Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jan Sardi recognised as part of Queen’s Birthday Honours

07 June, 2020

Jan Sardi and Mac Gudgeon

Jan Sardi (left) and Mac Gudgeon (right) on the set of Ground Zero 1987. Photo by Greg Noakes.

Oscar-nominated screenwriter and former Australian Writers’ Guild President Jan Sardi has been recognised for his distinguished service to the film and television industries as a screenwriter and director, and to professional guilds, awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours announced today. 

One of Australia’s most distinguished and highly regarded writers, Sardi’s work has entertained, moved and inspired audiences worldwide, with credits including The Notebook, Mao’s Last Dancer and Love’s Brother. In 1997, his feature screenplay Shine earned him an Academy Award nomination alongside BAFTA, Writers’ Guild of America and Golden Globe nominations. 

He has frequently worked alongside friend and fellow screenwriter Mac Gudgeon, collaborating on Ground Zero in 1987 and the award-winning adaptation of The Secret River in 2015, and advocating on behalf of writers while serving together on the National Executive Council of the Australian Writers’ Guild over many years.     

Commenting on the Award, Gudgeon said ‘It’s a richly deserved honour. Not only because Jan’s a bloody good writer, but because it’s recognition of his selfless service, generosity of spirit, and courage and persistence in fighting for performance writers’ creative rights and remuneration for over 40 years. And the timing couldn’t be more ironic given Jan's passionate advocacy for what's unique about Australian culture, while the Federal Government, the so-called custodians of that culture, are prevaricating over whether to insist that the likes of Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV and Amazon Prime should be obligated to make some original Australian stories for our screens.’

A stalwart of the Guild for over 40 years, Sardi is an ardent defender of writers’ rights. He has served on the AWG’s Victorian State Committee and National Executive Council for multiple terms, and in 2011 was elected by his peers to be President of the Australian Writers’ Guild, a role he served with fortitude and integrity until 2018. As President, he led the Guild on numerous campaigns championing the importance of protecting and rewarding creators, including copyright modernisation, Australian content control and the ongoing Make It Australian campaign.

‘Jan is a man of extraordinary talent and enormous generosity,’ said AWG CEO Jacqueline Elaine. ‘His passion for, and commitment to Australian storytelling and its crucial role in shaping, reflecting and inspiring our society truly sets him apart as an exceptional Australian.’

‘As President of the Australian Writers’ Guild, he led our organisation with courage, vision and tenacity, volunteering countless hours in pursuit of a vibrant, thriving industry, which supports, celebrates and rewards talented screen and stage writers and their work. Very few can match Jan’s decades of tireless behind the scenes work, and even fewer his integrity and graciousness, particularly rare in one so talented and acclaimed.’

Current AWG President Shane Brennan said writers everywhere would be delighted to hear that Sardi has been recognised with an Australian Honour for his outstanding contribution to our culture.

‘There is no greater champion for our industry and no finer friend to writers than Jan Sardi. His brilliant career as a writer and his unstinting service to the Australian Writers’ Guild has been an inspiration, not just to screenwriters but to the wider film and television industry. Jan’s writing has brought him worldwide recognition and has shone a spotlight on Australian storytelling that has benefited us all. It’s wonderful that Jan’s achievements are being recognised with this Australian honour,’ said Mr Brennan. 

Sardi is a member of both the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA). He is currently Chair of the Australian Writers’ Guild’s Authorship Collecting Society (AWGACS), where he continues to fight for fair and ongoing remuneration for the use of screenwriters’ work in both domestic and international policy and practice, and is a founding board member of the philanthropically funded script development organisation Scripted Ink. He has previously served on the Board of Film Victoria.

For the full Queen’s Birthday Honours List, see here.