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.
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.
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.
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.
Atomjack 2014, Australian stereotypes, image, imgfave, viewed 24 January 2018, <http://imgfave.com/view/2431682>
The Babadook movie poster 2014, image, n3rdabl3, viewed 24 January 2018, <https://www.n3rdabl3.com/2014/09/babadook-gets-creepy-new-poster/>
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>
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>
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.