The way forward for the Australian film industry is unclear, but giving up is not an option. When big bureaucracies came for the Kerrigan’s home, they didn’t give up, they fought them. And when Hollywood threatens to take-over the Australian film industry, we shouldn’t give up, either.
Australian’s are bored with films claiming to represent Australian culture, because, in the past, these films have over-simplified and butchered what most Aussies consider to be their national identity. This overwhelming feeling of ‘cultural cringe’ means fewer Australians are seeing Australian-made films, at least at the cinema.
Once a film does well overseas, then Australian audiences become interested in the film, maybe because they trust overseas audiences more than anyone else, especially when limited releases in Australia means even good-quality films bomb at the Box-office.
Maybe that’s the way forward. It is true that “commentators are arguing that the measure of what constitutes a successful film needs to change, that the obsession with box office should be replaced with an assessment of the total audiences who are watching that film across all different platforms over its life,” (Kaufman 2009) and if this simple change was made, then Aussie films would fair a lot better. After all, The Babadook only made $258,000 at the box office in Australia, but around $7.5 million worldwide after it did well at film festivals and in the US. Critically, The Babadook is a success, but looking at box-office takings alone, it’s a flop.
It could also be argued that money needs to be funneled away from international production and back into the Australian industry, but when the international films are more likely to guarantee a financial return, the likelihood of this happening is slim. Roeper and Luckman (2009) argue that co-productions are the way forward for a viable and sustainable future because more creative endeavors are possible when working in a collaborative media environment (p. 15).
Considering Australian audiences don’t particularly want to watch Australian films, even though the government and funding bodies believe that these films are crucial to the creation and longevity of the Australian culture, maybe the way forward is to eliminate the caveat of forcing filmmakers to create ‘Australian culture films’. This would open the door to allowing more genre-specific films to be made in Australia which could potentially compete in a global market.
Allowing independent filmmakers to have access to funding without forcing them to make a ‘significantly Australian film’ could also be a step in the right direction, as “the film industry, like many other key creative industry sectors, has long seen much of its most innovative and ground-breaking work done at an independent, unpaid and/or pro-am level,” (Roeper & Luckman 2009, p. 14).
Removing these restrictions on what constitutes an Australian film, and ditching the phrase ‘Australian film’ altogether, will allow Australian creatives to just make good quality movies that people will want to see, thus encouraging a shift upwards for our film industry. It would stop the cycle of low budgets creating low-quality films about Australia which no audiences want to see.
Instead of ‘giving up’ on the industry, there needs to be a re-evaluation of what works and what doesn’t.
Kaufman, T (2009) “Finding Australian audiences for Australian films” Metro, no. 163, p 6-8
Roeper, J & Luckman, S 2009, ‘Future audiences for Australian stories: Industry responses in a post-Web 2.0 world’, Media International Australia, no. 130.