa (Little Sista, upcoming Nekrotronic) Kipan Rothbury (Significant Strangers), Brenna Harding (Puberty Blues, Black Mirror), Ezekiel Simat (High Life, upcoming Lambs of Gods), Shalom Brune-Franklin (Doctor Doctor, Thor: Ragnarok), Nicholas Denton (Glitch), Harvey Zielinski (Starting from… Now) and Gemma Bird Matheson (Neighbours).

The winner will be announced on Thursday 20 September at Los Angeles’ iconic Chateau Marmont, with all ten finalists present courtesy of Qantas. As the scholarship enters its 10th year, the life-changing education and career development program has evolved into providing specialized and unique access and training for gifted artists who otherwise may not be granted this opportunity. The Scholarship is valued at US$30,000.

“The submissions this year have set the bar at a whole new level and our call for diversity has been heard loud and clear, so thank you to all who applied!” said 2018 HLS Ambassador Eka Darville. “We’ve seen so many faces that haven’t submitted before and received a record number of submissions. The unenviable job of picking a winner from our stellar lineup of finalists now rests in the hands of our all-star judges.”

“2018 saw a record number of applicants, and the judges agreed the standard was extremely high,” said Kirsty McGregor, President of the Casting Guild of Australia and HLS10 Judge. “Narrowing it down to just 10 was tricky, but following great deliberation and vigorous discussion, we have shortlisted an incredible lineup of Australian actors who reflect the amazing and diverse talent we have here in Australia.”

“Our industry will only get stronger as we embrace, celebrate and support new talent and ensure the faces we see on our screens reflect our community. The finalists include actors from culturally diverse backgrounds and the LGBTQ community, including the very first transgender finalist. Congratulations all!”

The recipient will join past winners who have gone on to achieve incredible success in their careers. Last year’s winner Mojean Aria is currently starring opposite Rachel Griffiths in the SBS crime thriller Dead Lucky which premieres in the US on Sundance NOW – the very night the new recipient is announced.

Cody Fern, the breakout star of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace and American Horror Story: Apocalypse – will next be seen in House of Cards opposite Robin Wright; Ashleigh Cummings is starring opposite Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman in the highly anticipated Warner Bros/Amazon co-production of The Goldfinch; and Bella Heathcote is the lead in the new Ridley Scott | CBS drama Strange Angel.

A panel of esteemed judges will select the recipient, including Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, Bridesmaids, Two Hands); Academy Award-winning actor, writer and producer Matt Damon (The Martian, The Bourne Identity series, Good Will Hunting); Australian actress and producer Naomi Watts (Birdman, 21 Grams, Mulholland Drive); Australian director Gregor Jordan (Two Hands, Ned Kelly, upcoming Tim Winton’s Dirt Music); U.S. film and TV producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Transformers franchise, Deepwater Horizon, RED); Emmy-nominated director Jeremy Podeswa (The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones); Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki (The Kettering Incident, The Night Manager); and LA-based casting directors Carmen Cuba (Stranger Things, Alien: Covenant, Magic Mike XXL); casting directors Kirsty McGregor (Lion, Top of the Lake), Amanda Mitchell (The Code, Marco Polo), Jason Wood (A&E Networks), Barbara McCarthy (The Kennedys) and Ann Fay, Patron of the HLS.

Established in 2008 in memory of Australian actor Heath Ledger, who served as an ambassador for the organization, the Scholarship is awarded to an actor who exhibits distinctive and unique potential. The prize offers invaluable assistance for a young and emerging Australian actor to kick-start their career, break into Hollywood or train internationally. To date, $280,000 in Scholarship prizes has been awarded to help the winners with career and educational opportunities in the U.S.

Founded in 2001, Australians in Film is a Los Angeles based non-profit screen organization that supports its members with career development and education programs include the prestigious Heath Ledger Scholarship, Mentor LA, Village Roadshow/Animal Logic Entertainment Internship, Greg Coote Fellowship, Gateway LA and The Writers Room.

The winner of the 2018 Heath Ledger Scholarship will be announced on Thursday 20 September. For more information, visit: www.australiansinfilm.org for details.

Image: 2018 Heath Ledger Scholarship Finalists (supplied)