The Future of the Australian Film and Television Industry

Before undertaking this subject, I had no idea the obstacles and barriers that Australian film makers need to climb just to get their ideas to even be considered by funding bodies. A lack of funding, marketing, access and distribution strategies paired with an audience that is bored with the ‘Significant Australian Content’ test, means that even the best of Australian scripts are disadvantaged in some way or another. Troy Lum from Hopscotch entertainment say’s good scripts are hard to come by all over the world, “a good script is really, really difficult and we churn out about as many of them as anyone.”(Kaufman, 2009, p.6). It’s a fallacy that Australia has poor creativity, its the industry that’s letting people down.

The emphasis on ‘significant Australian content’ has alienated Australian audiences and driven them towards a reliance on Hollywood. There has been a common agreement amongst industry specialists that ‘telling our own stories should no longer be a driver for making Australian films’ (Kaufman, 2009, p.`7) and instead to just focus on making a good film and “making our own myths” (Kaufman, 2009, p.7). Critic Luke Buckmaster explains that the SAC test has created a perception problem,

When it’s not busy depressing us with films about cancer and people who collapse in gutters with needles in their arms, Australian films are cringe-inducing ‘g’ day mate’ comedies. The sort of facepalm productions geared towards jokes featuring things as stereotypically nationalistic as shrimps on a barbie. (Verhoeven, 2009, p.8)

 

A film that is created, directed or produced by Australians, has Australian actors or special effects crew will automatically reflect parts of what it is to be Australian, without having to meet the SAC test.

Furthermore, as global technology companies like Netflix continue to increase with no Australian content obligations, the industry needs to respond, embrace and co-create (Roeper & Luckman, 2009, p.6). Roeper & Luckman 2009 argue that there has been a history of adaptation and survival for platforms such as cinemas undergoing transformations from full colour 3D, VCR, DVD and the IMAX format in order to adapt to changing audience demands. It is because of this history of adaptation that industry professionals may not see ‘Web 2.0’ technologies as being as much of a threat to film and television as they might otherwise seem. This is the industry response they have termed ‘denial’ (Luckman, 2009, p. 7). With the rise of VOD services, cinema going has become more of an event than a regular occurrence. Due to the changing nature of how audiences are consuming content, the industry needs to be creative with their distribution strategies, Colin MacCabe (2007) observes, “films only exist when they are distributed properly”. Without the proper distribution, unfortunately, the harsh truth is that our films can’t compete financially with “either the low budget indies from the US, and they can’t mix it aesthetically with the big-budget block busters” (SMH, Quinn, 2014). A solution for the future of Australian films as suggested by producer Cass O’Connor is that, “the new technologies are going to allow filmmakers to hone their skills and craft good films with smaller budgets, which is what they need to do,” O’Connor said.

On a larger scale, the industry needs to be trying to strike a balance between protectionism and internationalism by stopping the relentless cuts to Screen Australia, ABC and the SBS. Yet still continuing to participate in co-productions with countries like China in order to bring money into the industry, employ Australians and allow Australia’s presence to grow as a competitor in the global market. Matt Pressberg says to expect more Chinese stars in the next five years (ABC, 2017).
It is not the time to be giving up on Australian content, but instead lobbying for changes within the industry, because once all is said and done,”People just want to be entertained, to be swept away by the story.” 
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