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  • Writer's pictureMade in the West Film Festival

Meet the 2020 festival judges!

Submissions have officially CLOSED and we're now in the final four-week countdown to Made in the West 2020!

Can you believe we are less than a month away from this year’s festival?? Get ready to PARTY at Made in the West like you’ve never partied before (as in, safely distanced, mingling from your luxe leather arm chairs, cocktails in hand and spread out across TWO huge Vmax cinemas!!), because that’s how we roll in 2020.

That’s right, we’re bringing you an entirely new festival experience this year, thanks to our friends at Event Cinemas and some of the best Covid-safe contingency planning you’ve ever seen in your life!

RSVP to our FB event page here so we can keep you in the loop about tickets (opening soon!), the official selection of films and the exciting news we have in store for all our short film movie marathon lovers out there -- HINT: This year we’ll be bringing you more films than ever before!

We have some INCREDIBLE entries this year and if it were left up to us to decide who wins our festival awards, let's face it, we'd never be able to decide! So every year at this time, we think to ourselves: Thank goodness we have our festival judges!

This year we have NINE wonderful creatives whose keen eyes for screen mastery and years of film making experience will combine to help us decide who wins this year’s festival glassware.

The judges’ collective scores determine who will take home our two major crystal trophies - 'Best Student Film' and 'Best in the West' (for indie filmmakers). Plus, their nominations decide our individual category winners - this year there are eight individual awards up for grabs: Best Director, Screenplay, Cinematographer, Editor, Sound Design, Original Score, Actress and Actor.

But remember - the most important judge on the night is YOU!

That’s right, we’re inviting you to join Western Sydney filmmakers on the red carpet from 6.30pm on Saturday 21 November to watch the year’s best short films and awards, then VOTE for who you think should take home the highly coveted Audience Choice Award.

PLUS for the first time this year we have a NEW AWARD, because this year we’re bringing the #WesternSydneyFilm experience to a new, bigger audience! The 2020 People’s Choice Award will be awarded to the film that receives the most votes from our first-ever extended audience screenings, which includes our live in-cinema late night marathon screening and everyone watching the films online one week later.

Entry is FREE and ticket registration opens next week. You might even spot some of our judges there on the red carpet on Saturday 21 November!

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this year's judging panel:


Bryan Brown AM is one of Australia’s most iconic and globally-renowned, AACTA award-winning, Golden Globe and Emmy award nominated theatre, film and television actors. Born in Panania, Bryan’s connection to Western Sydney continues to this day with the Bankstown Theatre named after him and his role as WestWords ambassador. He started New Town Films in 1983 with the simple philosophy: ‘If you own it, they can’t tell you that you can’t be in it’. Bryan was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the AACTA Awards in 2018 and he has most recently appeared in Peter Rabbit, Palm Beach, Halal Gurls, Hungry Ghosts, and Bloom. He has starred in more than 80 films & TV projects, including classic Aussie movies such as The Thorn Birds, Cocktail, Australia Day, and Red Dog - True Blue. He was inducted into the Logie Hall of Fame in 1989 and was named 'Best Actor in a Supporting Role' at the Australian Film Institute (AFI) awards for Breaker Morant and Two Hands (an SSP favourite!). This is Bryan’s first time as a judge with Made in the West and we are super excited to welcome him to our panel!


Maha Wilson is one fifth of the creative team at Bonafide Pictures and she’s a huge supporter of filmmakers from the West. She migrated from Iraq in 1994 and grew up Western Sydney, finding her love for films at a young age making short films with her younger sister using their home video camera. Maha founded The Scene on Screen, hosting masterclasses and a weekly ‘screen jam’ for actors to hone their self-tape and audition skills. Her directorial debut film Damaged, which she also produced, screened at multiple film festivals in 2016. She most recently starred in A Lion Returns, screening at selected cinemas from 4 November. Maha also starred in Matchbox Pictures’ award-winning feature film Ali’s Wedding and Western Sydney-based series On The Ropes. She was an associate producer on Martha the Monster, released in 2019 and starring Rose Byrne. We’re very pleased to welcome Maha to our judging panel for the first time this year!


Julie Kalceff is an award-winning writer, director, and producer who grew up in Western Sydney. A graduate of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, Julie is best known as the creator, writer, director, and producer of the international hit online drama series Starting From Now... and writer, director, and co-producer of children’s television series First Day. Julie is passionate about authentic representation and inclusion, both on screen and behind the camera. Julie’s aim is to tell stories that empower underrepresented audiences and have a positive impact on people’s lives. This is Julie’s second time on our judging panel and we’re very lucky to have her return in 2020!


David Byrne heads up production company The Rusty Cage and has over a decade of experience producing film and television content for global audiences. He grew up in the Blue Mountains and the idea of being a TV producer seemed a world away, but now he creates everything from commercials and promotional material, to documentaries and television series. Currently, he’s working on several documentaries covering topics including domestic violence, history and adventure sport. He also produces the long-running television series The Travel Bug and picturesque My Greek Odyssey, exploring the Greek Islands on a super yacht. We are very proud to welcome David back for his fifth year on our judging panel!


Michael Hamish Budd is an award-winning actor, director and producer, best known for playing Esmael, alongside Henry Cavill and Sigourney Weaver in The Cold Light of Day and playing the Zion Controller in The Matrix Reloaded. He recently directed the feature film Ruby’s Choice, starring Jane Seymour and Jacqueline McKenzie, due for release in 2021. His directorial debut, Love of my Life, starred Logie winner Peter O’Brien and his second feature film Life of the Party, starring Holly Brisley, premiered in cinemas around the country in 2017. He is the owner of production company Amazing People Pictures and his feature film Enter Sanctum was released last year. We’re stoked that Michael could join us again for his fifth year on our judging panel!


Peter Millynn is a freelance screen educator and practitioner with more than 30 years experience in the industry as an actor, writer, musician, recording studio operator, production accountant, production manager and producer. He has also written comedy for both radio and television, and has worked extensively in Music Videos, TVCs, Short Film and Feature Films. Peter’s credits in production include Undressing Vanessa, Kokoda and The Saviour. Peter was employed for 16 years at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in both teaching and senior management roles. Peter has, at AFTRS, AFTT / IFSS and ISA, mentored and overseen the development and production of in excess of 950 student short films including numerous festival winners and 3 Academy Award nominees. This is Peter's third year on our judging panel and we’re lucky to have his keen eye judging this year’s films!


Dr Craig Morgan grew up in Lansvale and went to school in Cabramatta and Fairfield. He is an active Board Member of the Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC). Craig is a regular jury member for the Australian Academy of Cinematic and Television Arts (AACTA), Tropfest, Tropscore and KidzFlickz - and in 2018 was inducted into the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) Academy. Craig holds a Graduate Diploma of Screen Music from Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) – his major project ‘PIG’ was an Official Selection 61st Berlin International Film Festival in 2011. Craig holds a Master of Science (MSc) Research publication from Macquarie University and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from The Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney. This is the third time Craig will bring his expertise to our judging panel and we are very thankful he could join us!


Dr Rachel Bentley is the former CEO of Television Sydney and now the Head of Digital Content at Western Sydney University. She is a documentary film and television producer and her 2015 multi-platform project Cutback features Sydney street artists in conversation with graffiti artists from around the world and her Cutback documentary has screened on SBS. Rachel has always been a strong supporter of Western Sydney filmmakers, offering her time to the festival in numerous ways over the last seven years, and we are delighted to have her on our judging panel again in 2020!


Dr Iqbal Barkat is a digital artist and filmmaker. His artistic practice is based in Western Sydney which is also the home of Filigree Films, the filmmaking company he co-founded. He teaches screen production at Macquarie University and is a proponent and practitioner of community and participatory arts, specialising in works involving a combination of actors and non-actors, often including fictional elements at the intersection of digital media with other art forms. His feature film Mortars explores the unlikely friendship of an elderly woman and a young refugee. This is his seventh time on our judging panel at Made in the West and we are very pleased he could join us!


From the entire team here at Made in the West and everyone involved in this year’s festival, we would like to thank this magnificent panel for generously donating their time and expertise to judge this year’s films. We really appreciate it and we are looking forward to receiving your scores!

And of course, the judging panel’s decision is final – we’ll award two beautiful trophies and eight category prizes to the winners according to their recommendations. But as we said before, that isn’t the end of the story!

The final judge at this year’s Made in the West Film Festival is YOU!

See you on the red carpet Western Sydney!


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