Why content makers are leaving our shores
In a piece that first featured in Encore, Craig Anderson says there simply isn’t enough opportunity for content makers in Australia, especially for those making comedy.
Last year I had multiple meetings with production companies in Australia and discovered that apart from the odd commercial campaign, there’s no proliferation of paying platforms for comedy. From my own experience there’s iView, which will buy content once it’s already been made (though I live in hope that it will one day be granted the financial power to commission content). I’ve also had the odd informal commission from the SMH iPad consisting of two narrative series and a comical review show. But none of these endeavours were financially viable.
The commercial networks are scared to produce Australian comedy – for them it’s a huge risk, especially when they can buy US/UK content (with a proven track record) for around a tenth of the price. SBS and ABC have incredibly limited budgets, which means the few comedies they make have an unreasonable amount of pressure on them to find a large audience.
Which brings me to America. There’s obviously a much bigger market, 190 million people bigger, population wise. There are hundreds of cable channels, Netflix and primetime slots on major commercial networks purely dedicated to comedy. The major comedy websites also originate in America and their commercials use humour more frequently than in Australia. As a result, comedy development is stronger in America. Stand up and improv schools are huge in Chicago, New York and LA. Big-name celebrities, agents, producers and writers frequent these schools and clubs in search of new talent and everyone is hungry to find the next big thing.
But apart from its bigger market, the US does something Australia doesn’t do. They don’t have the tendency to cringe. Instead of sneering, cutting down and booing difference, America embraces and exploits it. This is really important for comedy. Australia celebrates hypermediocrity whereas America celebrates its extremes across the board, which means comedy can thrive. I don’t know if the attitude in Australia will ever change, but like many Aussies in this business, there’s simply more opportunity for me overseas.
Craig Anderson is a comedy writer, performer and content maker currently splitting his time between Sydney and Los Angeles.
This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.