4 December 2023

Documentary on Canberra's teen parents earns director national award nomination

| Claire Sams
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Three people shooting a documentary

Filmmaker Patrick Abboud has received a prestigious nomination for his documentary on a unique Canberra school. Photo: Supplied.

Anyone raising a child knows that parenting is a juggling act – and if you’re studying as well, that comes with extra challenges.

Director, journalist and writer Patrick Abboud sat down with some students at Canberra College in Phillip to learn about their firsthand experiences for his documentary Kids Raising Kids.

The school runs a program whereby young parents can continue their education with specialised support.

“I’m always looking for stories that are on the periphery, that aren’t in the news cycle, that aren’t in this sort of mainstream zeitgeist,” Abboud said.

“That is often found in communities of people that are misjudged or overlooked – and there’s a lot of assumptions made about teenage parents.”

Abboud spent months with the students and staff to make the one-hour film.

“I went to the school every few weeks for almost a year to get to know the kids,” he said.

“I was just listening to them talk in the corridors between classes.

“For observational documentaries, you have to do that time-intensive process so you can begin to understand a story and its nuances.”

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While the film was released in 2022, Abboud was recently nominated in the Australian Directors’ Guild’s (ADG) annual awards in the Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Documentary Series Episode or Documentary One-Off category.

The ADG is an industry body representing directors from across the country working in film, television, streaming and digital media.

Being recognised by his peers in the country-wide awards was “very humbling”, Abboud said.

“It’s a vote of confidence and makes you think to yourself, ‘Maybe I’m doing something right’,” he said.

“When people at the top of their game – and these are some of the best directors in the country – are on the panel reviewing hundreds of films, and they choose you, it is a pretty incredible feeling.”

ADG executive director Sophie Harper said the awards meant far more than a pat on the back.

“These awards are a true recognition of directing as a craft and art form,” she said.

“The judges are directors who understand what screen directing is made up of – and the different elements of it – and they are recognising excellence in that.”

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This year’s awards had 329 entries across 20 categories, whittled down to a final list of 100 nominees as judged by fellow directors.

“These are my first awards as executive director and it is an absolute privilege to be able to work closely with these judges, the nominees and the presenters of the awards,” Ms Harper said.

“These are people that I greatly admire and respect.

“To be able to bring them all together to celebrate the best of Australian film directing is incredibly exciting.”

The winners will be announced at a gala event in early December, which is open to directors and documentary lovers in the wider community.

For Ms Harper, supporting and recognising talent from various communities is key for a strong arts industry – and this includes stories from the ACT.

“I feel it is really crucial that there’s a range of voices and perspectives that have the opportunity to create work on screen that reflects the incredible diversity of Australia,” she said.

“For me, that absolutely includes the people of Canberra – there are so many stories there.”

Kids Raising Kids was supported by Screen Canberra, Screen NSW, Screen Australia and SBS.

The ADG awards will be held tonight (5 December) in Sydney. Tickets can be purchased online.

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