April 30, 2007

The Industry At Large

So, there's about to be a major shakeup of the way films are funded in Australia. At the moment most films are submitted to respective funding bodies (the major ones being the Australian Film Commission and the Film Finance Corporation (you've probably seen their logos before an Aussie movie you see) as well as a major funding body for each Australian state and territory. There's usually a bit of private investment, although entire films funded this way are rare - Kenny being a perfect example. It was a film about a portaloo plumber and it was funded by Splashdown, a brand of portaloo caterers. It subsequently grossed something like $8 million and Splashdown were mighty happy.

But, as this article at the Sydney Morning Herald discusses (with quotes from high profile Aussie directors such as recent Oscar-winner George Miller (Happy Feet) and Fred Schepisi) the industry and what is going wrong/right and how these new changes could effect it.

I wasn't going to discuss this but just now I read an article that came with my AFI subscription email. It's an interview with Robert Connolly who has won AFI awards for his work on The Bank (which he directed and wrote) and for Rowan Woods' The Boys (Rowan, is now directing Jennifer Hudson, remember) and is producing Richard Roxburgh's upcoming Romulus, My Father with Eric Bana.

He brings up a painfully obvious problem that was also a major focus of the SMH piece, the fact that we (er, the country of Australia) have trouble when it comes to the development stage of films. It's all well and good to give a movie like Suburban Mayhem a nice slice of cash to use, but there was no way in hell that film was going to make any money at the box office without a star or advertising muscle. These funding bodies will give nearly $5mil to The Book of Revelation, an R18+ rated film that grossed pathetic numbers (not really unexpected).

There is the problem with the "bigger stars" debate though. One could argue that Tom Long, Colin Friels, Deborah Mailman and Gretta Scachi (all in Book of Revelation) is quite a bit of starpower for a locally made movie. Of course, it's not like it's up there with Little Fish, which somehow managed to recruit Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, or Candy, which roped in Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush. But then, those two movies were big at the box office (as Aussie films go), but so was Kenny and Ten Canoes and they had nobody that anyone knew (unless you count Canoes' narrator, David Gulpilil). And Little Fish and Candy barely made even a speck-sized scratch on the car that is the US box office, despite having Blanchett and Ledger.

It'll be interesting to see how the industry progresses. Because Australian filmmakers and actors are see as "hot commodities" and because our industry is so small (there's a rumour going around that Cassandra Magrath is working as a waitress. How sad), as soon as they're noticed by someone in America or England they ship on out (I know I would). It's a tricky landmine of a topic because there are so many variables in play. What of the internationally-funded Aussie flicks like Happy Feet or Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! and his upcoming Australia.

It's tricky and it hurts my brain to think about it. I love my country and I occasionally love the films it produces (there are two Aussie films on my 2006 Top 10), but while things look to be on the upstick quality wise, we're not exactly in that national reneissance that we went through in the '90s where in quick succession we produced worldwide hits (and Oscar winners) such as The Adventures of Priscilla, Muriel's Wedding, Strictly Ballroom even The Piano, a joint production between Australia and New Zealand, as well as several others. If anything, it was that period that ruined it for the late '90s/early 2000s because, as I said, all our talent got shipped off overseas including Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Rachel Griffiths, PJ Hogan, Baz Luhrmann, Jane Campion as some of the ones from just that field of four.

Aah, I'm just rambling now. I'm hungry too so I'm gonna go eat.

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