Discuss: Australian jobs are more important than Australian Culture

As discussed in previous posts, the Australian film industry faces a smorgasbord of problems and hurdles to overcome in order to compete in a global market. Transnational co-productions have been one way of overcoming many of the typical issues faced by Australian film makers. Co-productions offer significant opportunities including opening a pool of resources and automatically accessing two markets in terms of creativity, finance and audience reach. The ultimate outcome is content that can be considered a ‘domestic’ production in each of the partner countries (Yecies, 2009, p.2).

Governments use incentive instruments to develop economic growth, to modernise industry infrastructure and to increase domestic employment and training opportunities – all while promoting tourism (Yecies, 2009, p.3). In Australia these incentives include the Producer offset whilst bypassing the SAC test and also being able to apply for production funding from Screen Australia. Australian producers can make a co-production with producers from:  Canada, China,  France (MOU),  Germany,  Ireland,  Italy,  Israel,  Korea,  New Zealand (MOU),  Singapore,  South Africa, and the United Kingdom. 
Currently the Chinese film industry is in the middle of a boom (Yecies, 2009,p.4) and Australia is taking full advantage of this.

China is currently the world’s second-largest movie-going market (Screen Australia 2017)  and in April 2017, Australia announced 14 China-Australia film co-productions (Yu, SBS, 2017). One of the films At Last is expected to provide around 200 jobs and inject $10.8 million into the local economy (Vieira, 2017). However, Australian producer Mark Lazarus says “the collaborative process is complex and compromise is necessary”. Does this then mean that Australian culture must be compromised in order to allow for transnational co-productions that provide Australian jobs and boost the Australian economy?. Yeices (2009) says that “ICPs can circumvent cultural imperatives, because they weaken the cultural relevance of the content for one or more of the partnering countries and their cultural identities.” This has certainly been true of past co productions Australia has been a part of. For example Greencard (1991) was an Australia/France co-production that was shot in New York, had an American lead actress, French lead actor and an Australian director. It was classed as ‘Australian’ for funding purposes but lacked any identifiable Australian cultural specificity. It is examples like Greencard that give legitimacy to the belief that, “the funding that producers gain access to has proven more popular than having a collaborative cultural experience” (Yecies, 2009, p.3).

GuardiansOftheTomb
Still from Guardians of the Tomb (Australia/China co-production, to be released in 2018)

Furthermore, whilst investment budgets of AUD $400 million have been promised by production houses such as Sydney Films to 20 potential co-productions, Screen Australia has received funding cuts of over $50 million in the five years up to 2018-19 (White, SMH, 2015).  These funding cuts have been heavily denounced by Screen Producers Australia, which claimed they “will seriously impact the industry” (Quinn, SMH, 2015). From these politically charged actions it can be said that the Australian government is much more concerned with strengthening diplomatic ties with China than supporting its own local screen stories. Yecies explains that the result of politically charged co-productions can be that, “collaborative stories can appear forced – especially when a ‘domestic’ film is sought-after only to fulfil policy requirements, rather than organically to tell a local story” (Yecies, 2009, p.6).

Co-productions offer opportunities that are normally unattainable for local productions. They create a significant amount of jobs for Australians, highlight Australian creative excellence, have the potential to inject millions into the local economy and deepen cultural understanding. However, they often require compromise, which can mean the loss of cultural relativity to either country involved. The large funds and diplomatic ties involved in co-productions can take the emphasis off creating a collaborative cultural experience that may have been more justifiably spent on a local production.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/bringing-stories-together-14-china-australia-film-co-productions-announced-in-beijing.”

https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2017/04-20-australian-chinese-copro

Yecies, 2009 http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1409&context=artspapers

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/screen-australia-budget-cut-brings-agencys-funding-down-16-per-cent-in-12-months-20150513-gh0tsn.html

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A Different Cinematic Experience

I love going to the movies, films truly are made to be seen on a huge screen, in a very dark room, with surround sound and lots of other people in that room to share the experience with. Recently I went to the annual Travelling Film Festival with my mum that literally travels all over Australia to show case international films at local cinemas to give people the opportunity to see award winning films they would normally never get to see screened in a cinema. It runs over one weekend in a movie marathon type set up with films all playing within half an hour of each other. I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t for my amazing mother who loves international films and all things culturally enlightening. The initial reason why she bought me a ticket was because there was a Spanish murder mystery playing, and I am currently in my second year of studying Spanish at University and therefore thought it would further my studies.

I met my mum at the cinema and she was of course, true to her nature, already immersed in conversation with somebody she knew.  It is a given that the audience for a movie at the cinema is always different depending on what the movie is, the movie was called “Marshland” set in the wet lands of southern Spain, the audience for this film was of an older generation, some of the people were what I would describe as ‘alternative’ but some were also very average looking. However I knew it was a very different audience to the people you see at the regular hollywood block busters. In fact as soon as we arrived at the cinema I spotted my old Spanish tutor. My mother and I sat much closer to the front than I would normally, mostly because her eye sight isn’t the best (sorry mum). It was clear that many of the others in the front rows had chosen their position for similar reasons.

This was a very different cinematic experience from the usual blockbuster experience, there was a short introductory speech for the film by the MC for the film festival which created a sense of togetherness and excitement within the space. As the cinema is generally considered a public space, there are certain rules of conduct. For instance one man was snoring during the film which is pretty frowned upon in any cinema and also just strange in the first place because we all paid a certain amount of money which allowed us to be there so I would conclude that he was wasting his money by sleeping whilst also disallowing others to fully enjoy the film.

At the end of the film everyone clapped, which rarely happens normally, but there was a sense that we were expected to clap because it could be assumed we were all there with a similar interest in either international films, Spain as a country, the Spanish language, murder mysteries and also just for the fact that it was a very good movie. It was so good in fact that I decided to stay and buy a ticket for the following film which my mum had already bought a ticket to. The next film was not Spanish nor all that international, it was an American art house comedy called ‘Grandma’, but I think the reason I stayed was for the fact that I enjoyed the atmosphere of this different type of cinematic experience I had never before been around. I hope that in 5-10 years exposure to international films is more widely available to smaller communities and society can start to steer away from the obsession with same old Hollywood films.