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Local documentary wins US award

FREMANTLE-based Prospero Productions has won the Golden Spire for Television (Current Events) award at the 2000 San Francisco Inter-national Film Festival for its one-hour documentary Paying for the Piper.

The deeply moving film centres on the 1998 Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, which killed 167 men. It was the world’s worst off-shore disaster and only 62 men survived.

Prospero Productions is headed by Ed Punchard, a survivor of the disaster who, ten years later, decided to examine the issue through film.

Critical acclaim is not new to Prospero Productions. Paying for the Piper was nominated for many awards including the Australian Film Institute Awards, Royal Television Society Awards, and the Sydney Film Festival (Dendy Awards). It also received an honorary mention at the 1999 Toulon International Maritime Film Festival in France.

Established in 1991, the company’s productions have ranged from historical dramatised documentaries to personal journeys, natural history and popular ‘fly-on-the-wall’ series such as the highly successful Diving School, which was a top-rating show on the Discovery Europe channel.

This unique observational-style show followed the trials and tribulations of ten students on one of the world’s toughest training courses at a commercial diving school on the rugged south west coast of England. Thanks to some lively personalities, viewers were treated to high drama and occasional hilarity as the students attempted to work as a team to survive.

Speaking from Coogee Beach at the end of another 15 week shooting schedule, Mr Punchard said partner and director Julia Redwood was to be thanked for Diving School’s unaffected performances, possessing the ideal skills for putting people at ease.

Prospero is in a constant stream of developing projects. While one film is being shot, another is being pitched. In the past two years, it has released a wildlife film in the Malaysian rainforest called Hutan and a one-hour film called Home of the Blizzard about the restoration of Sir Douglas Mawson’s huts in Antarctica. It is currently close to getting funding for a documentary on the maritime museums of Australia, Shipwreck Detectives.

The project they have just finished shooting is a documentary about the ways in which the tourism industry affects national identity and moulds perceptions of Australia overseas.

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