A co-production is where two or more different production companies are working together on a project. In terms of global media, international co-productions, these companies will come form different countries. Official co-production are made under the formal arrangements between governments of these countries, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Germany, Korea, South Africa, Singapore and China, and Memoranda of Understanding with France and New Zealand.
In cases where nations have smaller industries, such as Australia, co-productions allow for greater commerce than it would otherwise be able to maintain. Australian Films taking up a tiny share of box office tickets, which is dominated by foreign films taking around 90% share.
But with an investment of $1.345 billion over 20 years from the Film Finance Corporation (FFC), and only recouping a mere $274.2 million, which is a negative return of 80% we must ask ourselves: why do Australian audiences not like Australian films? Despite the funding and market protections set up to encourage and enable Australian content to find a spot in the market, the figures show significant failure of Australian content.
It’s certainly not that we are not going to the cinema – the Australian Bureau of Statistics measure that 87% of us watch or listen to television for just under 3 hours a day, and that attending a cultural event or attending the cinema is our number one choice. Whist the FCC have argued that the investment has increased final production budgets, the attendance of audiences consuming home grown content has diminished to as little as 4.5% in 2008. In 2012, 43 Australian films screened in Australian cinemas, but averaged being shown on only 75 screens across the country, and some only being shown on 20 screens at their widest point of release (Mostyn, 2014).
Secondly, the budgeting concerns not only the production values, but the marketing as well. It could be said that the Hollywood competition is a form of cultural imperialism precluding the local and engaging in unequal and unfair competition. 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.
That is why if you have a script ready to produce, a co-production engaging with other producers is more likely to be successful, and produced quicker therefore more efficient- as it is more likely to be successful.
Films produced by co-productions, potentially suffer the loss of cultural specificity, but as I have suggested, it is not as though the market for Australian films is crying out for more. The result is that the Australian film economy is more and more reliant on co-productions, and government policy that is actively pursuing this is critical to the health of the industry.
You could go as far to say that without the assistance of co-productiosn in Australia, there would be little film industry at all.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2007, Attendance at Selected Cultural Events, 2005-06, Cat. No. 4114.0, ABS, Canberra.
Bowles, Kate (2007) “Three miles of rough dirt road: towards an audience centred approach to cinema studies in Australia”. Studies in Australasian Cinema. 1: 3 p 245-260.
Department of Communications and the Arts 2015, Australian Communications Use 2015, https://www.communications.gov.au/departmental-news/australian-communications-use-2015
Carroll Harris, L 2013, Not at a Cinema Near You: Australia’s film distribution problem, Currency Press, Surry Hills, NSW.
Kaufman, Tina “Finding Australian audiences for Australian films” Metro. 163, December 1, 2009. p 6-8.
Mostyn, R 2014, ‘Explainer: where’s the audience for Australian films?’, The Conversation, 17 January, viewed 3rd February 2016, <http://theconversation.com/explainer-wheres-the-audience-for-australian-films-20945>>