“The Australian International Co-Production Program encourages creative exchange between partner countries and the development of screen projects of cultural significance.” Australian Government Department of Communications and the Arts
The Australian film market, however you look at it, has been having issues for years, caught in a cycle of relative success, followed by periods of significant market failure. This ‘boom and bust’ cycle can be attributed to a number of factors, including the fact that Australian films have low production and marketing budgets – they’re made cheaply, and barely advertised – and are considered to be poor investments (Burns & Eltham 2010, p. 111).
But a major issue is also the fact that Australian audiences often do not want to watch Australian stories on the big screen, and global audiences can feel isolated from our culture, or have a warped understanding of what it really is – how often do regular Aussie’s actually say “G’day”? When have you ever heard someone say “throw another shrimp on the barbie? The global image of Australian culture is often a stereotype and caricature which isolates Australian audiences who do not identify with these characters. This leads to another issue.
In order for a movie production to receive funding from the Australian government film funding agency, Screen Australia, it must contain ‘significant Australian content’, whether that be in content, where it was made, nationalities of cast and crew, or ‘any other matters that Screen Australia considers relevant’ (Middlemost 2018). But, considering that Australian’s often don’t want to see significant Aussie content (SAC), forcing Australian film-makers to include it in their movies is almost setting them up for a ‘bust’ outcome. This leaves them with two options; make an Aussie film Australian’s want to see, potentially isolating international audiences and limiting financial gain, or make an Aussie film international audiences will enjoy, filled with stereotypical Australian culture which will isolate Australian audiences.
The way around this is to go down the path of a transnational co-production; a production program which encourages international film producers to film in Australia, and allows for Aussie film-makers to by-pass the ‘SAC’ rule.
Co-productions offer many different advantages; larger audience pools from all countries involved, bigger budgets and crews, as well as the alluring factor of amazing special effects and behind-the-scenes industry. It allows for a film to be ‘Australian’ without being weighed down with ‘Australian-ness’, and are “better set up to attain a global reach compared to a typical Aussie feature that may do well domestically but subsequently has to rethink and drastically rebrand in order to be competitive in foreign markets,” (Bosanquet 2018, p. 120).
Co-productions have no need to include Australian content from a funding perspective and have the potential to grow our film industry without telling Australian stories, but allowing Australian producers, actors, directors, and crew to gain momentum. But it can be argued that the representation of Australian culture, stories and characters are important to our collective consciousness and for protecting our culture.
Co-productions could very well be the way forward for showing modern Australia – a multicultural, complicated country with diverse and contemporary people – to the world, as multiple cultures work on the film and have an impact on the story being told.
Bosanquet, T 2018, ‘Picture Partnership: Co-productions and the Australian Screen Industries’, Metro, no. 185, pp. 120-123
Burns, A & Eltham, B 2010, “Boom and Bust in Australian Screen Policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’”. Media International Australia, no. 136, pp. 103-118.
Middlemost, R 2018, ‘Co-production Treaties: Successes and Gaps’ BCM289 Lecture, Week 5, 2018.