Director Hamish Rothwell was made young film-maker of the year by the Screen Producers and Directors Association of New Zealand (SPADA), on the first evening of their annual conference (November 9).

The title is a vote of confidence for the commercials director's stylish debut feature Stickmen, which will be released in local cinemas in late January.

It is the first NZ film in a decade to earn a UK presale - Universal Pictures International picked it up for Australia and New Zealand, where it is being released through REP, and subsequently for the UK. Several sales were made at Cannes including Fame Pictures' acquisition for Germany and German-speaking Europe.

The NZ$2m film is the fourth in a joint venture between the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), subsidy body NZ On Air, broadcaster TVNZ and UK-based sales agent Portman Entertainment.

The runner up for the award was James Cunningham, director of the computer-generated short film Infection, which premiered in competition at Cannes. The 9-minute film has been seen at over a dozen film festivals and was screened locally with American Psycho and High Fidelity.