It’s a little known fact that Australia produced the world’s first feature length film The Story of the Kelly Gang in 1906. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Australian film industry experienced a renaissance with films like Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli, Breaker Morant and The Man from Snowy River. This renaissance was sparked by government funding of Australian films undaer Prime Minister John Gorton.
Although government funding revived the industry in the 1970s, it is often criticised for creating a culture in which only earnest films which satisfy government selection criteria get made. There are some who suggest that Australian films are far too grim and don’t connect with local audiences. In 2012, Screen Australia reported that Australian films only took 4.3% of box office takings in Australia.
Jim Schembri suggests that the industry is improving as a new generation of filmmakers start making more engaging and “audience-friendly” films. “Australian cinema has undergone something of a rebirth over the past two years,” he writes in the article ‘Australian film disaster at the box office’. “Popular hits such as Tomorrow When the War Began, Animal Kingdom and Mao’s Last Dancer have been accompanied by a new mindset among film makers and financiers that puts audience-friendly, genre-driven films before the type of niche, introspective, arthouse films that have dominated the movie landscape for so long, usually to empty houses.”
In 2013, Screen Australia produced a report praising the local industry for producing hits including Red Dog and The Sapphires. “There was a strong belief that screen stories are now more sophisticated and diverse, reflecting a more complex Australia,” notes Screen Australia. “The enthusiasm for thought provoking TV dramas such as The Slap and Redfern Now and films such as The Sapphires was evidence of this.”
Australian film industry activities
• Read Heinemann Media, pp.119-123.
• Watch Into the Shadows. As a class, make a list of arguments that the documentary makes about the Australian film industry.
• Listen to the episode of Triple J’s Hack about the Australian film industry. Take note of arguments made about the local film industry.
• Watch three Australian films that you haven’t seen before.
Read the following articles. As you are reading, take notes and copy down quotes about the state of the Australian film industry.
Based on your reading and study, answer the following questions:
• What perceptions do people have about the Australian film industry?
• What are some of the perceived problems with the Australian film industry?
• What do people suggest for improving box office return for Australian films?
• Is government funding beneficial or detrimental to the Australian film industry?
• Based on your reading and viewing of Australian films, what are your perceptions of the industry?