Industry Report: Focus: Asia & Oceania
Australian film industry told to act like a business
08/02/2010 - The Australian film industry must act like a business and abandon social realism films for melodramas like Australia and Mao's Last Dancer, says Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) president Antony I Ginnane.
Ginnane says governments should not be funding art for art's sake. "We need to resolve once and for all the 40-year push/pull between art and commerce," Ginnane said at the opening of the SPAA conference in Sydney on Wednesday.
"Industry and government need to accept this is a business, not a culture fest. "In the film industry, government intervention has been consistently used to assist in the creation of product the market does not want. And the market tells us that year in, year out by rejecting it en masse. "We don't listen and we don't want the government to notice."
In 1998, Australian films took 18 per cent of the box office takings. Since then the figure has not risen above 10 per cent. Most recently it has been floundering between 3 and 4 per cent. Ginnane says the problem lies with the kind of films Australia is producing. "Perhaps collectively our ability to read the marketplace and audience appetite has been so dulled by the subsidy drug that we've completely forgotten what audiences want," he said. "Genre is key - and it's bizarre to me that when literally hundreds of social realist Australian films fail, we keep making them. And when a few horror thrillers fail after Wolf Creek it's time to shut that genre down again. That's very sad."
He says recent success stories were movies like Samson And Delilah, which was made with a minimal budget, and The Boys Are Back, which grossed $564,314 on its opening weekend. These are examples of the kind of entertainment audiences have embraced, he says.
"Mao's Last Dancer, with a fantastic Australian gross of $13,975,651 to date, like Australia [the film], proved that melodrama not social realism is the genre our would-be screenwriters should be studying," he said.
Ginnane says with vision and investment Australia should have produced filmmakers like Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and Peter Jackson (Lord Of The Rings).
"Now of course we have George Miller, and from a different perspective Baz Luhrmann. But apart from George and Baz, as an industry we could have achieved so much more," he said. "And that would have happened without the straitjacket of cultural protectionism we enveloped ourselves in."