There is no doubt in saying that the Australian film industry has several problems. It is clear it is not where it should or needs to be, and there is certainly no shortage of suggestions as to why this is. Whilst previously most theories have looked to the films themselves in attempts to solve the problem, a new debate has occurred. For the first time people are wondering, is it possible that the problem actually rests within Australian audiences and not Australian films?
A new mindset is being taken, where rather than asking how well or indifferently the movies produced and protected by policies (such as the ones set by Screen Aus) represent Australia, we ask whether the policies themselves represent effectively the interests and diversity of the Australian audience. (Bowles 2007) What Screen Australia classifies as Significant Australian Content may be vastly different to what the general population thinks. The strict guidelines are outdated and confusing, with Bowles (2007) noting that these days it seems that the market rejects the core proposition that Australian movies are central to the maintenance of Australian cultural identity. In my opinion, the premise that Australian identity must be represented through film is incredibly archaic and out of touch. Australia’s identity comes from a multitude of sources, in forms such as art, music and mateship.
These days “Screen producers face a daunting challenge in finding their audience – a plethora of entertainment is available on multiple platforms, with social media giving unprecedented power to consumers to pass judgement even before a film’s public release.” (Middlemost, Lecture 3)
It is true that Aussie audiences are giving Australian films less of a chance than films that come from the US or UK. As previously mentioned on another blog (check it out here), there are many causes for this, with the two main reasons being expectations and access. Put simply, many viewers just do not believe that it is worth paying the money to see Australian films. After decades of let downs, it is evident that as viewers we have lost the trust and interest in seeing Australian films. It is this lack of attention that results in Aussie films being pushed to the side, with the Hollywood giants happily taking their place.
The other key factor is the access that viewers are given to Australian content. Kaufman (2009) argues that the marketing of Australian films is often mis-targeted, underfunded or left too late. Lack of resources and funding mean that it is “difficult to release an Australian film using TV advertising, as most US films do, as the numbers just don’t add up,” (Kaufman 2009) Though I may not be the biggest film buff in the world, I do make the effort to see the films that I am excited for. The problem is, that for as long as I can remember I cannot think of a single Australian film that I knew was coming to cinemas/heard reviews about. Not even one.
The question of whether culture or commerce amounts to success is one that has already been brought up countless times within this semester. I find myself changing my opinion weekly, however the further I delve into the world of Australian content I find myself thinking that ultimately it is neither. The Australian film industry should first and foremost be about quality. Whether this comes from a film that represents our nation, or one that rakes in millions of dollars, I believe that if Australia focuses on producing good quality, unique films, then all audiences, not just Aussies will give the Australian film industry the attention it deserves.
Bowles, Kate 2007, ‘‘Three miles of rough dirt road’: towards an audience-centred approach to cinema studies in Australia’, Studies in Australasian cinema, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 245-260
Kaufman, Tina 2009, ‘Shortcuts: finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro : media & education magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8