The Stars Come Out For the 2018 Heath Ledger Scholarship
By Lindsey Blick
Pop Entertainment was invited to cover the arrivals at the Heath Ledger Scholarship event at the historic Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. It was a night of gratitude, love, and beautiful memories of a man that inspired many people. Everyone was dressed to the nines as they gathered to walk the red carpet. The night started off with some of the board members of Australians in Film (AIF), followed by past and present judges. Then the finalists, along with some of the VIP guests, gathered for photographs and interviews.
Each year the Australians in Film Heath Ledger Scholarship is awarded to a young upcoming actor or actress who demonstrates exceptional talent, passion for the arts, and commitment to excellence. In addition, it allows emerging Australian talent the opportunity to jump-start their careers and break into Hollywood. Australians in Film is a non-profit organization that is based out of the Los Angeles area. They serve to help open doors for young actors and actresses from the Australian community that are planning on pursuing a career in the film and television industry.
The 10th Anniversary Scholarship Prize includes;
- Two round-trip Qantas economy airfares from Australia to Los Angeles.
- $10,000 towards a living allowance, rent and transport assistance in Los Angeles.
- Group acting classes and personal coaching from Lisa Robertson Studio.
- Movement and Voice classes with Kennedy Brown.
- Dialect coaching with Joy Ellison.
- Group acting classes from Nancy Banks Studio.
- Group acting classes and personal coaching from Jean-Louis Rodrigue and Kristof Konrad at Alexander Techworks.
- Private acting classes from Guru Monteiro.
- Immigration services from Kate Raynor & Associates.
- Reel editing by Top LA editor Darwin Serink.
- Headshot Sessions from Sally Flegg Photography.
- Hair and Makeup styling for headshot sessions by Sophia Lee.
- Gym classes from Training Mate.
- Dinner + Medallion from EP & LP.
- Hair Styling by Hello Darling Salon.
- Lifetime AiF membership, which includes access to the creative workspaces, Charlie’s at Raleigh Studios, including invitations to exclusive AiF Events such as The Australian Oscar and Emmy Nominees Reception.
- General meeting introductions to Hollywood casting directors.
- Mentoring by leading actors working in Hollywood.
Mojean Aria was last year’s recipient of the Heath Ledger Scholarship. Since then has gone on to do some pretty amazing things! When we caught-up with him last night, we asked him how winning had impacted his life.
“Changed my life,” Aria said with confidence. “I have since then gotten an agent, which I didn’t have before and have an incredible team. I am also currently working on a series and my first film.” In addition, he spoke about how he has gotten very close to the Ledger family and has been able to spend quite a bit of time with them.
We then asked Aria who he thought was going to win this year, in which he promptly said, “I don’t know. I really have no idea. I don’t want to ask because I am so nervous for them. But there are a couple finalists that I know are incredible, I’ve seen their work and they are really good! I love Charmaine Bingwa. She reminds me of a young Viola Davis. Aaron Glenane has been doing this a long time. He can do comedy and drama better than a lot of people I know.”
When asked what he thought Heath Ledger’s legacy was he said, “To explore the depths of human curiosity and expression.”
Emotions ran high in all the finalists, as just being there was such a huge honor. Here is what a few of them had to say.
“I get teary eyed every time I talk about Heath,” said finalist Aaron Glenane. “His generosity and his spirit are two things that I really admire.”
“I think his legacy was helping people, he was all about helping his fellow Australians move to America,” agreed Bethany Whitmore.
“It’s such a huge honor to be here tonight, it’s amazing to be in some small way associated with Heath,” explained Harvey Zielinski.
While finalist Ezekiel Simat said, “I love Heath so much, it would be amazing to be connected to him and the Ledger family, as their generosity is on another level.”
Even actress Abbie Cornish – who co-starred in the film Candy alongside Ledger – said, “Working with Heath was one of the best experiences of my life. He was such an incredible human and an incredible actor. He was very free, spontaneous, loving, and generous. What an amazing career he had.”
And the 2018 winner is…
Charmaine Bingwa! The Australian/Zimbabwean actress is not only the winner of the 10th Annual Heath Ledger Scholarship, but the first woman of color/openly gay woman to be honored with this prestigious award.
Bingwa, has also been honored with the Sydney Theatre Awards and Broadway World nominations for Best Supporting Actress in 2017. Most recently, she has starred in the film Nekrotronic (2018) alongside Monica Bellucci. In addition, she starred, wrote, produced, and directed the series Little Sista (2018) which won Best Screenplay at the LGBT Toronto Film Festival. She also recently starred in the Australian feature film The Pitch, and three short films – “Boys Will Be Boys”, “Can You Dig It” and “Waiting for God.” She also wrote the German-Australian short film “Stille Nacht”.
In addition to her career-making turn in Doubt: A Parable, last year alone she graced theatre stages 79 times in five different productions in some of Australia’s most celebrated venues. These included Mame at Hayes Theatre (dir: Richard Carroll), American Beauty Shop at KXT Bakehouse (dir: Anna McGrath), Birdland at New Theatre and (dir: Anthony Skuse), The Seagull in the iconic role of Masha at The Depot Theatre (dir: Anthony Skus).
Bingwa can also sing and play the guitar. She has performed with international artists such as Demi Lovato, Rachel Platten and Fifth Harmony on their tours in Australia.
She has studied improv at Upright Citizens Brigade (completed 101, 201, 301, 401), has studied at the Atlantic Acting School in New York and holds a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Commerce.
When we met up with Charmaine on the carpet she was incredibly humble, beautiful and absolutely delightful.
“It would mean so much to win, just to be associated with Heath and his legacy would be a huge thing,” said Bingwa on the red carpet. “It would mean for me a chance for other voices to get out there and be heard. It’s hard for females. It’s hard for gay people, women of color; I feel like I embody all three of those things. So, I think it would be great to get out there and represent all of those people because everyone likes to be heard and no one likes to feel invisible.”
Charmaine was radiating when she arrived last night, wearing a beautiful bright green dress, “I thought I would add a pop of color,” she said with a smile. She was very sweet, and genuinely honored to be there. When asked what she thought Ledger’s legacy was she said, “To change people with your spirit. He was such a spirited man. That goes to show how far that contagious spirit can get you and the huge impact it can have on people.”
It was without a doubt an unforgettable evening for everyone involved. Many VIP guests came out to show their support for this magnificent cause. Names such as Max Greenfield (New Girl), Liv Hewson (Santa Clarita Diet), Tom Cocquerel (Table 19), Gia Carides (Big Little Lies), Damon Herriman (Once Upon A Time in Hollywood), Louis Hunter (The Fosters), Abbie Cornish (Candy), and Jonny Pasvolsky (Westworld)… just to name some. And of course, Heath’s father Kim, mother Sally Bell, and sister Kate Ledger were all present.
This year’s HLS judges consisted of Carmen Cuba (Casting Director of Stranger Things), Jeremy Podeswa (Emmy-nominated director of Handmaid’s Tale & Game of Thrones), and Lorenzo di Bonaventura (Producer of The Meg and Transformers Franchise).
We were able to talk to last year’s judge Kimberly Peirce, who is a director known best for the feature film Boys Don’t Cry, which won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Hillary Swank. When we spoke with Pierce we asked her what as a judge she looked for when picking the finalists?
“What was great about being a judge was being able to clear my head and watch the tapes and be as open as possible,” Pierce replied. “At first, you’re always scared that you won’t see it. Then suddenly these people come on screen and they are beautiful, brilliant, charismatic, and well trained. They just capture your heart and tell you a story”.
Then we asked her what specific qualities she looks for in the finalists. Pierce answered, “To me it’s a level of honesty. But not a rigid honesty, it’s an honesty that has humor, it has charisma, that is constantly changing, brings me in one way and moves me another way.”
It’s clear after talking to Kimberly Pierce that personality and heart go a long way with the judges when it comes to selecting finalist each year. You could definitely tell that each and every one of the finalists that were selected this year had something special about them or were very unique in one way or another. I can honestly say that all of the finalists seemed to be incredibly talented and beautiful human beings; we will definitely be seeing more of all of them in the near future.
This life changing scholarship is worth over $30,000 which covers the cost of living expenses in Los Angeles, Qantas airfares, acting classes and mentoring sessions. To date, $280,000 in Scholarship prizes has been awarded to help the winners with career and educational opportunities in the U.S.
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 25, 2018.
Click on thumbnails to see more pictures from the red carpet!
Photos by Ashley Foster © 2018