Crisis in Australian Film Industry
Films from down under are going, well, down and under”(Humphreys S cited in Kaufman T, 2009). This essay will confirm there is a crisis is the Australian Film Industry through exploring the economic, political and cultural factors that led to the crisis. The current economic climate and political decisions have had a significant impact on the Australian film industry, leading to lower production rates of overseas films in Australia.
The internal and external cultural factors will be explored to highlight the responsibility the Australian public and the industry had and how ailing to meet these responsibilities has further deepened the already unfortunate circumstances in the industry. However there are economical, political and cultural factors that have led to the crisis in the industry; this essay will also explore why it is called a ‘crisis’. Thus exploring the loss of Jobs, the lack of Australian films being produced, and most importantly the erosion of a sense of national identity that Australians gain through Australian cinema.
Recent successful Australian films ‘Australia’ (Alarm B, 2008) and ‘Black Balloon’ (Down E, 2008) represents the laity that films should be produced to create a successful industry; this reinforces the sense of nationhood at risk of being lost.
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There is a common misconception that the strong Australian dollar benefits the economy (Boded M, 2010). However for the Australian film industry this is not the case, the Australian dollar has risen to a 28 year high (Dingle S, 2011) so it is justifiable to say this has significantly contributed to the crisis in the industry.
Film executives believe that “the industry is in a crisis and in real pain but we scant tell the al story without sending your international customers running” (unknown cited in Boded M, 2010). Therefore, due to the strong dollar the film industry is in a lose-lose situation further deepening the crisis it is faced with. This is because international films being produced in Australia are significantly more expensive; hence Australia cannot remain competitive in the global market.
Alarms McFarland from Deluxe Promotions states that the last international production that was produced in Australia was the 2009, Gavin Hood film Wolverine’ and before that, Bag Loran’s Film ‘Australia’ (2008) (Cited in Dingle S, 2011). This three-year drought in international film production in Australia exemplifies the importance of a particular economic climate in order to attract overseas production in Australia and to lead to a successful Film Industry. The strong Australian dollar has significantly reduced the amount of international films being produced in Australia in recent years.
Rising Sun Pictures co-founder Tony Clark stated that the current economic climate is “killing us all” and finding new business is crucial but close too impossible at this stage (cited in Boded M, 2010). This has led to a chain of inopportune circumstances, further elevating the extent of the crisis. Due to the lack of international film production in Australia there is significant lull in Jobs in the film industry. The current situation in the industry can be labeled as a crisis as production companies are cutting staff to reduce costs and then the advertising and television (Dingle S, 2011).
Production in Australia also creates employment through the use of stunt doubles, extras and film crew. The lack of overseas production will therefore result in limited Job opportunities in the industry. Therefore the strong dollar has a negative impact on the economy through the perspective of the film industry, as there are higher unemployment rates. Ultimately the Australian film industry needs to position themselves differently within the current economic climate and market place to gain some sort of benefit from the current economic climate (Hear G, Ryan M D, 2010).
Economic factors contributing to the crisis in the industry can arguably be eliminated by political decisions. The Australian Government has failed to introduce adequate tax incentives to attract foreign film production in Australia, which is further stabilizing the current economic climate (Hear G, Ryan M D, 2010). Australian film commissioner Tracey Iberia believed the 15% tax offset “Just wasn’t strong enough” for overseas production to stay in Australia and the tax offset should be doubled to 30% (cited in Dingle S, 2011). The Government will review Subfamily’s proposal but some people in the industry fear it may be too late.
Central City Rod Allen believes tax incentives cannot lessen the effect of the high dollar and “the incentives can’t compensate enough now’ (cited in Boded M, 2010). However, others state that the tax s “not a grant; it’s designed to deliver significant inflows of external investment into Australia” (McFarland cited in Dingle S, 2011). Thus questioning the feasibility of introducing a tax incentive and its ability to seize the crisis in the Australian Film industry. Through exploring past tax incentives, it is evident that tax incentives do not cause enduring improvement to an industry.
The ABA scheme was first introduced in the sass’s, which led to growth in various companies in and associated with the film industry. However tax incentive such as these can lead to an “unstable bubble” in the Australian Film industry, attracting film to be produced in Australia and as the tax deflates so does the production rate of films, causing a negative slum in the industry (Burns A, Lethal B, 2010). Through investigating past tax incentives, it is seen that incentives fail to create stability, through this the extent of the crisis is recognized by showing that tax incentives will not cease the crisis.
The success or failure of the Australian Film Industry is often based on the box office success. However statistics from Screen Australia show that the 100 Australian eater films released between 2007-2009 had a total audience viewing off million by February 2011 and only 6% was viewed at the cinema (Screen Australia). This indicates that basing the success of the Australian Film Industry on box office figures is not necessarily a viable source as the Box Office only indicates a films profit made in cinema.
Film writer Linden Barber believes the film industry “needs to get away from the fixation on the box office… It doesn’t matter where people see films as long as they view them” (2008 cited in Kaufman T, 2009). Therefore can it be Justified hat the Australian Film industry is not in crisis, but purely the unfavorable economic notion, however the industry can be recognized as being in a crisis by the lack of drive for Australians to view Australian films in cinema, therefore Australians are becoming deprived of a sense of national identity achieved through Australian film (Hear G, Ryan M D, 2010).
One may be led to believe that Australians strong sense of nationhood and pride would entice them to watch Australian films to attain a sense of imagined community (Anderson B, 2006). However this is not the case, Australians have become a “viewing population- not a viewing nation” (Vernon D, 2005) weakening the sense of imagined community shared amongst Australians. The Age’s film writer, Jim Schemers argues that a lack of marketing has put the industry in this predicament (cited in Kaufman T, 2009).
Where as American films understand the importance of promotion, this recognizes the simple ways American films dominate Australian films in the Box Office (Kaufman T, 2009). This ‘American’ style of promotion may of lead to the booming success of the film ‘Australia’ (Hear G, Ryan M D, 2010), which raked in an enormous $26,91 5,773 (Screen Australia) in the box office alone. This stresses that maybe internal factors of the industry are the cause of the crisis. The negative attitudes within the industry about the industry have transcended to Australian viewers.
The 2008 film ‘Black Balloon’ (Down E, 2008) displays images of ‘Australians’ to its viewers and creates a sense of nationhood amongst viewers, however it’s co-writer had a different effect on the Australian public. Jimmy Jack singled out other nominees at the Australian Film industry awards when saying “F*KC you! With pride accepting his award followed by a roaring applause. This highlights an industry comfortable insulting others in the industry (Kaufman T, 2009). Thus encouraging and tolerating a negative attitude towards the Australian film industry that the Australian public has accepted.
This ultimately drives the issues in the film industry deeper into crisis. Australian cinema (not Just films produced in Australia) fosters an Australian story, representing and preserving Australian culture, character and identity (Marcher, 1999 cited in Hear G, Ryan M D, 2010). When exploring why the Australian film industry is babbled a ‘crisis’ it is evident it is because of the erosion of national identity and a sense of imagined community, which can be achieved through Australian film.
Bag Allurement’s film ‘Australia’ (2008) uses imagery of the Australian landscape to display national identity thus uniting all Australians with a sense of imagined community (Simpson C, 2010). The film also recognizes the gender and racial discourses imprinted into Australians national identity (Hogan J, 2010) in an attempt to create dialogue amongst Australians to help recognize and eliminate the issues. Ultimately Australia’ recognizes Australia’s past and encourages a brighter future for all Australians- indigenous or not.
The film achieves this through creating a distinct shift in the attitudes of those within the industry by creating an indigenous film that is not “Box Office poison” (Simpson C, 2010). The film ‘Australia’ (Lurching B, 2008) represents the power Australian films hold over a sense of imagined community and national identity. Thus representing the lack of nationhood Australians will Unlike ‘Australia’ (Lurching B, 2008) Elise Downs 2008 film ‘Black Balloon’ displayed a ensue of ‘Australians’ in a more subtle way.
The film was the second highest grossing film in the Box office in 2008 to ‘Australia’, gaining $2,265,689 in the box office alone (Screen Australia). Although this was less than a tenth of what ‘Australia’ (Lurching B, 2008) grossed, ‘Black Balloon’ (Down E, 2008) may have created a more sustainable sense of nationhood. Contrasting to ‘Australia’ (Alarming B, 2008), the film was not tainted by Hollywood (Parents O, Parker R, 2009), displaying an Australian genre of film and following a less dramatic more realistic story line.
Dominic Knight (from the Chaser’s) believes that few Australian filmmakers seem interested in depicting ordinary life (cited in Kaufman T, 2009). Hence Australian films need to maintain their cinematic identity and produce films in which audience’s want to see (Humphreys S, 2008 cited in Kaufman T, 2009). Thus supporting the success of ‘Black Balloon’ (Down E, 2008) in telling a relatable Australian story (Evergreen D, 2005). This further highlights the extent of the crisis, as a sense of imagined community is lost. Through exploring the various driving factors that contributed to the crisis in the
Australian Film Industry it is evident that soon, if nothing has been done, the industry will be labeled a tragedy. The industry is sensitive to certain factors and relies heavily on a specific economic climate to attract overseas production. These external factors are beyond the industries control but still need to be addressed. Although some people within the industry believe it is too late, or that a tax incentive would not be effective in the long-run the government along side the Australian Film Industry should investigate option’s before it is too late.
Through acknowledging that the industry is in crisis one can only anticipate that Australians will recognize the importance that the film industry has in creating a sense of national identity and imagine community and re-evaluate their attitudes towards Australian cinema. The Australian film industry cannot control the external factors that are contributing to the crisis in the industry, however the; industry, government and Australian public need to recognize the issues in order to salvage the industry and eliminate the factors that labels it as in a crisis.