What can Ozploitation tell us about the Australian film industry?

“Ozploitation is an evocative term that embraces a rather diverse series of Australian genre films produced during the 1970s – 80s. The term was coined by Australian film maker Mark Hartley in his 2008 documentary, Not Quite Hollywood (2008).” (Middlemost, Lecture 2)

The concept of Ozploitation supports the boom or bust attitude that is commonly associated with Australian content. During the Ozploitation era, a huge amount of films were produced. Anyone who had the money to produce one did, often resulting in the content being weird, wonderful and downright crazy. This surge of films was aided by the 10BA tax, which allowed producers to claim a 150% return on their investment. (Burns and Eltham 2010) But this ‘boom’ era of Aussie films could not last. The notion of Ozploitation in combination with the 10BA tax catalysed an unsustainable bubble in Australian production. Ultimately, the 10BA tax was scraped, being replaced by its policy successor the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) the first government screen agency to contribute to Australia’s film ‘bust’. Established to bring investment bank-style portfolio management to Australia’s screen industry, the FFC was quick to disassemble the world of Ozploitation and over-producing. However this approach was clearly not the answer to Australia’s production issues, with the FFC fundamentally failing its stated mission of ‘commercial’ screen financing. “Over its 20-year lifespan, the FFC invested A$1.345 billion for A$274.2 million recouped – a cumulative return of negative 80 per cent.” (Burns and Eltham 2010)

So this leaves us questioning – what era was better? During the Ozploitation boom Australia produced more films than ever before. The content focused less on national identity and more on genre’s, consisting of sex, nudity, drugs, money and racism, shocking Australian and global viewers alike. Quality went out the window and the biggest concern became content alone. It was clear that this boom was unsustainable and ultimately unprofitable, but was it better than the bust that soon followed? With Screen Australia’s strict guidelines in place, we have seen a complete 360. In the past few decades, “Australian filmmakers have become increasingly hostile to genre and slid into a gloomy trough of art and self expression. This is a problem, because audiences want to be entertained. Genre compensates for the lack of stars because form is the star.” (Ryan 2012 p.148)

So what is the way forward for Aussie films? A class discussion lead us to the conclusion that while “genre production is not a silver bullet that will single-handedly improve the Australian feature film industry’s commercial performance,” it is something that Screen Australia and the Australian government definitely need to re-explore. (Ryan 2012 p.148) The case study of Ozploitation has shown that whilst genre films may be a little eccentric at times, they are popular and most of all memorable. Thomas (2009) argues that Ozploitation films do have historical and cultural value, and that the Ozploitation genre has opened up new marketing opportunities in cinemas globally.

I believe that the case study of Ozploitation has shown us that genre films create hype. I think that in order for Australian production to make a comeback, it needs to find the balance between representing national identity and genre. Of course some films need to go down the gloomy art path, and others such as The Howling, Dead End Drive In and Turkey Shoot will inevitably still be made. What Ozploitation has taught us is that any publicity is good publicity, and in my opinion, Australia needs to revert to its crazy movie making days to get our name back out there.

 

Check out some of the craziest Ozploitation films ever made > http://curnblog.com/2013/06/09/ozploitation-twelve-australian-exploitation-classics/

References:

Burns, Alex & Eltham, Ben 2010, ‘Boom and bust in Australian screen policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’ ‘, Media international Australia, no. 136, pp. 103-118

Ryan, M,D 2012, A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 6:2, pp. 141-157. < http://www-tandfonline.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1386/sac.6.2.141_1 >

Thomas, D 2009, Tarantino’s Two Thumbs Up: Ozploitation and the Reframing of the Aussie Genre Film, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, No. 161, pp. 90-95, <https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=881538223754070;res=IELLCC> ISSN: 0312-2654>

 

 

 

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