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Winner announced for AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes

26 March

Emerging creative Katie Huggins has been announced as this year’s recipient of development support via the AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes initiative, for her feature film pitch THE DEB. In partnership with Screenworks, and with support from the AWG, the initiative is in its second year and aims to foster films that explore and celebrate the idiosyncrasy of regional Australia.

Katie was interviewed today at the Screenworks Regional to Global Screen Forum in Lennox Head, where she spoke about her experience. “I saw the brief on Facebook and having come from regional NSW, I was compelled to do it. My process changed so dramatically from seeing that ad- I started out I talking through what I thought would be edgy, cool ideas and tried to think of an “Australian” story. My original idea was so far from The Deb, I set it in Lightning Ridge where I had never even been, but the story didn’t resonate and I struggled to wrangle it. And it was only when I thought of where I was from in Tamworth and my own experience that the characters came and the story was so much more effortless. I wrote the story to what Australia is to me and it couldn’t have been set anywhere else.”

“I think that’s really exciting to hear,” responded Mark Woods “It’s not something that you pulled out of the bottom draw. AACTA came up with this thing that inspired you to write something, it’s like AACTA commissioned it in a sort of way…this initiative is really interesting because it’s giving impetus to create something for a need which is really unusual for feature film.”

THE DEB is about a teen boy in a small, rural town, who wants to take part in the town's Debutant Ball - as his Drag Queen persona. A comedy-drama celebration of Australian diversity set against the lush backdrop of New England, THE DEB explores a town’s response to a boy's search for identity and recognition. One of seven finalists, Katie pitched her idea to a judging panel of industry luminaries that included actress Pallavi Sharda (TOM AND JERRY, LION), producers Virginia Whitwell (2040, NITRAM) and Isabel Stanfield (BREATH, JUNE AGAIN), Event Cinemas General Manager Claire Gandy and MIFF Industry Director Mark Woods.

“THE DEB presents a wonderful opportunity to explore the many angles to identity and the journey to discovering your true self. It is a thoughtful treatment but also a fun one that celebrates love and acceptance and we’re confident that with the support on offer, Katie will take the project to the next level and find the right collaborators to bring this heartening story to life” said Ivan Vukusic, AACTA Awards and Industry Development Manager.

Katie will receive professional script development sessions with highly experienced development executive and Senior Screenwriting lecturer at AFTRS, Kate Stone, invaluable feedback and mentorship from the esteemed judging panel , profiling and industry opportunities through the Australian Writers’ Guild Pathways program, complimentary flights and accommodation along with a three-day pass to all sessions at the Screenworks 2021 Regional to Global Screen Forum in Lennox Head, AACTA annual membership, Screenworks annual membership, Australian Writers’ Guild annual membership and two tickets to the 2021 AACTA Awards presented by Foxtel Ceremony and After Party. 

"The standard of submissions for the AACTA Pitch this year was incredibly high and encompassed a huge range of diversity in terms of regional representation both on and off-screen. Encouraging and supporting stories that showcase regional Australia is really important to us at Screenworks, and we're so pleased that we'll be able to support Katie in the further development of her film through the benefits she will receive as a Screenworks Member and delegate at the three-day Regional To Global Screen Forum." said Screenworks CEO Ken Crouch.

Launched in 2018, AACTA Pitch has grown into one of Australia's premier talent and content initiatives, linking industry to emerging creatives and fast tracking the development of new productions and careers. Across web series, TV Drama, short film and feature film, AACTA Pitch has collaborated with organisations such as car brand MINI, the Australian Writer's Guild and Screenworks to shine a light on a host of new voices, leading to production and meaningful development and marketplace interest. AACTA wishes to congratulate all of the finalists who were considered for this year’s AACTA Pitch: Regional Landscapes. All finalists will continue to receive support from AACTA. Their unique concepts have been included below.


  • THE ALIEN ABDUCTION OF EMILY HILL (set in fictional town of Yabby Flats) | Michelle Brasier and Sam Lingham
    When Emily’s boyfriend, mid-proposal, is abducted by a beam from the sky, she finds herself sucked into her own bright spotlight.
  • BLACKOUT (set in Alice Springs, NT) | Leslie Simpson
    When the power cuts out in Alice Springs, the remote Outback town plummets toward anarchy. In a desperate bid to stay alive, a small group of ordinary citizens establish a safe haven inside Bunnings Warehouse.
  • COXY’S FUNLAND (set in South Coast, NSW) | Penny Greenhalgh and Jon Rex Williams
    Trapped in a run-down family fun park on the south coast, an over-protected 9-year-old boy must survive the deadly attractions and escape the unhinged owner in order to save his parents.
  • THE DEB (set in New England, NSW) | Katie Huggins
    A teen boy in a small, rural town, wants to take part in the town's Debutant Ball - as his Drag Queen persona. The town is left reeling in the wake of one boy's search for true identity.
  • LIVING COUNTRY (set in Gunnedah, NSW) | Norah Masige
    A 15-year-old Ugandan girl and her family move to a town in Country New South Wales as Australia is on the brink of a severe drought.
  • NEVER THE BRIDE (set in Byron Shire, NSW) | Sunny Grace
    A commitment phobic marriage planner in Byron Bay has her life turned upside down when she discovers she is in the middle of planning the wedding for her ex, whom she believes was the love of her life.
  • OFF GRID (set in Huon Valley, TAS) | Jenny Wynter
    After being conned out of her entire life savings, a pregnant single mother is forced to live the off-grid lifestyle in rural Tasmania with her hippy ex-father-and-brother-in-law.


  • Claire Gandy: General Manager for Event Cinemas 
  • Pallavi Sharda: Actor and writer known forLION, RETROGRADE and LES NORTON
  • Isabel Stanfield: See Pictures producer known for LONG STORY SHORT and BREATH
  • Virginia Whitwell: Head of Production at GoodThing Productions known for THE AUSTRALIAN DREAM, 2040 and ALL FOR ONE
  • Mark Woods: Industry Director for Melbourne International Film Festival known for H ISFOR HAPPINESS, BRAN NUE DAE and THE TURNING


The AACTA Awards are supported by the New South Wales Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.


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For further information about AFI | AACTA visit:

For further enquiries about AACTA Pitch and Industry Development at AACTA:

Ivan Vukusic – Awards and Industry Development Manager | P: 0488 070 090 | E:


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