Co-Productions and Cultural Significance

“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.

REFERENCES:

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. 

 

Advertisements

The TV Genre We Really Love To Hate

The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Idol, Project Runway, Masterchef, Big Brother, Love Island, Survivor, Insert-Country-Here’s Got Talent, The Voice, X Factor, The Real Housewives, Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, Next Top Model, The Biggest Loser, Married at First Sight…

All of these television shows have at least three things in common; they are all reality television programs, which have versions in multiple different international countries, and all have audience engagement through social media.

Reality television is an interesting beast. While there are typically two common agreed upon characteristics of reality TV – non-actors or real people as the main characters playing themselves, in an unscripted format – these are just the basics of what ‘reality television’ is. There is also added elements of narrative format, filmed in situations, as opposed to on a set or with a live audience, and with the primary purpose of entertainment (Glascock & Preston-Schreck 2018, p 428).

It is also one of the most popular television formats; in 2016, reality television made up 50 percent of the top 50 Australian television shows.

Screen Shot 2018-08-25 at 3.47.54 pm
AdNews analysis: The top 50 TV programs of 2016

Why is the genre so popular? And why do so many reality television shows cross borders, getting their own local version of a show created somewhere else?

Firstly, if a show is popular in one, two, or three other countries, it is appealing to international media companies and television producers, as there is a minimal financial risk and a proven track record of it working with at least one, and often multiple, different audiences (Oren & Shahaf 2013).

This is because the themes and content in reality television programs are often uniquely positioned to speak to universal national identities; family, home, love and competition, to name a few.

Also, in 2018, reality television is easy to market and gain traction through the use of social media. “Live tweeting” during airings of shows such as The BachelorMarried at First Sight and My Kitchen Rules, is now almost part of the show itself, and definitely makes up part of the entertainment. For example, the hashtags for the reality shows are often trending on social media on the night the shows are airing, and articles are written in the days following, made up almost exclusively of the funniest tweets from the show that week. This engagement by the audience on the internet is carried over through the creation of memes and gifs.

29025603_1987546951566941_4572483979311054848_n
Meme created from the 2018 season of Married At First Sight Australia

Another contributing factor, and one of the most universal, is the fact that “reality television is a staple in contemporary television and is a site of a considerable amount of aggression enacted by its male and female stars,” (Scharrer & Blackburn 2017) and audiences love watching ‘real people’ engage in drama and have disagreements, conflict and fights on-screen.

tenor
gif via tenor.com

This is evident in the casting choices – there is always a ‘pot-stirrer’ character, or conflicting personalities, no matter the type of reality television show or the country it is set in – and in the tweets sent in by audiences, proving that those watching reality television are there for the fights, controversy, and to passionately rally against or with certain ‘characters’. Whether it is because we love sass, schadenfreude or seeing people fail (or succeed), the fact is, people love to watch ‘real life’ drama, hence, the popularity of reality television.

The proliferation of reality television merging with social media and the internet shows that people in today’s media landscape want to engage with the shows they’re watching in more than one way, and reality television is easier to do this with than other television genres.

REFERENCES:

Glascock, J & Preston-Schreck, C 2018, ‘Verbal Aggression, Race and Sex on Reality TV: Is The Really The Way It Is?’, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, vol 62, no 3, pp 427 – 444, (link).

Oren, T & Shahaf, S 2013, ‘Global Television Formats: Understanding Television Across Borders’, Routledge.

Scharrer, E & Blackburn, G 2017, ‘Is Reality TV a Bad Girls Club? Television Use, Docusoap Reality Television Viewing, and the Cultivation of the Approval of Aggression’, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, vol 95, no 1, pp 235 – 257, (link).

Dear US: Please Stop Recreating Our TV Shows. Sincerely, The World.

Growing up in Australia, a lot of the television shows consumed by myself, particularly dramas and comedies, originated from the United States, who arguably dominated the market.

However, there are some shows created in Australia and the UK which I really enjoyed, one of which being Skins. This show was both funny and dramatic, but above all, accurately showed what it was like to be a teenager. The cast felt real, it was gritty, the language use was that of young people at the time, and it didn’t shy away from showing the glamourous and the not-so-glamorous aspects of being a teenager in love, going to parties, navigating school and relationships and the world at an age when you felt like an adult, but was still very much a child.

It was a very successful show in the UK, and so the US decided to make their own version of it. The pilot was almost shot-for-shot a remake (they also did this with The Inbetweeners, another UK television show about teenagers).

Instead of taking the basic essence of Skins – the realities of navigating being a teenager – and adapting it for an American audience, using US culture and experiences, they just took what was a largely UK experience, watered it down for an MTV audience, and expected it to work.

But they took out the thing which made Skins, Skins. They removed a lot of the partying, sex, drugs, alcohol and swearing. They showed a cleaner version, effectively removing the reality, and therefore the relatability, of the show.

This is the fundamental flaw with a lot of US remakes of other countries television shows, because “transmedia strategy towards television fictions means involvement with the viewers, but also, and maybe most importantly, an engagement which generates a fan phenomenon, or at least the hyping of its possibility. This is especially relevant among teen television fiction and its teen viewers, since they are the kind of audience that uses new technologies and social networks on a regular basis,” (Grandio & Bonaut 2012, p 571). Because the US Skins took the material from the UK version, kept it the same but watered down, they didn’t add anything to the show – in fact, they actively took away one of the key things which made the show popular with fans. They then expected these same UK Skins fans to enjoy the new version.

In today’s digital world, where people all over the world are not restricted to watching shows from their direct locality, this eliminates the need to create a show without adding anything new to it.

While many different transnational television works, sometimes even better than the original – for example, the US The Office is considered superior to the original UK version – they still face the same hurdles in attempting to create something which is respectful of the source material, but that serves the new version as well in order to make something which is quality television.

REFERENCES:

Grandío, M & Bonaut, J 2012, ‘Transmedia audiences and television fiction: A comparative approach between Skins (UK) and El Barco (Spain)’, Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, vol 9, no 2, pp 558 – 574, (link).