Australian Media Content: Cynical Optimism

“Is it time to give up on Australian content?”

Why bother?

Australian films are… ‘dark and depressing, full of outmoded ocker stereotypes, rubbish’ (Quinn, 2014). We’ve already discussed some of the key assumptions around Australian media and it’s content (here) and pretty well established that there’s this underlying ‘urgh’ about Australian films. I had the same impression a few months ago, they never seemed that interesting, that’s even if I heard about them. And why would I spend so much money to watch it, when I could watch a Hollywood blockbuster for the same amount of money? All of these issues give us the sense that we should just give up on Australian media content.

The following table illustrates that Australian films have either been in a state of ‘boom or bust’ as ‘screen policy is highly visible in Australian cultural policy debates due to the screen industry’s perceived cultural importance and media profile’ (Burns & Eltham). It’s easy to see that the late 70’s to 80’s returned massive profits due to the rise of Ozploitation and the liberal funding scheme at the time (read here). However we can also see that there’s periods where next to no one is going to the cinema, like in 2004 where we only received 1.3% share. So with some pretty dismal stats… is it time we give up on Australian films?

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 9.24.03 am.png
Table of the Box Office takings to the % share. Source

The Revival Period

We just had our biggest year at the box office in 2015 ‘taking $84million at the local box office, which is 7.7% of the total – the biggest since 2001’ (Quinn, 2015). So, does this mean that instead of giving up… we should commit to transforming our national film industry to something bigger and better?

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 8.33.28 pm
Ozflix aims to solve some of Australia’s distribution issues. Source

Overcoming the issues

We already know that there is a market gap. That people are turning away from American and British media, however struggle to access new Australian content (Vickery, 2015). According to Aveyard, ‘films only exist when distributed properly’ (Aveyard, 2011) and she highlights the significant issues faced by being restricted to traditional means of marketing due to budgets, and then in turn receiving little at the box office (pp. 43). As David Elfick explains in the picture above, the window in access between the cinema and DVD access dramatically effects the success of the film. Lauren Carrol Harris (author of The Mule) says that we are left with an economic situation that sets up Australian films to fail’ (McClintock, 2014). To avoid being ‘more culturally and economically marginalised’ (Aveyard, 2011), Australian film and media need to move forward with innovation, creativity and some risks.

In 2016, a new VOD service called Ozflix will be launching. The aim of this service is to ‘rediscover Australian classics, launch independent new voices and celebrate our film industry’ (Nash, 2015). Perhaps this is what Australian media needs… to step away from traditional means of distribution and access. Van Hermet and Ellison support this idea, explaining that audience engagement is at the epicentre of a films success and in this digital age, social media and online participation need to be included (Van Hermert & Ellison). Perhaps if the people consuming the content were actively involved with Australian media, they would be more willing to pay to access it and also continue to watch it?

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This infographic highlights how to use social tv and audience engagement to generate hype. Source

Solutions

Screen Australia propose that new strategies or business models to overcome the issues illustrated above could include and address the following; ‘audiences want to see what they want, when they want, where they want and on the device they want, that producers and distributors need to experiment with alternative strategies to engage audiences and having an easy platform to access these films will make audiences more likely to pay for VOD services’ (Screen Australia, 2015, pp.22). The biggest solution will arise from innovation, creativity and engagement of audiences, all of which can be met by taking some risks and stepping away from our ‘safe zone.’

A change of heart

I must admit, I’ve completely changed my perspective over the course of the past few months studying Australian media content. I believe we need to change the negative stigma attached to Australian films because that’s the most damaging and influential part that led me to avoid watching them. Secondly, our access to films needs a facelift. If I couldn’t find a film on Netflix (I’m already subscribed) then the chances of me buying a DVD player are extremely slim, and there’s no way in hell Australian films are easy to find on… alternate sites (definitely nothing illegal here). However, in the past few months I’ve managed to watch films I’d never heard of like Little Death, Adore, Animal Kingdom and Tracks. And admittedly, I loved all four of those films. Of course there may be some less than amazing Australian films out there – but then again, I’ve seen my fair share of bad American films as well. As technology continues to evolve, so does our film industry, the way we talk about it and how we access it. I am extremely optimistic about the future. As we see new talent, new platforms and bigger and better ideas, I think this will only transfer over to our film industry and we’re in for some fine entertainment.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/141530786″>Ozflix Sizzle reel</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/ronbrown”>Ron V. Brown</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

 

 

References

Aveyard, K 2011, ‘Australian Films at the Cinema: Rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition’, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, No. 138, pp. 36-45

Burns, A & Eltham, B 2010, ‘Boom and Bust in Australian Screen Policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘Race to the Bottom’, Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, No. 136, pp. 103-118

McClintock, A 2014, ”The Mule’ and the future of film distribution in Australia’, ABC, 20 November, viewed 30 January 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/finalcut/’the-mule’-and-the-future-of-film-distribution-in-australia/5906368

Nash, C 2015, ‘Ozflix to launch in 2016’, Filmink, n.d, viewed 29 January 2016, http://www.filmink.com.au/2015/ozflix-to-launch-in-2016/

Quinn, K 2014, ‘why won’t we watch Australian films?,’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October, viewed 27 January 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/why-wont-we-watch-australian-films-20141024-11bhia.html

Quinn, K 2015, ‘Australian film has had its biggest year at the box office ever. Why?’,

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/australian-film-has-had-its-biggest-year-at-the-box-office-ever-why-20151204-glfut3.html#ixzz3ym7axWI5

Screen Australia, 2015, ‘Issues in feature film distribution’, Screen Australia, July, viewed 31 January 2016, https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/9598b9f7-321b-45f3-b5e8-7870166487fc/IssuesInFeatureFilmDistribution_2015-07-30.pdf

Van Hermert, t & Ellison, E 2015, ‘Queensland’s film culture: the challenges of local film distribution and festival exhibition’, Studies in Australiasian Cinema, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 39-51, DOI: 10.1080/17503175.2014.1002269

Vickery, C 2015, ‘Aussie viewers snub American TV shows in favour of locally made programs such as My Kitchen Rules’, News.com.au. News Corp Australia Network, 15 March, viewed 29 January 2015,  http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/tv-ratings/aussie-viewers-snub-american-tv-shows-in-favour-of-locally-made-programs-such-as-my-kitchen-rules/news-story/a6ea050bd2472620933add5507f1dd2a

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