So what are the key assumptions surrounding the production of Australian Content?
When we ask ourselves what are the key assumptions surrounding the production of Australian Content, we first have to consider what IS Australian Content. O’Regan (1996,p.1) states that “National filmmakers indigenize genres” and therefore “National cinemas partake in a conversation with Hollywood- they carve out a space locally and internationally for themselves in the face of dominant international cinema- Hollywood.” Unfortunately for Australian Content, its production results not in prestige like French cinema, but …..well, as best as my own words can put it, it’s a bit shit. (please see GIF below).
This stands in stark contrast with our habits, as an audience- film and television remain the principal media that we consume (just under 3 hours a day according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2008)), and when attending a cultural event- the cinema is our number one choice (ABS, 2007).
So why then the stigma of our own content being so poor? The fact that the taxpayer funded Film Finance Corporation (FFC) has invested A$1.345 Billion, for a total return of A$274 million, equally a yield of negative 80%, means that this is a significant question to ask (Burns & Eltham 2010,p.107).
Firstly, Australian Content is competing for our attention in a globalised market, against monumentally sized American competition embodied by Hollywood. The Hollywood competition is a cultural imperialism precluding the local and engaging in unequal and unfair competition (O’Regan 1996, p.117). The giant that is Hollywood makes everything else look pale, and cheap and low value as a result.
Secondly, the budgeting concerns not only the production values, but the marketing as well. Most Hollywood blockbusters have marketing budgets that dwarf the entire budget of an Australian film. Do you remember the last time you saw a Australian Film advertised on the side of a bus? Me either. Cinemas and distributors are more likely to invest in promote and show Hollywood blockbusters (Carroll Harris 2013, p.5)
There is perhaps potential for the distribution problem to be overcome and advantage to be taken of with arrival of digital delivery such as Netflix- circumventing the traditional gatekeepers of content which would grant “filmmakers direct access to audience” (Harris 2103, p.36).
Thirdly, there is the cultural cringe factor. This is a biggie. Australian content as a result of policy decisions have accentuated ‘Australianness’ and prioritised ‘cultural content’ over entertainment and commercial success (Ryan2014, p.143-144). This results in stereotypes of outback adventures, cultural quirks and unique humor, combined with the Australian accent, the consequence of which as Ryan notes, is content that is “too difficult for international audiences to understand”. (2014, p.151).
To sum up- money, governmental policy and audience preference all melt together to produce a not so great tasting broth when it comes to Australian Content.
But that is not to say that it is all bad news- one thing Australia is not lacking in the production of content is talent. So with that I will leave you with a scene from ‘Animal Kingdom.’ Be awed by Jackie Weavers Academy Award nominated performance as Smurf- the matriarch who rules her crime family speaking to her lawyer about ‘getting rid’ of her grandson who may be talking to police.
2010, Sources of Finance for Australian and CO-Production Features, Screen Australia, Sydney, www.screenaustralia.gov.au/gtp/mpfeauturesfinance.html
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2007, Attendance at Selected Cultural Events, 2005-06, Cat. No. 4114.0, ABS, Canberra.
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 Incorporating Culture and Policy, vol.136, p.103-118.
Carroll Harris, L 2013, Not at a cinema near you: Australia’s film distribution problem, Currency Press, Surry Hills, NSW.
French, L, & Poole, M 2013, ‘Internationalizing Australian Film and Television’, Metro, no. 176, pp. 86-91.
Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Finding Australian Audience For Australian Films’, Metro, no. 163, pp. 6-8.
O’Regan, T 1996, Australian National Cinema, Routledge, New York.
Ryan, Mark David 2012, ‘A Silver Bullet for Australian Cinema? Genre Movies and the Audience Debate’, Studies in Australian Cinema, vol. 6, no. 2, pp.151.
Ryan, MD 2012, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol.6, no.2, p.141-157.