Daring or Dangerous? Are Co-Productions the Future of Australian Films?

“I don’t know an Australian would have made this film” Andrew Mason (Producer)

I previously watched this film and was completely blown away by the tender provocativeness of the storyline and honest vulnerability of the characters, complemented by the stunning landscape of the NSW coastline. It was unlike any other Australian film I had seen before so I had to do a bit of research on this film. It turns out that Adore (also known as Two Mothers, Perfect Mothers and Adoration) is a French – Australian film that was released at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 (Bodey, 2013). Australians love French cinema which is proven through the success of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival ,in its 27th year in 2016 and the biggest festival of French films outside of France.

Culturally, France is renowned for their unapologetic romance and passion. Bodey explains that they know how to feel and if you love something, go for it’ (Bodey, 2013). The movie And as the producer Andrew Mason confesses ‘I don’t know an Australian would have made this film.’ The film is based on a short story by British author, Doris Lessing and was directed French director, Anne Fontaine. Yet the film features predominantly Australian actors and is set in Seal Rocks on the coast of Australia. This neat fusion of culture and cinematic ideas, create a hybrid film.

I have previously explored the importance of landscape in Australian films (check it out here), and this film is no exception. Bodey states that the isolation of the location – a small coastal town, plays on the idea that it is an Australian film and apart from a few references to Sydney, could be any coastal town in the world.

adore2
Adore. Source

To co produce with France also offers enormous benefits in audience reach, financial support and box office success. France has an extremely strong and unique film industry. In 2013, ‘270 feature films were produced with a combined expendituare of €1.25 billion’ (Screen Australia, 2014). Along with having a significantly larger budget, France also has a huge cinema watching audience. With a population of 66million and 196.3million annual cinema admissions, France is a strong country to co produce with (Screen Australia 2014). France and Australia have a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) which was signed in 1986 and since then have co produced over 32 productions with a total budget of $265million (Screen Australia, 2014). The Australian minimum is 40% but the French minimum is 20% (Screen Australia, 2014) which illustrates the Australian film industry’s need to exercise tight control over our national industry and identity. The benefits of co producing with France are economically and culturally viable and beneficial to both nations.

Critics have said that co-produced films are ‘oriented towards global agendas and systems’ (O’Regan & Potter, 2013) and we could risk losing our national film identity. They are also concerned that internationalising a national film industry can lead to ‘loss of creative freedom and contribute to film distribution, production, post-production and visual effects also being internationalised’ (O’Regan & Potter, 2013). However, others believe that co productions are the key to the future and success of the Australian film industry, with unique and changing stories that can capture rich appreciate from audiences (Dillon, 2013)

A film like Adore contains significant Australian content, it just has a fresh French squeeze drizzled over it. It seems however, that Australian audiences aren’t ready to embrace such a big change in our national film industry just yet.

 

References

Bodey, M 2013, ‘Sons and lovers unite in French-Australian drama Adoration‘, The Australian, 16 November, viewed 14 January 2016, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/sons-and-lovers-unite-in-french-australian-drama-adoration/story-fn9n8gph-1226759727586

Dillion, J 2013, ‘On Australian Screens’, Scrope Screen Industry Views, Metro, Communication & Mass Media Complete, 176, pp. 112 – 119, viewed 17 January 2016

Screen Australia, 2014 ‘Co-Pro Program Partner Countries Profile: France’, Screen Australia, viewed 14 January 2016, https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/coproductions/partner_countries/france

O’Regan, T Potter, A 2013, ‘Globalisation from within?: The de-nationalising of Australian film and television production’ Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, No. 149, Nov 2013

The Outback and Bad Publicity

Is any attention good attention?

We can’t begin to talk about the issue of good vs. bad publicity without mentioning Ms Miley Cyrus. The past few years have seen this star embark on one of the most outrageous and successful publicity campaigns of all times, starting with her infamous performance at the VMA’s with Robin Thicke in 2013. Her performance generated over 306 000 tweets per minute (Robinson, 2013), which were overwhelmingly negative. However, she managed to get an extra 100 000 followers on Twitter and it kick started the following years of raunchy videos and the release of a new album. Mily Cyrus has also used her fame to advocate for youth social issues like Homelessness and mental health through her Happy Hippy Foundation. So whilst the majority of publicity towards Miley Cyrus is negative, in this case, is negative publicity good publicity for her, her fans, her career and her foundation? It would seem so.

miley-cyrus
Miley being Miley. Source

‘Without the outback, Australian cinema might have been interchangeable with any number of other national cinemas. With it, Australian filmmakers have used the landscape to forge an identity that is of the land, while still seeking to understand its enigma’ (Shirley, 2011).

The same issue can be applied to Australian films.  ‘Our national cinema plays a vital role in our cultural heritage and in showing us what it is to be Australian’ (Bowles, 2007). Australian films seem to have an obsession with representing Australian culture and Australia through vast deserts, the outback and an ocker stereotype. This idea of Australia was introduced when Crocodile Dundee was released, promoting these stereotypical ideas (Middlemost, 2015). But the question stands, is this the sort of image we should be promoting to the world (and especially America?). And even though these films and characters are getting attention, is this publicity good publicity?

A classic Australian film with strong emphasis on landscape and the Outback is Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It emphasises the stark contrast in cinematography of the ‘drag queens, heightening the apparent inappropriateness of the figures which occupy the landscape, and to highlight its dominance over them’ (Thomas, 1996).

20 years later and Tracks is released. It’s a biographical film based off of the memoir of Robyn Davidson. This film depicts a strong and independent female lead and her connection with the earth as opposed to the contrasting image of drag queens in the desert. This film made around $500 000 domestically and over $4million worldwide (Box Office Mojo, 2016) illustrating this wild, untamed and nature of the Outback to the rest of the world. The film generated a lot of money in the box office, however there is also a strong correlation with Outback adventure films like Tracks and Wolf Creek and pop- culture tourism. With the promise of a ‘life changing experience’ (Frost, 2010) the above films promote not only Australia but a lifestyle. But as Shirley points out, an issue with emphasising the Outback in films is that it neglects different groups and perspectives of people that live in Australia (Shirley, 2011), ones that would be overlooked by tourists.

tracks
Tracks

Tracks, however, does include very important voices that have often been omitted from Australian films, those of the First Australians and women. Despite the fact that many people roll their eyes at the thought of another film set in the Outback, it has provided Australian films a pivotal role in our nations film success. In conclusion, it seems that any attention and publicity Australian films can generate is good for the industry and many others like tourism. However, to avoid a calamity of a publicity stunt like Miley Cyrus, I believe we should play to our strengths as a film industry whilst steadily challenging what is on screen and what is missing. Regardless I believe landscape and the Outback will always be an iconic character in Australian films.

 

 

References

Bowles, K 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

Box Office Mojo, 2016, ‘Tracks (2014)’, Box Office Mojo, viewed 3 January 2016, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=tracks2014.htm

Frost, W 2010, ‘Life changing experiences. Film and Tourists in the Australian Outback’, Annals Of Tourism Research, 37, pp. 707-726, ScienceDirect

Robinson P, 2013, ‘Why twerking Miley Cryrus thinks there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, The Guardian, 30 August, viewed 2 January 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2013/aug/29/twerking-miley-cyrus-no-bad-publicity

Shirley, B 2011, ‘The Outback on Screen’, Screen Australia, National Film and Sound Archive, viewed 4 January 2016, http://www.nfsa.gov.au/research/papers/2011/12/06/outback-screen/

Thomas, AJ 1996, ‘Camping outback: Landscape, masculinity, and performance in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, p. 97