Matt Saville's drama Noise, about a highly unmotivated police officer, and Kriv Stenders' ultra low-budget project Boxing Day, about a man struggling to stay clear of drugs and crime, won the two major feature film prizes at the Australian Directors Guild (ADG) Awards on Saturday in Sydney.

Noise won the most prestigious category of the inaugural awards night -- outstanding achievement in direction - but Boxing Day's prize could end up being of much more value. As winner of the Finders Screening Award, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) will show Boxing Day to US agents and distributors as part of its regular program aimed at helping low-budget independent films secure a US release.

More than 75 films have been part of this DGA initiative since it was introduced in 1998 and about 30% of them have been picked up for a US commercial release after being screened. At the outset only US films took part but films from other countries are now included.

The other films nominated for the Finders Screening Award were Dee McLachlan's The Jammed, Michael James Rowland's Lucky Miles, and Tony Ayres' The Home Song Stories, which last week scored the most Inside Film Award nominations.

Because Stenders was in Manilla shooting a commercial and Boxing Day was shot in South Australia, the chief executive of the South Australian Film Corporation, Richard Harris, accepted the award on the director's behalf. Harris was ADG executive director before Drew McRae took the helm two months ago.

The ADG gave Philip Hearnshaw the career acheivement award for a first assistant director. He last worked on Happy Feet. Chris Noonan, the director of Miss Potter and Babe, presented Philip Hearnshaw with his award.