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?

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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?

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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

Australian Audiences: What’s Wrong With Us?

The problem isn’t Australian films, it’s Australian audiences

I love Australian films, with all their flaws and mistakes and even outright crassness on occasions … But if it is to continue to be part of our culture, Australian film needs a bit of kindness, and it needs audiences. – Margret Pomeranz, co-host of ABC’s At the Movies

When looking at the success or failure of Australian films, we quickly assume it’s because of the content. However, with 2015 being Australian films ‘biggest year at the box office, taking more than $84million (Quinn, 2015), it must be something other than what’s in the movie. But maybe it’s time we start looking at who’s watching the movie. Let’s turn the lens around and look into what’s the problem with Australian audiences.

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Dwindling cinema goers for Australian films. Source

A significant ‘problem’ with Australian audiences, is that we are a leading nation of ‘pirates.’ The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation’s 2010 report indicates that ‘more than half of Australia’s population has participated in piracy’ (The Conversation, 2014) because pirating is ‘free, convenient and quick, with 30 percent of pirates saying that legal content is too expensive (Reilly, 2015). As discussed in previous posts, price and time are big constraints restricting people’s access to go to the movies. And why would you spend money on something that you can get for free?

However, I hear from… a friend of mine… that it is extremely difficult to access Australian content online through pirating. Therefore, audiences may have to turn to Video On Demand Services like Netflix. However, the American Netflix has more Australian content than the Australian Netflix! So even if audiences are trying to do the right thing and paid for an Australian Netflix account to watch Australian content, their options are extremely limited.

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Ozflix. Coming in 2016. Source

But is it all the audiences fault?

Even if we want to watch Australian films, we face the massive issue of access. Kaufman states that Australian films will continute to ‘find fewer audiences if the Old World distribution system remains the only way to connect films with audiences’ (Kaufman, 2009) So it only makes sense that we need to give our distribution and access to Australian films a facelift.  2016 will see the launch of Ozflix. A unique new platform allowing audiences to access a huge amount of Australian content (watch below for more information).


<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>

The success of Ozflix is yet to be known, with its launch occurring later in 2016. Ozflix and ‘VOD (video on demand) offers the potential to tap into specialised audience demand’ (Screen Australia, 2014). This new platform will allow audiences to engage with Australian content in a positive way, easier, cheaper and faster. This cheap and easy access to multiple platforms is a crucial market that the Australian media content industry needs to tap in to (Thank you Ozflix). As the government makes it harder and harder for people to torrent illegally, there is demand and room within our current market to support Australian Content moving to Video On Demand.
So whilst there may be a few problems with us as an audience and a few problems with Australian films… all in all, we’re not too bad. The issues seems to lie in access. In order for Australian films and content to flourish, it needs a dedicated and committed audience. Hopefully 2016 and Ozflix will cater to the audiences demand.

 

References

The Conversation, 2014, ‘Explainer: Where’s the audience for Austarlian films?’ The Conversation, 17 January, viewed 12 December, http://theconversation.com/explainer-wheres-the-audience-for-australian-films-20945

Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Shortcuts: finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro: media & education magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8

Quinn, K 2015, ‘Australian film has had its biggest year at the box office ever. Why?’, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 December, viewed 12 December, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/australian-film-has-had-its-biggest-year-at-the-box-office-ever-why-20151204-glfut3.html#ixzz3wuc4sIIk

Reilly, D 2015, ‘Australians still pirating but most would ignore three strikes warning’, CNet, 22 July, viewed 13 December 2015, http://www.cnet.com/au/news/australians-still-pirating-but-most-would-ignore-three-strikes-warnings/

Screen Australia, 2014, ‘Online and on demand – Trends in Australian online video use’, Screen Australia, viewed 13 December,