It’s time to give up on ‘significant Australian content,’ but not Australian content itself

Seven weeks ago, if you’d asked me what I thought about Australian content, I would have explained that I’d avoid watching it at all costs due to the cultural cringe factor. In fact, you can see just how uneducated I was by reading my first blog post! During this session, I’ve managed to overcome my generally uninformed prejudices about local content and instead have come to understand that Australian content itself is generally pretty darn good, it just exists within an industry which is deeply flawed.

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Basically how I envisioned all Australian films (Atomjack 2014)

Throughout the semester, we discussed Australian content in a ‘culture VS capital’ fashion. Does our film industry continue to produce content as an art form that is of cultural significance, or do we just focus on making films that entertain? Clearly, the way in which we have been producing the majority of films is not working as well as it could. Australian filmmakers have their creative freedom stifled by the Significant Australian Content (SAC) test administered by funding body Screen Australia. Although the SAC test is quite vague in its nature (see below list), filmmakers must ensure that they explicitly meet its criteria to receive funding.

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Significant Australian Content criteria which must be addressed to receive funding from Screen Australia (2016)

Ultimately, the creative constraints inherent in the SAC test have resulted in a branding problem for Australian content (Hoerlein, quoted in Kaufman 2009). Audiences typically envision Australian content to be depressing, laden with cultural cringe or just too difficult to access (Buckmaster 2014, quoted in Verhoeven et al. 2015). Clearly, Screen Australia has lost touch with the fact that the vast majority of audiences just want to be entertained. Looking back on the glory days of the 10BA tax concession, the creative freedom afforded to filmmakers resulted in films that have not only become classics, but above all else, audiences actually wanted to see. Whilst I am definitely not advocating for another filmic free-for-all, removing the SAC test could have the potential to reinvigorate our sluggish industry and encourage more creativity – and let’s face it, our wonderful culture almost always shines through in film, whether this is a conscious decision from the producer or not.

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The Babadook was an excellent Australian film, without needing to end every sentence with the word ‘mate’ or include a gratuitous shot of the outback (2014)

Another key issue that is preventing Australian film from attracting an audience is its poor distribution. Methods of film distribution are changing “technically, temporally and spatially” and smaller film markets like Australia are particularly prone to being affected by these changes (Verhoeven et al. 2015, p. 8). Digital media and video sharing and streaming websites have fundamentally changed the way in which audiences consume content, and unfortunately the Australian film industry is still unsure how to react to these changes (de Roeper & Luckman 2009). If cinemas are not willing to show Australian films, then we need to consider an alternative method of distribution. Online streaming services such as Netflix and Stan have expressed their desire to include more Australian content in their listings, therefore these platforms would be ideal locations to release Australian content (Goldsmith 2015).

It is clear that we should not give up on Australian content. We produce excellent films and television series – we just need an industry that is not so hell-bent on overemphasising the ‘Australianess’ of content. If our film industry can finally pull its head out of the sand and see that its actions are doing little to develop the industry into something bigger, maybe then we will start to see an improvement.

 

Reference List

Atomjack 2014, Australian stereotypes, image, imgfave, viewed 24 January 2018, <http://imgfave.com/view/2431682&gt;

The Babadook movie poster 2014, image, n3rdabl3, viewed 24 January 2018, <https://www.n3rdabl3.com/2014/09/babadook-gets-creepy-new-poster/&gt;

de Roper, J & Luckman, S 2009, ‘Future audiences for Australian stories: industry responses in a post-web 2.0 world’, Media International Australia, no. 130, pp. 5-16.

Goldsmith, B 2015, ‘What do Netflix, Stan and Presto mean for Australian TV?’, The Conversation, 2 April, viewed 24 January 2018, <https://eprints.qut.edu.au/83104/3/83104a.pdf&gt;

Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8.

Screen Australia 2016, Significant Australian content funding criteria, image, Screen Australia, viewed 24 January 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/funding-and-support/producer-offset/guidelines/eligibility/significant-australian-content&gt;

Verhoeven, D, Davidson, A & Coate, B 2015, ‘Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 7-20.

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Binge-watching is the new sit-down entertainment, but is this good for Australian content?

It is 2:45am. My eyes are bloodshot, I think I can smell colours and I’m pretty sure the flickering light from my computer screen is bothering the hell out of my cat. I have just finished watching the season finale of HBO’s hit series House of Cards on Netflix. Feeling a little guilty that I’ve abandoned my family for my own personal entertainment, I remind myself that my (unhealthy) viewing habits are perfectly ‘normal’ and that pretty much everyone else is watching programs the same way as I am.

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What a silly question, of course I’m still watching (Atlas 2016)

Increased access to technology and significantly improved Internet speeds have given audiences the freedom to watch whatever content they want online, whenever it suits them and in any location. Approximately 50% of all Internet users are watching content online (Screen Australia 2014) and the increasingly diverse number of streaming services (both legal and illegal) will undeniably supply an increasingly diverse library of global content. When one considers the ease and affordability of access to an almost endless (and add-less) array of content from all corners of the globe, it is easy to see why we tend to overlook Australian content.

As I have discussed in a previous blog, a key issue affecting the popularity of Australian content is its lack of accessibility. According to Aveyard (2010) the disappointing commercial performance of Australian films is due to their lack of advertising and poor distribution – how are audiences meant to watch an Australian film if they don’t even know it exists? Combine this with the fact that actually attending the cinema in Australia is abhorrently expensive (ticket prices are almost double that of New Zealand and the UK) (McCan 2016) and it’s clear that we not really setting Australian films up for success. The below graph from Screen Australia (2016) shows the Australian cinema industry’s ticket prices from 1976 – 2016.

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 “The average Australian ticket price has risen 31 per cent over the past ten years, and is up from $10.57 in 2007 to $13.80 in 2016” (Screen Australia 2016)

Although Australians’ viewing habits suggest that we are favouring cultural diversity over our own local content, this may not necessarily be the case. According to Olsberg SPI’s report commissioned by Screen Australia (2016, p. 1) 33% Australians surveyed in their report (available here) said that they were more likely to watch a program if it was Australian. This finding suggests that Australian’s are not just snubbing Australian content, but accessing it is simply too difficult. Why would I rearrange my entire life to watch Home and Away at 7:30pm on a Tuesday and endure the seemingly endless advertisements, when I could simply watch an advertisement-free stream of another soap opera online whenever I felt like it?

Interestingly, representatives from the federal Department of Communications have discussed the possibility of imposing an Australian content quota on streaming services such as Netflix and Stan (Quinn 2017). This quota currently exists for Australian television commercial free-to-air licences to broadcast an annual minimum of 55% Australia programming (Australian Communications and Media Authority 2017). As Australian audiences increasingly migrate away from sit-down television to online streaming services, it is clear that Australian content needs to be added to Video on Demand services as our content consumption patterns have fundamentally changed.

All I know is that if I can binge quality Australian content like Kath and Kim for an affordable price and avoid advertisements, it would be pretty darn noice.

 

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Kath and Kim (Lyall 2017)

 

Reference List

Atlas, B 2016, Are you still watching?, image, Netflix culture: the effects of Netflix on society, viewed 19 January 2018, <http://scalar.usc.edu/works/netflix-culture/binge-watching&gt;

Australian Communications and Media Authority 2017, Australian TV content, Industry ACMA, viewed 19 January 2018, <https://www.acma.gov.au/Industry/Broadcast/Television/Australian-content/australian-content-television&gt;

Aveyard, K 2011 ‘Australian films at the cinema: rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition’, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, no. 138, pp. 36-45.

McCan, J 2016, ‘Opinion: Going to the movies these days is an absolute rip-off’, News.com.au, 20 December, viewed 18 January 2018, <http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/new-movies/opinion-going-to-the-movies-these-days-is-an-absolute-ripoff/news-story/212f88b58c5e4eba6f777f140c9a9c4f&gt;

Lyall, A 2017, Kath and Kim, image, Lifestyle, viewed 19 January 2018, < http://www.kidspot.com.au/lifestyle/entertainment/books-tv-and-movies/flashback-friday-10-kath-and-kim-phrases-that-changed-our-lives/news-story/d005e6672c9aa8b837e7a2212c11ff4a&gt;

Olsberg SPI 2016, Measuring the cultural value of Australia’s screen sector, Screen Australia, viewed 18 January 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/1dce395e-a482-42d1-b5a9-47bb6307f868/Screen-Currency-Olsberg-SPI-Nov2016.pdf&gt;

Quinn, K 2017, ‘Netflix may be forced to make more Australian shows’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June, viewed 18 January 2018, <http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/netflix-may-be-forced-to-make-more-australian-shows-20170616-gwssdi.html&gt;

Screen Australia 2016, Australian cinema industry’s ticket prices from 1976 – 2016, graph, Screen Australia, viewed 19 January 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/cinema/industry-trends/box-office/ticket-prices&gt;

 Screen Australia 2014, Online and on demand infographic, image, Screen Australia, viewed 19 January 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/infographics/australian-audiences-are-watching-online&gt;

 

Foreign Investment: A Saviour for the Australian Film Industry

Imagine studying something you were passionate about for at least three years of your life, only to get to the end of your degree to find out that jobs in your field were not just hard to find, but completely non-existent. It would be crushing to know that all of your hard work and dedication was simply misplaced in an Australian context. This is just one of the many reasons why Australian jobs in the film industry are more important than emphasising Australian culture in film.

Compared to Hollywood, Australia’s film industry is already quite small. In 2016 the gross box office earnings for Hollywood was $11,370,993,021 (Statista 2016), whereas Australia’s earnings were a meagre $1,259,300 (Screen Australia 2016). Whilst the respective industries are vastly different in terms of funding and distribution, it is clear that Australia’s industry needs a serious boost in funding not only to produce more quality films, but also to employ Australian talent. A key way to increase the number of Australian jobs in our film industry is to capitalise on international investment. Not only would this provide employment to a number of talented Australians, but would also afford a much-needed boost to the Australian film industry which would foster the development of local productions.

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Thor: Ragnarok was a runaway production filmed in Australia (Briers 2017)

There are a number of international funding mechanisms that have proven to be advantageous to the Australian film industry. According to O’Regan and Potter (2013, p. 10) these forms of foreign investment are advantageous to Australia as they offer access to global distribution and financing networks, specialised production knowledge and superior market intelligence. For example, runaway productions filmed in Australia have provided numerous jobs for Australians and have provided a significant boost to the Australian economy. Hollywood blockbusters including The Matrix, the second Star Wars trilogy and Thor: Ragnarok were all filmed in Australia as it was significantly cheaper than filming in the US.

Likewise, transnational co-productions like Babe employed Australian film crew, actors and animal trainers and received multiple awards, including a Golden Globe (Screen Australia 2016a). Although Babe did receive criticism for it not appearing be ‘Australian’ and not revealing where it was actually filmed, its success at the box office around the world is a testament to its status as a coproduction and one of the most successful Australian films of all time, grossing $36,776,544 in the local box office (Macquarie Bank Limited n.d.).

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Babe (n.d.)

It is important to note that although I am an advocate for Australian jobs in the film industry, I do not mean to imply that representing Australian content in film is unimportant. Having our own film industry and producing local content does have an important cultural function for our nation as it strengthens our national identity (Screen Australia 2016b). However, if there is no money injected into our film industry from external sources, it will severely limit the opportunities and capabilities of our local industry to produce any of its own content.

A balance between foreign investment and local productions would be ideal, however our film industry is unable to thrive on government subsidisation and local investment alone. Runaway productions and transnational co-productions provide Australians in the film industry with the experience and funds required to eventually produce quality content, and striking a balance between the two would, in the words of Hannah Montana, provide the Australian film industry with “the best of both worlds.”

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Sorry not sorry (Nicholastyler 2011)

 

Reference List

Babe n.d., image, Wikipedia, viewed 11 January 2018, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babe_(film)&gt;

Briers, M 2017, Thor: Ragnarok poster, image, We Got This Covered, viewed 11 January 2018, <http://wegotthiscovered.com/movies/international-poster-thor-ragnarok-gathers-whole-crew/&gt;

Macquarie Bank Limited n.d., Film finance in Australia: a general overview, pamphlet, viewed 11 January 2018, < http://advisers.macquarie.com.au/retail/acrobat/film_booklet.pdf?cachehdr=0&gt;

Nicholastyler 2011, Hannah Montana image, image, Blogspot, viewed 11 January 2018, < http://hannahmileyforevertheblog.blogspot.com.au/2011/09/hannah-montana-best-of-both-worlds.html&gt;

Screen Australia 2016, ‘Cinema industry trends, gross box office and admissions, Screen Australia, viewed 10 January 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/cinema/industry-trends/box-office&gt;

Screen Australia 2016a, ‘Babe’, Screen Australia, viewed 10 January 2018, < https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/the-screen-guide/t/babe-1995/7465/&gt;

Statista 2016, ‘Box office revenue* in North America from 1980 to 2017 (in billion U.S. dollars)’, Statista, viewed 10 January 2018, <https://www.statista.com/statistics/187069/north-american-box-office-gross-revenue-since-1980/&gt;

Is Any Attention Good Attention?: Conquering Australia through Film Tourism

When it comes to representing our country in film, Australian cinema has a serious outback fetish. Sweeping shots of the arid, copper-coloured soils, panoramic views of Uluru and heroic horse-back drovers have represented the national identity we have perpetuated through our film industry. Although in recent years Australian filmmakers have ventured out into filming gritty urban landscapes (for example, the hit television series Redfern Now) the ongoing use of the unforgiving Australian outback continues to characterise our cinema.

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Uluru often makes an appearance in Australian films (Adalid 2017)

The function of the adjective ‘Australianess’ in the Australian film industry has proved to be particularly problematic when considering the essence of Australian film (Babrazon 2012, p. 151). According to Philip Adams (quoted in Babrazon 2012, p. 153) Australia’s best films are the ones that are the most culturally specific, and don’t attempt to pander to American audiences or film festivals. Indeed, there is truth in this statement when one considers the immense success of Crocodile Dundee (1986) in both Australia and the US. Not only did the film greatly increase US tourism to Australia, but Paul Hogan’s embodiment of the “decent Aussie bloke” significantly boosted Australia’s cultural profile in the eyes of the US (Pan 2014). In spite of the substantial boost to Australian tourism that Crocodile Dundee attracted, Mick Dundee’s ‘ocker’ persona has continued to perpetuate the stereotype that all Australians live in the outback, wrestle crocodiles and can produce large knives at the drop of a corked hat.

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Crocodile Dundee (n.d..)

Not only is the Mick Dundee stereotype not a true representation of Australia’s incredibly diverse, multicultural social geography, but it also brings to light the more problematic Australian film trope of ‘Aussie man VS. nature.’ Australia’s colonial past is defined by white men conquering nature – be this surviving in the outback, wrestling Australian’s dangerous native animals, or climbing Uluru. Although it is generally accepted that climbing Uluru is immensely disrespectful to Australia’s Aboriginal community, this activity was actually promoted internationally by Pricilla – Queen of the Desert, an Australian film featured drag queens conquering the rocky red heart of Australia. According to Thomas (1996, p. 98) Pricilla – Queen of the Desert promoted the notion that viewing Uluru is simply not enough; it must be conquered and stood upon as a means of conveying that a culture could victoriously impose itself on nature and the landscape. As you can probably tell, this is not an identity that I want to associate with at all, and I find it problematic that our bloody history of white colonialism is perpetuated in our cinema.

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This is okay if you’re missing in the desert, but not when you want to prove yourself as an environmental and cultural conquerer and climb an important spiritual landmark (2017)

Australia’s history of attracting foreign attention through its films is complex. Although it has attracted much needed tourism and significantly boosted Australia’s global image as a tourist destination, the underlying theme of colonialism is problematic and harmful to our Aboriginal communities. The issue of perpetuating a hyper-masculine white bush ranger image for all Australians also diminishes the diverse cultural society that has made Australia what it is today.

 

Reference List

Adalid, A 2017, Uluru, image, I am Aileen, viewed 4 January 2018, <https://iamaileen.com/top-things-to-do-in-australian-outback/&gt;

Babrazon, T 2001, ‘A pig in space? Babe and the problem of landscape’, in I Craven (ed.), Australian Cinema in the 1990’s, F. Cass, London, pp. 149-158.

Beeton, S 2010, ‘Landscapes as characters: film, tourism and a sense of place’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 166, pp. 114-118.

Crocodile Dundee meme n.d., image, Funnyjunk, viewed 4 January 2018, <http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/2146975/You/&gt;

Improvise, adapt, overcome meme n.d., image, Know Your Meme, viewed 4 January 2018, <http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/improvise-adapt-overcome&gt;

Pan, S 2014, ‘Inducible or not – a telltale from two movies’, Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing, vol. 31. no. 3, pp. 397-416.

Thomas, AJ 1996, ‘Camping outback: Landscape, masculinity, and performance in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 97-110.

 

It’s not you it’s me: The problematic nature of Australian film audiences

Australian cinema plays an incredibly important cultural role in our society. Seeing our own stories on screen is a way of sharing our nation’s origins, struggles, triumphs, character, values, past, and even its future (Hogan 2010, p. 63). However, Australian film audiences are a fickle bunch. Although 91% of respondents in a Screen Australia (2011, p.1) survey agreed that it was important that Australia has a film industry that produces local content, most Australians, myself included, would choose to watch a Hollywood film over a local production any day. So just what is the problem with Australian film audiences?

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(Business First n.d.)

 

A key issue that has caused audiences to turn their backs on Australian film is its failure as a brand. According to Hoerlein (quoted in Kaufman 2009, p. 6) our local film industry has good brand visibility, however it simply fails to resonate with audiences. The inadequate and lack-lustre marketing of Australian films is often an afterthought for filmmakers who simply do not have the funds to invest in an effective marketing campaign (Kaufman 2009).

A prime example of a highly-regarded Australian film that was scarcely marketed is The Babadook (2014). While this film received multiple awards both nationally and internationally, it was only released at 13 art-house cinemas Australia-wide as it was shunned by mainstream cinemas (Hardie 2014). Interestingly, The Babadook was released over 147 cinemas in the UK and raked in almost double the profit than it did in Australia, and only after it was successful overseas did Australian audiences clamour to see it. According to Australian actor Anthony LaPagila (quoted in Dow 2014), Australian filmmakers should release a film overseas before opening it in Australia to generate discussion and excitement. This strategy indeed has merit, as we tend not to have faith in the capacity for Australian content to be ‘good’ and prefer to see films that have succeeded overseas first (Hoskin 2009).

Ultimately, Australian audiences just don’t trust Australian content. As a brand, Australian film does not inspire a sense of patriotism or national pride in audiences, and this is not entirely the audiences’ fault. A quick internet search and class discussion quickly revealed that we avoid Australian cinema because it is typically dark and depressing or just plain cringe-worthy. When one considers how these stereotypes affect Australian cinema as a brand, it is clear an industry-wide rebrand of Australian cinema is vital for re-establishing a connection with the Australian public (Hoerlein, quoted in Kaufman 2009, p. 6). This would require entire brand to be redefined, which is a difficult, but not impossible task. As with most issues in the Australian film industry, the problem can be traced back to a lack of funding. If filmmakers can barely afford to advertise their films, then how does the whole industry even begin to look at rebranding itself?

Every country, Australia and the US included, make both excellent and sub-par films, and there is no ‘silver bullet’ to fix either the Australian film industry or Australian audiences’ attitude towards local film. It is up to us, as a local audience, to support our national cinema and push through our prejudice against Australian film. After watching and thoroughly enjoying The Castle and The Babadook, I can promise that you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Reference List

Business First n.d., Empty cinema chairs, image, Business First, viewed 21 December 2017,

Dow, S 2014, ‘What’s wrong with Australian cinema?’, The Guardian, 26 October, viewed 20 December 2017,

Hardie, G 2014, ‘Why was ‘The Babadook’ kept from Australian audiences?’, The New Daily, 3 December, viewed 20 December 2017,

Hogan, J 2010, ‘Gendered and radicalised discourses of national identity in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, Journal of Australian Studies, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 63-77.

Hoskin, D 2009, ‘Micro-budget Aussie flick makes no money’, Overland, no. 194, pp. 23-27.

Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8.

Verhoeven, D, Davidson, A & Coate, B 2015, ‘Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 7-20.

 

Ozploitation: Crazy, Crude and a Recipe for Success

The Australian film industry has long been characterised by periods of either boom or bust (Ryan 2012). Perhaps the most significant ‘boom’ period for Australian cinema was during the 10BA tax incentive during the 1980’s. The 10BA was a policy introduced by the Australian government and enabled filmmakers to claim a 150% tax concession as a production subsidy (Ryan 2012). This bubble period of unprecedented growth in the number of feature films being produced has since been affectionately named ‘Ozploitation.’

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Not Quite Hollywood (n.d.)

Ozploitation refers to the rapid production of ‘exploitation films’ during the 1970’s – 1980’s. Exploitation films seemed to focus particularly heavily ‘adult’ topics due to the relaxation of oppressive censorship laws and the introduction of the ‘R’ classification in 1971 (Curnow 2013). This gave Australian filmmakers a significant amount of freedom to pursue new content areas in film which typically contained large amounts of gratuitous nudity, gore, violence and so on (Ryan & Goldsmith 2017). The lucrative tax break afforded by 10BA enabled filmmakers to quite literally churn out genre films like there was no tomorrow and actually make money in the process. The financial accessibility of producing a film often resulted in films that were subpar, with some never actually being released to the public. However, the Ozploitation period saw the release of cult classics including Mad Max (1979) and Dead End Drive-In (1986) which are still hailed as important cultural artefacts today.

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Dead End Drive-In (n.d.)

Whilst in hindsight many Ozploitation films appear tasteless and crude at face value, they actually provide a fascinating insight into the Australian film industry. Because filmmakers of the Ozploitation period were not bound to the current guidelines of emphasising “Australianness and cultural content” in their films, the resulting products were commercial, yet prioritised entertainment value for the audience (Kaufman 2009). When one considers Verhoeven’s (2006, quoted in Ryan 2012) assertion that “Australian audiences are inclined to watch films in a way that has almost no relationship to the national agenda or the general quest for a national cultural identity in the cinema,” it becomes clear that our industry’s current focus on promoting Australian culture is a losing strategy.

Examining the commercial content that characterised the Ozploitation period also highlights the problem with Australian cinema today. Australian filmmakers have increasingly turned towards producing ‘quality’ arthouse films, which Tiley (quoted in Ryan 2012, p. 148) describes as being typically gloomy and self-indulgent. Whilst these films may be a hit with critics, they fail to capture the hearts and minds of Australian audiences, which ultimately means that nobody goes to see them.

Australian filmmakers and Screen Australia should consider the broad appeal of genre films when funding Australian film projects, as the nature of these films not only has the potential to attract larger audiences, but also revive our struggling film industry. Although I’m not necessarily suggesting that we need a modern-day sequel to the notorious Alvin Purple, it would be wonderful to see more Australian films produced that catered to the entertainment needs of audiences.  

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Alvin Purple (Blundell 2016)

 

Reference List

Blundell, G 2016, Alvin Purple, image, The Australian, viewed 15 December 2017, < http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/graeme-blundell-on-alvin-purple-and-50-years-in-the-acting-trade/news-story/51c77dc7e734cbd157b3a023259a2a34&gt;

Curnow, J 2013, ‘Ozploitation: twelve Australian exploitation classics’, Curnblog, 9 June, viewed 15 December 2017, <http://curnblog.com/2013/06/09/ozploitation-twelve-australian-exploitation-classics/&gt;

Dead end drive-in n.d., image, TV Tropes, viewed 15 December 2017, <http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/DeadEndDriveIn&gt;

Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro, no. 163, pp. 6-8.

Not quite Hollywood n.d., image, Feedback Loop, viewed 15 December 2017, < https://feedbackloop.wordpress.com/2008/09/&gt;

Ryan, MD 2012, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 141-157.

Ryan, MD & Goldsmith, B 2017, ‘Returning to Australian horror film and Ozploitation cinema debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 2-4.

 

National Identity Crisis: The Key Assumptions Surrounding the Production of Australian Content

Australia has come a long way since the days of the bushie ocker. Rather than wrestling crocodiles with machetes or herding cattle at a station in Central Australia, many Australians, like myself, would much rather catch up with friends over coffee or become lost in a good book. While I can’t speak for absolutely everyone, I can confidently say that many Australians do not feel accurately represented by Australian film. Instead of depicting our culturally diverse modern society, our film industry typically represents Australians as one-dimensional bogan caricatures of who we actually are. It is safe to say that much of Australian film hinges on an outdated idealisation of our national identity, and it is for this reason that I do not really enjoy watching Australian film.

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The stereotypical sayings of an Aussie bloke (The Outback Aussie n.d.)

National identity refers to the “sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture and language” (Oxford Living Dictionaries n.d.). According to Hamilton (2012, p. 1) film plays a key role in shaping and affirming a country’s national identity through using culturally specific symbols, meanings and narratives that underpin a shared sense and mutual recognition. However, national identity is a multifaceted concept that shifts and evolves over time. Globalisation has fundamentally changed Australia’s social, political and artistic landscapes into something quite different to what we see depicted in Australian film. Although I do firmly believe it is important that we stay true to our roots and hold on to our values of mateship, courage and giving everyone a ‘fair go,’ I feel as though Australian productions overplay these ideals to the degree where they almost lose their meaning.

Perhaps I’m just being cynical, however it seems that my general distaste for Australian content is not completely unjustified. After reading the blogs of my classmates and discussions about Australian film on several online forums, there appears to be a deep-seated dislike for the bland ‘Australian-ness’ of Australian content. Over-reliance on old Australian “bush” slang, sweeping shots of Australia’s dusty red centre and a notable absence of female protagonists are just a select few of the reasons why myself, and many other Australians struggle to connect with and support Australian content. For example, Baz Luhrmann’s highly-anticipated outback romance film Australia received mixed reviews. Although the cinematography was quite beautiful, the story lacked substance due to its dependence on tired Australiana clichés and was heavily criticised for this. Take one look at the trailer below and you can instantly see the cookie-cutter depiction of Hugh Jackman’s stereotypically ‘Australian’ character.

O’Donnell (2012) explains that the Australian film industry’s ongoing need to push the ‘Australian-ness’ of its films may be a key element in why Australian content never receives the same critical acclaim as its Hollywood counterparts. However, Australian filmmakers face a double-edged sword when it comes to producing Australian content. According to Myintoo (2016) the ongoing lack of funding for Australian content production has forced Australian filmmakers to abandon their desires to produce original works, and instead create a mishmash of “pre-loved texts that can be materialised into instant (and safe) box office adaptations.”

It is clear that key assumptions about Australian’s national identity shape the production of Australian content. The recycling of tired and outdated Australian stereotypes has caused many Australians to feel not only disillusioned by Australian film, but also disappointed by it. Whilst more funding could potentially improve the content we produce, our film industry needs to take a good, hard look at why Australians feel the way they do about Australian film and, I don’t know, produce content where the main character isn’t a bronzed, bush-smart male who finishes every sentence with ‘mate?’

 

Reference List

Hamilton, A 2012, ‘Imagined identities: focus on Australian cinema’, in H Mückler, G Weichart & F Edelmayer (eds.), Australia: history and society 18th to 20th century, Wissenschaft, Germany, pp. 1-41.

Myintoo, M 2016, ‘Does the problem with Australian cinema lie in audience attitudes?’, Pile Rats, viewed 7 December 2017, <http://pilerats.com/written/deep-meaningful/does-the-problem-with-australian-cinema-lie-in-audience-attitudes/&gt;

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