Documentary to explore reasons behind box office slump of Australian movies

The declining state of the Australian film industry will come under the spotlight in a documentary that will analyse the drastic slide in box office market share of locally made movies.

Produced by Pure Independent Pictures, What’s wrong with Australian Films will feature a range of experts who will debate the reasons behind the slump, which has seen local films’ total share of the Ausie box office fall from more than 23 per cent in the 1980s to less than 4 per cent today.

Jason Kent, director at Pure Independent Pictures, told Mumbrella it was time for the issue to be addressed.

“Some people are trying to pretend as if there is no problem. I see articles every year saying everything is great, but the opposite is true,” he said. “But if we don’t do something about it and if someone doesn’t at least start by saying ‘hey, there a problem’ and ask the questions about what is wrong, then nothing will improve.”

Experts in economics, finance, marketing, and filmmaking will explore questions such as is the Australian economy large enough to make commercial films, does Australia have enough scripts, does the Aussie accent work in films, and ask whether there is the desire to make quality Australian films.

“If the market share is going down and people are not watching our films, to me that’s a red flag and we can’t sweep it under the rug,” Kent said.

He said Australia needs to get back to what it was good at it – making low budget movies – and building a self sufficient commercially-viable business.

“We were leading the world in that low budget category and we need to get back to that. Costs seem to have spiralled out of control, the costs seem to be lower in the US and that comes out in the documentary.

“The problem is that Australian films haven’t been making any money so it becomes difficult to raise private investment, we just don’t have the track record.” Kent continued. “The three most successful Australian films of all time (The Story of the Kelly Gang, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max) were independent films in that they were not subsidised by the government.”

Among the issues tackled in the documentary is that of the “cultural cringe” that exists among local audiences and the suggestion that the Australian accent is partially to blame.

“Personally I don’t think it’s a problem,” Kent said. “When I hear people say they think the Australian accept is hurting film making, it strikes me as part of a cultural cringe and I think that is a sad indictment on the nature of the system that is creating that.

“If people are cringing at Australian films and thinking we are just not cool enough to make films in Australia, that has a very damaging effect on the national psyche. If we can show people the real reasons why Australian films are not doing as well as they should, we could break that cultural cringe and hopefully encourage people to come back to Australian films and not assume we are not cool enough.”

The problem of losing local talent to Hollywood and empowering film makers to “take back control of the industry” and out of the hands of the Government will also be addressed.

What’s wrong with Australian Films will be broadcast in Brisbane on Digital 31 on September 8, 10, 11 and 14, on TVS in Sydney on September 8, 10 and 11, on C31 in Melbourne tomorrow and on September 9 and in Perth on West TV on September 13, with more broadcast to follow.

It will also show nationally on independent community channel, Aurora, on October 5.

Steve Jones


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