Script: Stories the australian way… or not

Producer Chris Adams doesn’t want to make so-called ‘Australian’ films. He told Paul Hayes that the origin of the idea doesn’t matter; it’s all about putting it on screen.

The Pennsylvania native and co-founder of Participant Productions (Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck) believes in making ‘Movies with a capital M’. The idea of making a film in Australia that doesn’t involve a group of blokes sitting around in the backyard, or a quirky Aussie family laughing and crying their way through a dramedy is one that is only slowly coming along. Not to say that other ideas don’t exist (the Edgerton brothers’ The Square being a recent example) but the matter of getting them from page to screen, any screen, is the hard part.

This is where Adams and his partner Steve Kearney come in. “Whether a movie is particularly about Australia isn’t really relevant if it’s great story,” he said. “It sounds so trite to say, but great stories told by great storytellers are transcendent.”

“For example, Chopper could have been about a guy in Liverpool, Nebraska, or Saskatchewan. It just happened to be about an Aussie. If it had been set someplace else, it would have still been a great film with a tremendous international appeal.”

Adams’ plan is take some of these ideas that originate in Australia and get them made. Whether they are actually made in Australia is not the point, just that they are made. The stories of Gold Coast video blogger Daniel Meadows (whose romance with an American girl has been documented on YouTube, www.youtube.com/drlemur ) and a Byron Bay surfer who sold his life on eBay serve as a template for Adams’ getting Australian stories made, but not necessarily the Australian way.

“There are two ways we could do the latter. It could be a $2 million Byron Bay surfer movie that no one would see, but what we’re going to do is turn it into that quintessential Steve Carrel/Owen Wilson film; a big, huge $50 million comedy at Universal.”

Simply taking the ideas and getting them made. This is the way Adams makes movies. “Rather than try to immerse myself in the current machinations of Screen Australia and the Australian film industry, I’m trying to look at the fact that I have been very impressed with the quality of the ideas that come from Australian creatives,” he said.

He wants the movies made in the way that he understands. “That’s not necessarily an American, Hollywood system. It’s the system of looking at great ideas, which become great screenplays, which become great movies in a very traditional way.”

Adams believes he is able to avoid exactly what stands in the way of so many local filmmakers. “I don’t want to make my creative decisions based on any monetary incentive,” he said. “I want to make them based on whether I think the movie is a movie on its own, and if it happens to meet the criteria for the producer’s offset, terrific, but that would not make any difference as to whether or not I would take it on as a project.” Adams is aware that he could be seen as Johnny-come-lately type swooping in to pillage the land down under of its intellectual property.

“I understand that I’m coming in here and being seen as either an outsider or a cowboy. We’re certainly not trying to cut and run from Australia; I just feel that there are some enormously talented people in this country and for some reason, their ideas are not making it across the line.

“If I help participate in getting some movies made that should, but traditionally aren’t getting made in the system, I would think that it would be a welcome addition to the overall Australian filmmaking community.”


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