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AUSTRALIAN FILM INDUSTRY? WHEN? READERS RESPONSE

- YOUR SAY
Australian films are boring - and the tough nut of distribution: readers respond to Andrew L. Urban's essay on the Australian film business (30/3/2000).

Marina says -
There has been a lot of media comment on the state of the home-grown Aussie film industry recently and, although viewing and voting on the selected AFI feature films is still in progress, I have now seen all the films entered so I feel justified in adding my quid's worth.

Frankly, much of this year's offerings does prove that the local industry is in dire straits, and there are only about six films worth considering, the rest either having depressingly grunge content or self-indulgent ramblings which might win awards at obscure film festivals but no mainstream movie-goer would bother to see.

By the time I had seen all 18 features, several of them were so similar they had fused together in my mind and now I can hardly remember one from the other. They couldn't seem to decide if they were going to be black comedies or gritty urban dramas, were generally plotless with inane dialogue and mainly about groups of 20-something self-absorbed people living in squalor (one of whom strangely enough always seems to work in a bookshop!) and overly obsessed with themselves, their sex lives (or lack of), and their inability to form decent relationships ... oh, boring, boring! Technically, some of these productions were very good, also many young actors gave personal best performances so it is a shame the films themselves
were so forgettable.

Australia has a great track record with highly original film scripts, so why have many of these emerging film-makers let themselves be restricted by that old furphy "write [film] what you know"? Are their navel-gazing horizons so low and unimaginative that they can't, or won't, see that there is a wide range of contemporary Australian stories to tell? Even just ordinary every-day news and current affairs stories offer plenty of inspiration ... the kind of human stories with which audiences everywhere would be able to connect. Please, producers and writers, use the vision and inventiveness for which you are so highly regarded and get back to making the kind of films Australians and the rest of the world want to see.
Marina Maxwell, Canberra

William says -
Andrew, great article and full of your usual twisted metaphors (eg. "It's a horse with two heads, which won't fly.")

The magic word in all media today and into the future is DISTRIBUTION. Getting the protective walls down re production is one thing; getting the product spruiked and delivered to the right markets is another. Distribution is a significant problem in sport, books and popular music, and consequently great athletes/authors/musicians languish or leave the country.

Your concept of a mini industry is sensible. We should accept that we can't beat the US. As in Australian soccer, the big stars will always go abroad early, and they will usually stay away. That doesn't mean we can't make great movies here, without them.

I am unconvinced about "Australian stories" though. Any story written and filmed here, with our workers on and in front of the camera, carries our accent. Plus, we are a motley collection of prisoners, dreamers, misfits and layabouts, all seriously starved for company here at the bottom of the world. We live on the very edges of the continent, so obsessed are we with "overseas". Our own versions of European high culture are often odd and weak.
So bringing other cultures here for filming sounds just like what my great grandfather did, when he stared for the first time at the hazy Adelaide Hills 150 years ago, so far from Liverpool and the weight of history.
William Shakespeare

Andrew replies: The twisted metaphor is also meant as an ironic comment on the subject of the metaphor . . . if you see what I mean.

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There is still no such thing as a real film industry here, argues ANDREW L. URBAN, although there probably could be. And there should be -but Australia first needs a debate on why and how we support filmmaking, so we can clear up the confusion that clogs the current, well meaning but unworkable policy, which is perhaps not expediting the growth of a real industry.







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