Australia’s film industry is lacking due to little audience interest and a shortage of suitable support. The government does help out, providing some funding to the arts and creative industries however we need a way to utilise this help. Screen Australia was formed which looks after funding and production for Australian content and regularly supports and promotes new projects happening. One of the key focuses is who is watching our stories, as well as what makes them ‘our stories’. Let’s look back over the years of 2000 to 2006. The amount of Australian content averaged 7.5% however the annual domestic share of all box office is a low 3.8% with the minimum of that being 1.2% in 2004 (McKenzie, 2013). This means that we aren’t low on making films but we are low on receiving substantial profit and audience engagement. It seems that government subsidies don’t have much impact on a films financial success, projects that are funded could be beautiful and creative but the whole point of making movies is for people to watch and enjoy them.
One part of Australian film is the idea that there are content restrictions. The fact that we have to have a certain amount of Australian content and to see Australian themes throughout seems a bit restricting. There are positives and negatives. We can ‘preserve’ Australian culture, however we may be limiting some great stories. When you are producing something within Australia it will already have underlying Australian themes without being forced, so having a checklist of what needs to be said or done can be detrimental of what is trying to be achieved. Not every time however will Australian themes come through while filming. Even with ‘a checklist’, it would not automatically make a story that is filmed in Australia, an Australian story, take The Great Gatsby as an example. There seems to be a general opinion that the Australian stories being told are too mundane and lack entertainment value (McKenzie, 2013) in contrast to their international competitors. When we think of the Australian lifestyle and stories we think of a laid back environment and a slower life (compared to the hustle and bustle of New York or any other area). How do we make that ‘riveting’. It definitely is relatable for a lot of us, when we see characters that have similar lives and traits. But we see that in everyday life why would people want to invest, when they can get something that is different for them and also how do we get that content to reach international audiences.
There is a divide on how funding should be distributed within the Australian film and television industry. What stories are good enough to go into production, how much will it make and investment into promoting it. One side is that it contributes to the way Australia is perceived. It is a good thing to support creativity and art. The other side is to make profit. Should projects disregard national integrity to make more profit or can they do both? The industry is a business. People can argue for ‘art’ and to protect it however if a lot of money has been invested into making a film and no one watches it or it doesn’t make any money, from the investors point of view it would be a waste. There needs to be a way that you can support filmmaking and also reap the benefits.
‘People don’t realise you need a lot of business acumen’ –Lori Flekser acting director of film development. As she personally oversees each application she has seen the issues that producers and filmmakers have while trying to fund their projects. To get funding not only does it need to be a good idea, have a good script and writer but the producer should have a good record in getting their type of projects into production with a good team. Too many people don’t have a substantial team and experience to support the project and come in it alone and that’s why they don’t succeed. It’s unusual to have a brilliant idea and craft skills. This could be the reason why Australian projects don’t do so well. I feel like there’s a gap between filmmakers and producers and having well thought out market strategy planning. She also said that Australians don’t know how to network properly. Maybe the problem isn’t filmmakers and producers not knowing business frameworks for making content. Maybe they need to partner with business people as a part of the whole process of getting the film made. This leaves a bit of a balancing act of creativity versus business, however this is how the industry works. Screen Australia has been coming up with alternative release strategies, as there is a big importance on marketing a film and early on as well.
A last note, new technology –digital distribution, has been changing the established business models and revenue streams for Australian content (Screen Australia). There is so much content out there but people are less willing to pay for it. Streaming services such as Netflix (Australia) and Stan have only been coming along in the recent years. Online networks create more opportunities for filmmakers especially lower-budget films, with the internet being a helpful avenue to finance and release projects that might not have had the chance however this brings a whole other level to the distribution of funding and also making profit. The Internet is free but would people want to make a creative and time consuming project for no profit? And how to get people interested in THEIR project with so many others out there and also competing with international content.
McKenzie, J. and Walls, W. (2012). Australian films at the Australian box office: performance, distribution, and subsidies. Journal of Cultural Economics, 37(2), pp.247-269.
Devlin, R. (2015). Tragedy or coming-of-age? Where we’re at with film distribution | Screen News – Screen Australia. [online] Screen Australia. Available at: https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/screen-news/2015/07-30-tragedy-or-coming-of-age-where-were-at-with.
‘Show Me the Money’ article by Monique Hohnberg, interviewing Lori Flekser
Carroll Harris, L. (2016). Film distribution as policy: current standards and alternatives. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 24(2), pp.236-255.
Screen Australia (2015). ISSUES IN FEATURE FILM DISTRIBUTION.