Is it time to give up on Australian content?
This question troubles me because I have never really been a huge follower of Australian content in terms of film, however, in terms of local television I’m always present. I’ll sit down to watch the newest locally made television movie, some local reality and even Channel Nines new comedy Here Come the Habibis (2016). I also wont forget my 14-year obsession with Australian’s number one drama, Home And Away (I know, pathetic isn’t it.)
However, on a larger scale I don’t think Australian content should be swept under the rug at all. There seem to be so many issues with local content, I mean there must be if there is an entire university course dedicated and I’ve also written six blog posts already on the topic. The Australian content industry seems to have troubles with; image, quality of our content, viewership, commercial success and accessibility. These are all things that could change overtime, but due to constant error of judgement overtime, our industry continues to suffer.
I definitely don’t believe that Australian content is of any less quality then films of international production, perhaps in terms of funding, yes. However, when it comes to acting, visuals and writing, I don’t compare because we deliver exceptional quality just like our international competitors. It’s just ridiculously hard to pin down a reason as to why local content doesn’t always perform well. Films need to be more about quality then success. The obsession with box office should be replaced entirely with an assessment of the total audiences who are watching the film across all different platforms over its life (Kaufman, 2015).
Viewership of local content is however a huge issue within Australia. We live in a country where our locally produced television is adored and watched my millions each week. Millions of viewers even turn up to watch a celebration of a year in television at the TV Week Logie Awards. However, in turn we live in a country where our local produced film is either ignored or just not well received. It truly is an odd balance when compared to the United States who has both huge film and television industries. I will eat my own words and say that Kaufman does have a point that the quality of content should be the interest not the success, however, success comes from audience and without audience, and the quality doesn’t matter because nobody is viewing the content.
A change in the way we market and distribute Australian film is huge must if we want to reach a national audience and most importantly a local audience. As discussed in an early blog post, the Australian film industry in particular needs to study their audience and find out how to appeal to them, it may be the only way to secure the future of Australian film.
The image of Australian content is very set on stereotypes. People believe that when they see an Australian film, it will make them hate themselves because they will see over exaggerated Australian characters. We have overtime been seeing Australian films that aren’t solely focused on Australia as a country. Films such as; Babe (1995), Moulin Rouge! (2001) And The Great Gatsby (2012), have proved to Australian audiences that we can have films made that are locally produced which don’t make us look like total bogans. However, many people don’t consider these films to be Australian due to no focus being put on Australian culture. However, I feel that for the future of the Australian film industry, producing films such as the above and even having co-produced films is important, because it shows we have diversity in our industry.
In terms of accessibility, the availability of Australian content is pretty low, mainly when it comes to film. For example, $300,000 was spent on advertising for the 2014 film Son of a Gun which was originally released in only a mere 53 cinemas, meanwhile a Hollywood blockbuster film would possibly open in Australia in 500 cinemas, with money spend on advertising going as high a $3 million. It’s reasons such as these as to why Australian films are pushed aside by local audiences. Australian audiences have it in their minds that a film may only be good if it’s well received by international audiences such as Americans and the Brits. But accessibility is extremely important when you are wanting a film to be successful, making it available is key, however, do to low budgets and measly marketing campaigns (Aveyard, 2011), Australian films often go completely unnoticed by much of the public.
It is definitely not time to give up on Australian content, nor do I think it ever will be. Our industry is successful in its own right. We produce some outstanding television every year, some of which has been international recognised such as Josh Thomas’, Please Like Me. Meanwhile most locally produced programs do great with ratings on both free-to-air and pay-tv networks. The film industry on the other hand may have a long way to go. I feel like over the past 21 years we have definitely produced some amazing, memorable films, some which has also been recognised overseas, such as the Best Picture, Oscar-nominated, Babe (1995). So in the end, I definitely don’t believe its time to give up on Australian content, because its not dead yet, it’s only just beginning to blossom.
Aveyard, K 2011, ‘Australian films at the cinema: rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition ‘, Media international Australia, no. 138, pp. 36-45
Kaufman, Tina “Finding Australian audiences for Australian films” Metro. 163, December 1, 2009. p 6-8.