Going into a subject focusing on Australian film was an exciting prospect for myself as a film buff who genuinely enjoys most Australian-made films I’ve been exposed to in recent years. While it wasn’t particularly a surprise that a lot of my fellow classmates either avoided or outright didn’t enjoy Australian film, it did make me slightly disheartened – at least enough to tweet about it.
Heartbreaking hearing everyone say Australian films are shit. Seriously, check out Aussie horror film; The Loved Ones, The Babadook, Hounds of Love, Snowtown. Get ’em up ya! #BCM330
— Kassi ‘hell bent feminst she-devil’ Klower ♀ (@kassi_klower) December 4, 2017
Moving outside of the horror genre – which Australian film is excelling in currently – a lot of Australian films are good quality and tell engaging, interesting stories. And, opposed to popular belief, they’re often a far-cry away from the cliche and stereotypical Aussie films people assume they’ll be. The reasons people don’t like (or think they don’t like) and are reluctant to go and see Australian films can be boiled down to two main issues; marketing and distribution, and the audiences themselves.
Because Australian films are not necessarily the problem, but their success is reliant on winning over a reluctant audience and winning against a failing theatrical release strategy,
Time and time again, it’s been shown that the “enthusiasm of Australian audiences for cinema in general has not favoured local production” (Bowles et al 2007). Australian audiences choose to see Hollywood blockbusters in the cinema over Australian made films about Australian stories. For people to want to see an Australian film, it first has to succeed overseas, whether that be though winning at film festivals, or winning favour with overseas critics and audiences first. Then, the film can come back to Australia and audiences here might be more inclined to go and see it.
“This is a trend that continues in Australia — it takes an overseas audience to tell us how good our films are.” – Emma Westwood, film broadcaster, commentator, and author in Junkee.
Those in the entertainment industry wonder if it’s the need and desire of Australian audiences to hear from overseas audiences that a film (US blockbuster or Australian made) is worth seeing before taking the plunge and viewing it which is having such a negative and detrimental impact on our film industry, and whether it’s
“You know what the trick is? Don’t release the film in Australia first. Release it overseas. Take it to overseas festivals. And then, if it gets overseas attention, it will get Australian attention.” – actor Anthony LaPaglia.
It’s almost pointless for an Australian film to attempt to compete against Hollywood blockbusters in the cinema circuit because they just won’t ever win. In 2016, Australian films only took approximately 3.8% of Box office shares, which is higher than previous years but still below Screen Australia’s bar of success of 4.5%.
Even after an Australian film is given an overseas stamp of approval and has the opportunity to be seen by Australian audiences, the way Australian audiences engage with content is changing with technology and media convergence. According to The Guardian, a 2011 Screen Australia survey found nine out of 10 Australians will wait to view an Australian film from home instead of seeing it at the cinema. And not necessarily on DVD.
Another survey found that “between 2006 and 2013, the number of Australians hiring a DVD or Blu Ray in the previous three months fell from 57 to 37%. At the same time, Australians streaming or downloading online video and film, in the four weeks before the survey, rose to 30%,” (Dow 2014), proving that traditional view methods like cinema and DVD are on the decline while streaming and downloading are on the rise.
Re-engaging the Australian audience with homegrown films must be addressed, and it’s not an issue of changing the content of Australian films, but reassessing how they are going to be consumed, and marketing the films accordingly. Maybe the step forward is to stagger an Australian release until after it’s premiered overseas, and then releasing the film not only in cinemas, but through streaming services and on the internet,
Bowles, K, Maltby, R, Verhoeven, D, Walsh, M 2007, ‘More than Ballyhoo?: The Importance of Understanding Film Consumption in Australia’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 152, pp. 96-101, viewed 1 January, <https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=801887957815399;res=IELLCC>
Dow, S 2014, ‘What’s wrong with Australian cinema? Steve Dow, The Guardian, viewed 1 January, <https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/26/australian-film-australian-audiences>