The Rise and Fall of Australia’s Film Industry

The Australian media content market is one that has been known to have experienced significant fluctuation for several decades in terms of its successes and failures, particularly within the film industry (Stratton, 1990). While Australia’s boom period of Golden Age cinema occured in the 1970-80s (O’Donnell, 2015), the industry has also taken weighty blows where very little money has been made at all, leading many people to question its ability to survive on multiple occasions.

But what is it that determines whether or not Australian Cinema experiences a boom or a bust? Why is it that the domestic film industry can rise and fall so dramatically? I aim to reflect upon these notions through the consideration of governmental bodies of power, funding sources as well as the concept Australian media content protection.

The 1970s showed great promise for the Australian film industry. With the production of: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Mad Max (1979), Gallipoli (1981), The Man from Snowy River (1982), and Crocodile Dundee (1986), it was the decade that introduced world to what we now know as Australia’s Golden Age cinema (O’Donnell, 2015). Uncoincidentally, it also happened to be a time where the Australian people recognised a Labour Party government, a government in full support of creative industries, with Gough Whitlam leading the country as Prime Minister since 1972 (Goldsmith, 2014). During this time, it was Gough who helped develop the film agency of the Australian Film Commission (AFC), which assisted in the promotion, distribution and preservation of Australian content, ‘prioritising cultural and artistic merit over the prospect of economic success’ (Goldsmith, 2014). This governmental strategy awarded the AFC substantial financial support with a budget of $6.5 million Australian dollars (O’Donnell, 2015), a scheme put into action with hopes of the industry then being about to support itself in the future years to come.

The AFC also set out to meet objectives that fostered the development and appreciation of Australian screen culture in order to shape and influence the national agenda towards maximum accessibility and participation within the Australian film industry (Barron, 2006). Within the early stages of Australian film production, there was a focus on building national character through historical events. In order to maintain the integrity of Australia throughout film production, the AFC sanctions conditions. Subject to the approval of  the minister to make, promote and distribute a film depended on several conditions: whether it served purpose to the Department of State, whether it made reference to matters of national interest, and whether it illustrated or interpreted aspects of Australian culture and way of life (AFC, 1975, Sect. 5)

It was then during the 1980’s that 10BA tax incentive scheme was coined by the Fraser government. This allowed screen producers and investors to claim a 150 per cent tax concession, having only to pay tax on half of any income earned from the investment, a production subsidy (Screen Australia, 2018). These tax subsidies soon became common methods for attracting film production funding, a great boom of industry financing that translated to private investment accounting for 95% of feature film investment. This was an excellent start to transitioning away from government support (Burns & Eltham, 2010, p.105). Within this era, many of Australia’s films gain international popularity, with the audience share for Australian cinema being the highest in post-war history. In fact, ‘Crocodile Dundee’ helped drive the Australian share of the box office to over 23%. A figure that has not yet been achieved since (Screen Australia, 2018). However, while this incentive seemed to promised an improved financial infrastructure, the low profitability of Australian films as well as tax evasion scandals and the rising cost of the 10BA regretfully resulted in this infrastructure not being fully developed (Burns & Eltham, 2010, p.105-106). With tax concession reductions every few years, the industry saw a decline in budgets from $120 million a year and 896 projects being financed including 227 feature films, to a budget of $43.9 million a year and 382 projects being financed including 176 feature films (Screen Australia, 2018).

With the great financing that came from the 10BA initially, it saw the rise of what Australian film maker Mark Hartley calls ‘Ozploitation’ which refers to the period of time where the Australian film industry saw the production of a diverse series of genre films (Ryan, 2012, p.145). However, this great influx of films resulted in issues in terms of what is deemed as a ‘quality’ production, with a far greater focus on quantity in attempts to generate more cash flow. Entertaining genre films such that had a focus on explosive cars, gore and excessive nudity included that of ‘Turkey Shoot (1982)’, ‘Fair Game’ and ‘Road Games (1981)’ soon became received as an insult to Australia’s cultural identity, leading to a slow phase-out in by the AFC in order to promote films that reflect a positive national identity (Ryan, 2012, p.145).

Upon the eradication of the 10BA tax incentive, the Australian film industry succumbed to quite a large bust period. With the Labour party supported Film Finance Corporation (FFC) being established in 1988, the government once again became the major source of film financing (Burns & Eltham, 2010, p.106). However, during its 30 years of operation huge deficits have scarred the industry. Between 1988 and 2008, $1.345 billion was invested into film and television production by the FFC, who only saw a return of $274 million. Furthermore, the box office share of Australian features had declined from and average of 11.5% as seen in the 1980s, to 4.5% during the period of 2000-2008 (Burns & Eltham, 2010, p.107) with it’s worst performance in history illustrated in 2004 where local share of box office hit a low point of 1.3% (Ryan, 2012, p.146).

After these statistics it can be thought that one of the main issues was the significant divide between governmental policy and audience consumption practices (Ryan, 2012, p.146). As governmental agencies were the majority funding provider for the Australian film industry, production had always been driven by its policy objectives, however, australian audiences have not been found to steer towards films that advocate the government’s national cultural identity pursuits. Therefore, there have been misjudgements as to what the consumer wants compared to what the industry has provided for them, which has undoubtedly contributed to market failures despite generous funding.

Due to the fact that the FFC period has seen less feature film production as well as a declining share of cinema attendance compared to that of the 10BA boom period (Burns & Eltham, 2010, p.107), it can be suggested that maybe Australia might benefit from reverting back to its genre film, Ozploitation days. Perhaps not the the degree that it used to be, but it’s content grew the Australia film industry and boosted consumer interest in a way that the FFC era never did.

References:

AFC 1975, ‘Sect. 5, Functions of Commission’, Australia Film Commission Act 1975 No. 6 1975, www.legislation.gov.au, viewed: 15 August 2018,  <https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2004A00228>

Barron, M 2006, ‘The Australian Film Commission’, Annual Report 2005/06, screenaustralia.gov.au, viewed: 15 August 2018, <http://afcarchive.screenaustralia.gov.au/downloads/pubs/annualreport0506.pdf>

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, No. 136, pp. 103-118, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/1448536/mod_resource/content/1/Burns%20and%20Eltham%20%282010%29%20Boom%20and%20Bust%20in%20the%20Australian%20Screen%20Industry.pdf>

Goldsmith, B 2014, ‘Australia’s film industry owes a debt to Gough Whitlam’, The Conversation, theconversation.com, viewed: 14 August 2018, <https://theconversation.com/australias-film-industry-owes-a-debt-to-gough-whitlam-33240>

O’Donnell, V 2015, ‘Speaking with: David Tiley on funding Australian films’ Speaking with, theconversation.com, viewed 14 August 2018, <https://theconversation.com/speaking-with-david-tiley-on-funding-australian-films-38037>

Ryan, M D 2010, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol. 6, no. 2, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/1448927/mod_resource/content/1/Ryan%20%282012%29%20A%20silver%20bullet%20for%20Australian%20cinema.pdf>

Screen Australia 2018, ‘Box Office and Share by Year: 1977-2017’, Cinema Industry Trends Box Office in Australia, 1977-2017, screenaustralia.gov.au, viewed: 17 August 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/cinema/australian-films/feature-film-releases/box-office-share&gt;

Screen Australia 2018, ‘The Operation of 10BA’, Production Businesses In the Archive, screenaustralia.gov.au, viewed: 18 August 2018, <https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/fact-finders/people-and-businesses/production-businesses/in-the-archive/operation-of-10ba&gt;

Stratton, D 1990, ‘The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry’, Pac Macmillian Australia, Chippendale

Advertisements

Frame of Mine(d)

When making media, framing is going to be inevitable. Whether it be prompted by others or created yourself, people undergo a selection of particular aspects of a perceived reality, making some components more salient than others for the means of promoting a causal interpretation.

What this essentially means from an individual’s perspective, is that our online lives are typically quite different from our real lives, purely because we want to highlight (and possibly exaggerate) the good things about our lives, while hiding the boring, run-of-the-mill, dull aspects (which a usually more common). And i get it, i would also prefer the world to see my night out in an expensive restaurant rather than the many times i’ve hugged an ice-cream tub on the couch. But what this means is that i am creating my own perceived reality for everyone else see. What I want everyone to think i do on the regular rather than what i actually do.

However, it’s also important to note that our online presence isn’t our only media creation. Everything from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive is also our own media creations and also takes part in how people frame and perceive us.

With all these things in mind, people begin to mentally store clusters of ideas about you and your life. To best illustrate how people may frame me, i’ve chosen to create my own starter pack.

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 3.34.38 pm.png

Digital Jenga

Alright folks!
We all know of the loveable game of Jenga. Remove the wrong block, and the whole stack comes tumbling down. Well it seems this game has more practical, real life significance than we would normally think when we consider our digital platforms as stacks. Remove the bottom block, and you wipe out everything that’s been stacked on top.

The structure generally goes that digital content is always on top. That is, our memes, posts, photos videos etc. All of which is only made possible with the foundations below. So if the bottom block is removed, content creation isn’t possible.

For example:

Image result for upward arrowContent
Instagram Account
Instagram
App Store
iOS

To make our Instagram content, one would need and account. To get an account, you need the app. To get the app you need the App Store. And to access the App Store you need iOS software.

ds.png

Transmedia: The Infinity War

Transmedia involves the telling of a single story across multiple media platforms in order to create a unified and systematically coordinated entertainment experience. While there are many different examples of transmedia including that of: Harry Potter, The Simpsons and Avatar, one of the biggest transmedia evolutions would have to be that of the Marvel Universe.

Now, I’m telling you this statement at the risk of getting things thrown at me for years to come but.. until about 3 weeks ago, I had never seen a Marvel film… In fact, the first ever Marvel film i saw was Avengers: Infinity War, which, wasn’t exactly the best movie to see as an introduction to the series. My boyfriend was pretty agitated at the fact that i had to tap his shoulder every 5 seconds for him to explain to me what the hell was going on.

So i started the series chronologically from the beginning with Captain America: the first avenger, and so on. With each movie i knocked down i understood more and more… until i found out that to get a greater understanding i needed to watch not only the movies, but the tv series of: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, Inhumans, The Punisher, Runaways, Cloak and Dagger. THEN you’ve got the comic books from which the entire universe was based off!

Safe to say, i’ve got a lot of catching up to do..

giphy (1).gif

Copyright – or wrong?

Let’s talk about copyright.
A system put in place to protect the legal rights of an originator’s intellectual property.
In other words, it stops the Artful Dodger’s of the world from picking the pockets of creators and stealing their content and/or ideas for their own benefit.

But in today’s digitally immersed world, where the foundations and core mechanics of the internet are to replicate and create infinite copies of particular content, we begin to see a conflict of interest, questioning the realistic extent to which copyright can be controlled.

Through the avid use of memes, we can see that ideas can be build off other ideas, or that the work of others can create inspiration for ones own ideas. With some copyright laws going to the extreme that they claim ownership of certain colours or even specific sounds, such as the 60 minutes stopwatch sound introduction, is creativity being hindered?

Below is an audiofile of all the different sounds that you wouldn’t expect to have copyright. By merging them together i’ve produced my own creative content. Can you guess them all?

Won’t the Real Pepe Please Stand Up?

Just when they thought that nothing could beat them.
Nothing could better them.
Nothing could question their integrity and power.

Nothing could prepare them for….

PEPE THE FROG

The creation of this gif was inspired by legacy media’s belief that Pepe the Frog is evil and a symbol of hatred for memes. While Pepe is commonly replicated and remixed in the online world to convey differing emotions and contexts including: happy pepe, sad pepe, mad pepe and smug pepe, legacy media use pepe as a way of slandering the world of internet memes.

Why you ask? Well it seems that legacy media, and even political figures like Donald Trump, are scared of information that cannot be controlled. With the ability for internet memes spread and replicate slightly from computer to computer while simultaneously transmitting cultural information and generate a multitude of perceptions, it is a medium that is impossible to control. As a result, you will come across articles like this and this that argue against memes as ‘real news’ along with phrases such as meme warfare. People, like Donald Trump, and institutions such as Fairfax or NewsCorp cannot simple label every statement or image that offends them as ‘fake news’. As my previous posts have hinted at, their news isn’t exactly real either.

Open vs. Closed (minded) Content

With the last blog post emphasising the differences between legacy media and citizen journalism, the comparison continues….

It seems that with further investigation into legacy media, we are given more reasons as to why these traditional media sources may not be as dependable as open media. This debate between the two is emphasised by the open content vs. closed content model. In an environment where legacy media is restricted by the amount of news they can publish, they expose themselves to a walled, closed content setting. With news broadcasts typically restricted to an hour and newspaper articles restricted by a word count, there is suddenly the question of who decides what is newsworthy? Who decides what news to prioritise?
A key contributor to this question is investors. Those who keep legacy media up and running.

Suddenly major media sources are publishing content that their investor’s are happy with as they provide the money. This closed content approach narrows the amount of information legacy media publishes, cutting itself off from other content presented by the rest of the world.

Open media on the other hand is an open platform, promotes free, unfiltered content on platforms that value participation rather than controlling distribution. It allows viewers to see information in it’s untainted and untouched forms. While journalists see themselves as figures of authority, it needs to be noted that society is transitioning into individual content generation, where they want to share their opinions as well as learn from others.