Byron Kennedy Award - Sarah Watt

Byron Kennedy Award

The Byron Kennedy Award celebrates outstanding creative enterprise within the film and television industries and is given to an individual or organisation whose work embodies innovation and the relentless pursuit of excellence. Presented by Kennedy Miller Mitchell, in association with AACTA, this Award includes a cash prize of $10,000. The recipient is selected by an appointed jury annually.

Sarah Ann Watt - 30 August 1958 – 4 November 2011

Sarah Watt's first feature film, Look Both Ways in 2005, introduced her unique talent to a wide audience. With a skillful mix of animation and live action, the film depicted grown-up emotions and surprising humour; a touching story of six entwined characters dealing with states of grief and fear, starring Justine Clarke and William McInnes. Winning numerous accolades, including AFI Awards for Best Film, Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, Look Both Ways also won the Discovery Award at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

Although Look Both Ways was a breakthrough work, Sarah Watt was already well established as an internationally recognised artist and animator, and one of Australia's most talented short filmmakers. Born in Sydney in 1958, she studied fine art, majoring in painting and photography at Phillip Institute, and later completed a Graduate Diploma of Film and Television (Animation) at the Swinburne School of Film and Television in Melbourne.

Sarah's early short films in the 1990s, developed the fluid, painterly style and intimately personal preoccupations that would feature in her later works. Her 15-minute short animation Small Treasures in 1995, based on her own experiences of losing her first child, won the Baby Lion for Best Short Film at the Venice Film Festival. Other acclaimed animations followed, including Local Dive, The Way of the Birds and Living With Happiness – which won the AFI Award for Best Short Animation in 2002. These vibrantly colourful hand-painted animations were deceptively simple; featuring a female narrator with an unassuming Australian accent, detailing her personal experiences, fears and joys – with great dollops of self-deprecating humour. A love of nature, particularly the wonders of the ocean and the sky, and the creatures inhabiting them, recur in many of Sarah's works, from her films to her paintings, photographs and written works - a reverence and respect for small and seemingly ordinary moments and objects.

Sarah's second feature film, My Year Without Sex in 2009, was a portrait of Australian family life, with all its mundanity and chaos made precious by a brush with mortality – a theme close to her heart.

Despite a busy family life and advancing illness, Sarah continued to work on many scripts, paintings and projects up until her death in November 2011, including writing a book with husband, actor William McInnes, Worse Things Happen At Sea, documenting their lives together with their two children Clem and Stella; and making and exhibiting her photographed drawings on canvas. Irrepressibly creative, generous and honest, Sarah was loved by many, and her work continues to impress and delight.