What are the key assumptions surrounding the production of Australian content?
Australian Media… for some reason, it just doesn’t have a ring to it. Whenever I think of Australian films, I subconciously roll my eyes. Don’t get me wrong… I do enjoy (some) Australian films (Muriel’s Wedding being a personal fave) but overall they leave me questioning a lot about the Australian film industry. And then I discovered that apparently the Great Gatsby is classified as an Australian film (and who doesn’t love a bit of Leo?) So why is it that when we think of Australian media, we think of the following things?
Overall, Australian Media Content kind of leaves us with this look on our faces.
A way to understand and change the look above from drab to fab, is to explore some of the key assumptions and expectations of Australian film and media content.
What is an Australian film?
Do the actors need to be Australian? Does it need to be set in Australia? What if the director is Australian? Or the crew? Or the production company?
Screen Australia are the people behind most of these Australian films. It is funded by the federal government to support ‘Australian screen production, with an aim to create an Australian industry that is innovative, culturally important and commercially sustainable’ (Screen Australia, 2015). Screen Australia was a product of the merging of the Australian Film Commision, The Film Finance Corporation Australia and Film Australia Limited. For a film to be classified as Australian it must primarily be under ‘creative control’ (Middlemost, 2015). That’s why films like the Great Gatsby can be classified as Australian.
The clip below discusses some of these points and highlights it’s commonly believed a film is Australian if the majority of creative content and control is by Australians, or if it showcases our culture or people.
The Conversation offers an interesting point, suggesting that by trying to limit and narrow our definition of ‘Australian content’ and emphasising ‘Australian-ness’ is ‘actually holding back the Australian film industry’ (The Conversation, 2012). They argue that a films success should not be determined by their ‘cultural worthiness,’ and instead should be based on merit of the film as a whole.
What does it mean to be Australian?
By questioning the definition of an Australian film, does this in turn question Australian identity?
Australian media has had a long history of contributing towards the creation and reinforcement of Australian identity. Price suggests that the consistent representation of Australians as beach goers from Bondi Beach, or bushman living in the outback, contributes towards a national identity myth (Price, 2010). These ideas have been present within Australian society since Federation, where through print media like The Bulletin, Boomerang and Lone Hand, the image of a ‘white male, a practical working man, stoic, irreverent, anti-authoritarian and the epitome of loyalty and mateship,’was perpetuated and reinforced by the media at the time (Sievwright, 2012).
What’s the solution?
This image no longer reflects Australian identity and therefore must evolve that represent the real Australians living here. ‘Make films that engage Australian audiences. Make films that are good quality. Make films that have characters that resonate with Australian audiences. People just want to be entertained, to be swept away by the story’ (Quinn, 2014).
But is it that simple?
Audiences are torn between claiming ‘Australian films’ like the Great Gatsby and celebrating success, and being represented accurately as an ‘Australian.’ But then again, is it a films purpose to represent national identity, or tell a story? The ideas and issues that arise from discussing Australian media content are complex but necessary to start talking about so that we can wipe that ‘urgh’ look off our faces when we talk about Australian films.
Middlemost, R 2015, ‘Key Concerns of Australian Media Content’, University of Wollongong, Lecture Week 1, delivered 1 December 2015
Price, E 2010, ‘Reinforcing the myth: construction Australian identity in ‘reality TV”, Continuum, 24: 3, 451-459, accessed 4 December 2015, https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/447765/Sarah-Baker-Price_Reinforcing-the-Myth-in-Bondi-Rescue.pdf
Quinn, K 2014, ‘Why won’t we watch Australian films?’, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October, accessed 2 December 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/why-wont-we-watch-australian-films-20141024-11bhia.html
Screen Australia, 2015, Who We Are, accessed 4 December 2015, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/about_us/Who-We-Are_pg.aspx
Sievwright, B 2012, ‘Nationalism and Federation: Creating the Commonwealth of Australia’, History in the Making, University of Melbourne, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 75-82, viewed 4 December 2015, http://www.historyitm.org/index.php/hitm/article/view/123/29
The Conversation, 2012, ‘Strewth! How Aussie do Australian cinema need to be?’, The Conversation, 30 March, viewed 4 December 2015, http://theconversation.com/strewth-how-aussie-does-australian-cinema-need-to-be-5232