It was one of the first questions posed as I began to explore Australian content in a global context. Shit. I don’t think I have gone to the cinema to see an Australian film. I had mean to go and see ‘Holding The Man’ last year, and seen it advertised at the Dendy Cinema on King Street in Newtown Sydney, but I definitely did not see it advertised in Wollongong. So I didn’t see it at all. Which is a shame because I loved the book. And I saw the play- both productions in Sydney and once in London.
SO the question shifts from when, to WHY.
Why have you not seen any content that is locally produced when you go to the cinema?
And that is how I have approached the study of the production of Australian content and its market failure, within a global context.
There is no one easy answer as the issue is complex and a number of factors contribute.
Budget constraints mean that Australia is not producing blockbusters that are cinema friendly- and more likely to produce character driven stories. Screen Australia constant budget cuts do not help this either- but the content Australian film makers are not tailored to the cinema experience (Aveyard 2011). Some commentators and researchers have suggested that with new technologies that have changed the way we view content such as Netflix, audiences will be more receptive and open to viewing the type of content we are producing (Harris 2013).
- Funding- Significant Australian Content
Government policy surrounding the film industry has had ideology behind funding to promote ‘Australianess’ of the content that is produced. Australian content as a result of policy decisions have accentuated ‘Australianness’ and prioritised ‘cultural content’ over entertainment and commercial success (Ryan 2014, p.143-144). This in my view hinders creators from artistic freedom and imposes just as much pressure as would be found from market forces. Policy to promote and encourage production in Australia is in my view a better strategy as policy measures have been circumvented by multinational companies accessing government funds (O’ Regan & Potter 2013,p.7). This taken into account that the more successful genre films recently have not been identifiably ‘Australian’.
There is an argument that Australian content and ‘Ozploitation’ is making a comeback with a resurgence of genre film in Australia, yet it is leaning on conventional Hollywood genre, as opposed to films projecting a national identity agenda (Ryan 2014, p.142). Australian Audiences don’t seem to like Australian Films, despite cinema being the most popular cultural event that we partake in (ABS).
So I go back and consider my own practices and viewing habits. I recently went to see the new Marvel film ‘Deadpool’. As a comic book geek- I look forward to going to the cinema to see basically every comic book film that is released. (Even if it is not a comic that I read). I love the source material and I enjoy watching it transformed to a different media format. When I go, I have known well in advance of the film being released- the blog’o’sphere has written article and article of every single promotional still that has been given out as bread crumbs to make us leave the house and get to the movie complex. I even signed up to Netflix only when Daredevil was released.
When I go to watch these films- I go on opening night, and book my ticket in advance online. I love going on opening night. The audience is packed; the smell of popcorn permeates the air. The laughter at the jokes, the ‘whoa!’ screams at the action, the ‘oh no!’ cries when the hero shockingly dies: it makes the experience a shared one and all the more better for it.
The type of content that I view at the cinema is the type of content MADE for the cinema.
Australian content, for a host of reasons is made for a more quiet and reflective surrounding. It’s made for home viewing, its made for streaming. Clearly there have been issues around government policy, and I have mentioned what I believe has been most significant.
But I want to finish off with a Darwin analogy. The theory of evolution is ‘survival of the fittest’. (Some could say American Media is the fittest and strongest.) But the true theory of evolution is that it is not the strongest for fittest that survives, but those that can adapt.
The technological changes that are restructuring the culture industries in a fundamental way gives the producers of Australian content the opportunity to adapt, and in that- survive. They remove content restraints such as Significant Australian Content, and move towards embracing different distribution models that have been created by the most powerful companies, and circumvent the route to the audience.
So is it time to give up on Australian Content- No. But it is time to change, to adapt, to survive.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2007, Attendance at Selected Cultural Events, 2005-06, Cat. No. 4114.0, ABS, Canberra.
Carroll Harris, L 2013, Not at a Cinema Near You: Australia’s film distribution problem, Currency Press, Surry Hills, NSW.
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.
Ryan, MD 2010, ‘Towards an understanding of Australian genre cinema and entertainment: beyond the limitations of ‘Ozploitation’ discourse’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol.24, no.6, p.843-854.