Ok so if you haven’t guessed it by now, I live in a country that is very popular in the news right now for all the wrong reasons (No I’m not talking about North Korea, although that whole situation is something I want to write about so very badly). I’m talking about Australia, the reason we are popular isn’t important for this though, I’m just a sucker for click bait. Anyway, as I am an aspiring writer/director its high time I looked into the Australian film industry, and more importantly what protection is offered to the content I may one day produce.
So where do we start? I reckon we look at the Australian film industry itself and how it is doing and then evolve into how the government protects the content created here in this country.
The Australian Film Industry dates back to 1906 when the Talt Brothers produced the smash hit The Story of the Kelly Gang, The movie was considered a huge success in the domestic and British markets. Thus a new genre of film was born with Bushranger films being made left right and centre, until the tyrants at the censorship board deemed them to glorify the lives of criminals and each state starting in South Australia banned the showing of such films. Despite this, the Aussie film industy was kept afloat till the 1920s when it went into decline and the US markets took over. (Australian Government, 2007)
The decline continued during the sound era with not many good films being produced and the industry was deemed terminal until the government stepped in. Gorton and Whitlam saved the industry during the 1970s and 1980s introducing 10BA Tax Concessions into the market and allowed for films like Mad Max(Road Warrior) and Crocodile Dundee to be made. 10BA is a tax concession that “allowed investors to claim a 150 per cent tax concession and to pay tax on only half of any income earned from the investment.” (Screen Australia, 2014) The main source of finance for films since 1988/89 has been the Film Finance Corporation Australia Ltd (FFC). “According to its 2003/04 annual report, the FFC’s slate of investments since establishment in 1988/89 comprises 875 projects with a total budget value of $1,963 million. This is an average $122.7 million per year since inception.” (Screen Australia,2014)
So as you can see, the government is very much behind creating a booming industry for Australian films, there is just one problem, the demand isn’t there. When was the last time you were honestly excited for an Australian film? The correct answer is never, if you say anything else you are lying to yourself because Australians make terrible movies, sadly. As much as the idea of watching a movie about Ned Kelly seems appealing to us; it just will never live up to giant dinosaur robots fighting other robots with explosions and lightsabers and phaser guns inside a space station the size of a moon (yes I did just combine Michael Bay, Star Trek and Star Wars, I should be shot for even thinking the idea… but explosions and lens flares).
Okay I need to get back on track, basically you want to know why Australian films struggle? It’s because it suffers from market failure because we don’t want to watch poorly made movies with a budget half the size of a B grade movie made in Hollywood. I guess the only question left is what protection is offered to Australian content?
Our government seems to want this industry to take off, but does it offer protection to the producers out there? The government directly and indirectly can finance the production of an Australian film via its tax incentives and the FFC, so in a way the money is there so we should be able to fund big budget movies right and protect the money invested right? Well yes and no, the way I see it, if the movie is successful and the companies make their money back everything is chill. The cold reality is that most of the movies created barely make it into the black, and remain in the red. Like I have stated over and over again, there is no demand for a movie made about Australia by Australians. When I go to a movie, I go because it looks awesome and it is probably in the fantasy or sci-fi genre so there is explosions, good story and more explosions. Australian films just have a bunch of bogans or red neck wannabees drinking beer in the outback and having something go wrong… like they run out of beer. So they go on an epic quest to find more beer. That’s the Aussie film industry from the perspective of a kid who grew up watching blockbusters such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and every other big action movie Hollywood created. Here’s a tip, instead of trying to get Australians to make “The quest for Beer 2: Electric Beeraroo” why not use our landscape as a backdrop to a big budget film. What I mean is do what New Zealand does, Think about it, their nation is all over the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, New Zealand makes a killing charging companies to film in their land and puts that money back into its own film industry to get more films to come film on their landscape.
I think I have had my say now, to sum up my arguments here, the Australian Film industry isn’t doing great because the Audience doesn’t want to see what Australian film producers make. The Australian Film industry suffers from market failure because there is no market for movies created here. The Australian government is so convinced we need a Film industry that they offer tax incentives to companies who invest in films made here but just having that isn’t enough to create a successful movie. If our film industry wants to thrive it needs to outsource the land to Hollywood.
Australian Government, 2007, Film In Australia, Austrlian Government, Canberra, Accessed 19/12/2014 <http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/film-in-australia>
Screen Australia, 2014, The Operation of 10BA, Screen Australia, Sydney, Accessed 19/12/2014 <http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/about_us/Contact-Us.aspx>
Michalk D.L, (1981) ‘A Review of the Australian Film Industry–Past and Present’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, Vol 8, Iss 4, PP 41-48, <http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1080/01956051.1981.10661878>