One of the biggest hurdles for Australian filmmakers is competing with the big budget American studio films. Indeed, this is one of the reasons the government gives for subsidizing Australian films. However, it seems to be at odds with the support given to American films like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
They fund films to help us compete against the American films, and then they turn around and fund the American films as well. It kind of defeats the purpose.
They’re basically buying filmmaking jobs from the US to keep filmmakers and the electorate happy but the trouble is, when the short-lived jobs end, all of the film’s profits go straight back to the US.
If we were to focus on making our own films, we could create jobs as-well-as profits and the profits could be turned into future jobs. It’s a far more sustainable model.
Unfortunately the Australian government has found it largely impossible (even with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend) to make commercially viable films. They blame filmmakers but it’s really their fault. They’re the ones who pick and choose which films are made and often which scripts are developed.
Now they’re picking American scripts. Maybe they figure if you can’t beat them join them. But is it even possible for the government to import a ready-made film industry from the US and turn it into a sustainable industry here? I doubt it.
McDonald’s gave us the McOz Burger but it’s hardly Australian and anyway, do we really want to become a sweatshop for American studios? Is that the best we can do? It might seem like a fast track, but there’s a limit to how large and how fast such an industry can grow, especially if it’s pegged to subsidies.
I know one Australian screenwriter who has written a period seafaring adventure, not dissimilar to Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but unfortunately for him it’s an Australian film not an American film. In our government’s desperate attempt to pick winners, it’s turning its back on the very reason it claims to be in the film business in the first place: to promote the Australian culture.
At least The Great Gatsby has an Australian writer-director in Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, and if anyone can lure US money to fund truly Australian films, they can.
Of course there are benefits to American films being made here, but we shouldn’t confuse American films made in Australia with Australian films made in Australia. There’s a big difference.
Jason Kent is the founder of Pure Independent Pictures
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.