Australian Film industry – financial bust? or cultural must?

BCM330, Uncategorized

If you were to ask the question; what is wrong with the film industry in Australia? You would be hard pressed to pinpoint exactly what the problem is. Australians love to consume content; whether it be at the movies, on television, via streaming services or on the internet. Though when it comes to consuming Australian-made content, we are not so eager. During the 2000’s decade 90% of all content was foreign produced (Burns & Eltham, 2010 p.103). Australia has had a long history of terrific film-making, from high-praised arthouse films such as ‘Man from Snowy River’ and ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ to cult classic comedies like ‘The Castle’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’. However, the history of Australian cinema success has been very sporadic since the 1970’s, with many highs and lows. Australian content in the past twenty years has averaged making up for less than 5 per cent of all box office revenue in Australian cinemas. Australian content hit a major low in 2016, with just 1.9% accounted at the box office. It is these kinds of statistics that put a lot of debate about whether the Australian film industry is succeeding and worth funding? There is uncertainty surrounding what it means if a film has market failure, is it based on financial factors or do Australian films play a larger role in society, to help construct our cultural identity?

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source: empireonline.com.

Market failure in commercial terms, means a film is a box office flop. The money put into making the film was not returned in revenue from box office sales. Australian films are continuously plagued by this and yet are still being produced. How did we go from the glory days in the 1980’s where such films like ‘Crocodile Dundee’ helped Australian content account for 23 percent at the box office compared to the measly 1.9 per cent in seen in 2016? An argument that comes from article ‘More Than Ballyhoo’ discusses how the Australian audience has become Americanised. The article looks back at history to show how Australian content consuming habits have been formed. In 1923, the head of the Motion Picture Producers and the Distributers of America utilised Hollywood’s platform to sell ‘the purposes, the ideals, the accomplishments, the opportunities and the life of America’ to the rest of the world with American made films (Bowles, Maltby, Verhoeven & Walsh 2007, p99). Though seen as an ambitious attitude by many, the slow growing consumption of American culture began speaking for itself. Australian cinema audiences were adapting to American trends. For instance, Australian moviegoers dressed as cowboys when watching western films, women’s magazines showed how to style hair like the famous Hollywood actresses. American catchphrases and one-liners also began to become part of everyday conversation amongst Australian culture (Bowles, Maltby, Verhoeven & Walsh 2007, p98). Americanisation has helped create an Australian cultural identity that is obsessed consuming American content and thus creating our cinema identity.

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source: Aljazeera.com

How have we allowed this to happen?

In this opinion, it is due to the inequality of distribution of content. Australian films are bound to fail if they are not available for the public to access.  The American film market is noted the prime market to recognise a films popularity. A film’s box office success in the American market is used as a guide for further potential success in overseas markets, in this case Australia (Bowles, Maltby, Verhoeven & Walsh 2007, p99). These films are promoted much heavier than Australian films with expensive marketing budgets. They are typically released at peak times, for example, the Christmas period and school holidays. A 2015 report from Screen Australia discusses some of the issues in the cinema industry that are affecting the distribution of Australian content. Increasing competition from other platforms, television, DVDs, internet and streaming services have made it harder for Cinema complexes to get people in to the cinemas. The cinemas negotiate with the distributors to how many screens and sessions the content will be played at. Using box office success from overseas releases and successes from similar genre films to determine potential revenue return. The amount of content generated continues to grow, an average of 398 films released to cinemas each year, with only around 25 being Australian made. This means that the cinema ‘shelf space’ is tight. As the Hollywood, big budget films take more screens because they continue to produce more revenue, Australian films have been pushed aside. In the last ten years, the amount of Australian films being screened at less than one hundred cinemas has doubled. Independent and arthouse cinemas are most likely to take on Australian films however in very scattered locations making it very inaccessible for many. This argument aids to why the Australian film industry is going through considered market place failure.

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source: edge.alluremedia.com

As the Australian film industry continues to struggle and be tainted as a continual financial bust, we continue to cultivate our legacy as Australians. Films not for profit but for the greater good. It is important that we continue to protect and fund the film industry. It is no secret that thought of an Australian film makes us weary, we as an audience are very harsh critics. However, when it comes to the local box office, it’s our own Australian-ness that has delivers success. Films like ‘Crocodile Dundee’, ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ and ‘Muriel’s Wedding’ all had distinct cultural themes and characters that were unmistakably Australian, however had that balance to be well received by domestic audiences as well as achieve universal appeal for international audiences (Ryan, 2012 p. 150). A 2011 survey by Screen Australia showed that people’s attitudes towards Australian produced content were quite positive. Over one thousand people surveyed showed ninety-one percent felt it was very important to have Australian narrative content being produced. The research showed that people found it important that Australian stories and culture were portrayed in film; and that more should be done to stop the bombardment of American content at cinemas. One finding was the surveyed, found that people love that the film industry provides employment and generates money in the economy. This was also highlighted in the article ‘Australian films at Large’, highlighting that success of film can be the economic benefits it provides to those in the film making industry as well as a boost to the tourism industry (Verhoeven, Davidson & Coate 2015, pp 9-10).

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source: smh.com.au

In this opinion piece, I recommend that the Australian film industry taps back into the Australianness culture of films that made them easily translatable for overseas audiences to enjoy also and to not be afraid of genre films. Genre films are typically more commercially successful and the audience have a better understanding what they’re about to consume. There is a way for genre and Australian identity to co-exist in film. It is this way the film industry can begin to become more profitable and the cultural stigma against Australian films can be eased. The film industry would best be operated through private investment as shown that the top three Australian films of all time (The Story of the Kelly Gang, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max) were all privately made with no government aid. By operating a profitable film industry, we can assure a sustainable workforce for those in the industry and ensure Australian cultural identity can be brought to life on screen.

Reference:

Bowles, K., Maltby, R., Verhoeven, D. & Walsh, M. 2007, ‘More than ballyhoo?: The importance of understanding film consumption in Australia’, Metro : media & education magazine, no. 152, pp. 96-101

Burns, Alex & Eltham, Ben 2010, ‘Boom and bust in Australian screen policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’ ‘, Media international Australia, no. 136, pp. 103-118

Ryan, Mark David 2012, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian cinema, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 141-157

Verhoeven, D., Davidson, A. & Coate, B. 2015, ‘Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance’, Studies in Australasian cinema, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 7-20

 

 

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Reflection of BCM311

BCM311

“Although life is rich in lived experience, we give meaning to very little of this experience” – Michael White, 2007

 

This quote from Michael White was from the first class of Advanced Seminar in Media & Communication and has a recurring theme throughout this course.

As I reflect on my experiences at BCM311 I find myself doing a technique that we learnt this semester, that is, the practice of narrative therapy. Narrative therapy as I understood is the retelling of events or steps that we have taken in a part of our lives and identifying what actions we took that uphold our values.

As we practiced our interview skills with other classmates we asked them to identify a recent decision they had to make. The outcome positive or negative, however why they chose that decision to find the source of their values. It is from this listening practice we gained the skill to look out for the ‘absent but implicit’.

Hearing a story but listening to the choice of words of how the individuals preferred way of living is conceived.

 

“It is not possible to talk about anything without drawing out what it is not. Every expression of life is in relation to something else.”  – Michael White, 2006

 

Through our interviewing narrative practices a common theme emerged, that is, the workplace.

Our workplaces are a complex environment where our values are tested every day and we struggle to navigate our way through.

  • Values such as fairness, loyalty, reliability, honesty and acknowledgement are the common values we try and uphold or expect to experience in the workplace.

Though in a world of careless managers, demanding customers, lazy co-workers and high expectations of flexibility we constantly struggle to find that place of perfect existence. That place does not exist it would seem.

As fresh university students’ soon to become professionals in the workplace we are now going to have to navigate our way through our careers. I reflect on the week where Sue Turnbull joined us in class for a narrative practice interview as she discussed her pathway through her working life. She discussed what choices she decided to make and to become a University professor at a later stage in her life. A quote that highly resonated with me was when she said

 

“Others got ahead of me, they had ambition, I don’t have that”

 

It resonated because I relate, I also do not have ambition. Is that a bad thing? As a non-ambitious I am comfortable going with the flow, achieving goals at my own pace and having no concrete direction. The workplace however is filled with all types of people who have different values and would disagree with a lack of ambition and enjoy the competition to get to the top. For me I am excited to close this long chapter of my university life and see what the future holds, one step at a time.
 

‘Some Truth About Anger, Boundary Setting, and Declarations of Freedom’ Literature Review

BCM311, Uncategorized

‘Some Truth About Anger, Boundary Setting, and Declarations of Freedom’

This blog post by Elan Morgan is a powerful piece of narrative writing. It is a raw and honest account that derives emotions right from the heart.

Elan begins, as the title suggests, discussing the topic of anger. Anger, that she was taught from her early teen years, no one wanted to see or hear. Anger is an ugly emotion and such an emotion, that young woman especially should not display. Elan writes that anger evokes fear in others and it has negative associations. She questions why this is the case.

We all feel anger, it’s only natural. We are allowed to be angry.

Elan describes an occurrence where her anger began to manifest and how it lead to another being uncomfortable with her. It was New Year’s Day 2017 and a friend of hers died that morning of cancer. Elan admits she had lost contact with the friend, and that this is a sensitive topic for her given her own cancer experience. This news brought up a complex range of emotions, one of which was anger. Elan used Twitter as an emotional outlet to unleash her rage as she grieved the loss of her friend.

“I’m angry that my old friend died this morning, many old friends are honouring her at a pub today, and my sobriety means I can’t be there” – Twitter Post, 1st Jan 2017

After her 15-thread outburst Elan then tells how a Twitter follower which, for the purpose of the story, she names ‘Schartzmugel’ is uncomfortable with her anger. Elan admits she wasn’t surprised at ‘Schartzmugels’ backlash. People often don’t know how to react amongst anger. Elan’s anger was not directed at anybody and she wasn’t trying to stir up political debate to gain reaction. Though just from her expressing her emotions at this grieving time seems to cause another to be so uncomfortable. Elan gives three lessons in dealing with others’ and your anger.

 

  1. “It is very bad manners to say “I am sorry for your loss… but”
  1. “Anger is not an un-nuanced emotion that makes the world worse.”
  • Meaning that anger should not be feared or always associated with violence, it is a vital emotion that we need to accept in society.
  1. “Anger and love often move hand in hand”
  • Meaning that anger is the offspring of love, we tend to show anger when someone we love hurts us.

Elan’s final part of her narrative is the most important I found. She talks about using her anger as an instrument. An instrument that makes others uncomfortable as it demands change. She says to not be afraid of your emotions and use your anger as a constructive tool.

“People will tell you to shut up when you give voice to your anger, because it makes them pay attention, and that attention means you have power.”

As I absorbed the words Elan was writing, I applauded her honesty. The message she wanted to share was a message takes a dig at society. Society which has a prejudice against anger. Why are we taught that anger is evil? Why are women who show anger considered a bitch?

Elan is unafraid to speak her truth, she warns burying your anger is detrimental for your physical and mental well-being.After experiencing cancer, depression and alcoholism Elan found freedom in anger. Anger that gave her the power to be herself and is unapologetic in doing so.

While reflecting on Elan’s words, I find solace in her story. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion it stirs up an anxiety within in us and can motivate us to action. When we get angry it means it’s important to us. It means we want circumstances to change. The marriage equality debate in Australia at present being a great example. The anger from the LGBT community gives them a power that the government has had to respond to.

Use your anger as an instrument and don’t be afraid of others. As part of Elan’s concluding words.

“We have work to do and the fire to tend it. We have voices to sharpen and energy to spend. Our voices do not have to be pretty or appealing for others’ comfort when the job requires a different kind of tool. We’re goddamned fireworks.”

“A narrative that I have not experienced. A narrative that I have not lived”

BCM311, Uncategorized

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The thought of writing another person’s story is a daunting and delicate process. Being given a responsibility, a responsibility of capturing the words and the emotions that come with and giving your best interpretation of that narrative.

A narrative that I have not experienced. A narrative that I have not lived.

The realisation here is…

The retelling of another’s story is never going to be the exact same.

I immediately think of that childhood game of ‘Chinese Whispers’. Chinese whispers, which I’ve now learnt is politically incorrect and considered somewhat offensive. It always seemed a harmless game to me but like other innocent parts of our childhoods (e.g. baa baa black sheep) have been stolen in our politically correct run world.

Anyway the point I wanted to make was, that the concept of that game is pretty similar the dilemma us storytellers have. That is, ultimately the original story (or whisper) ends up different in the hands of another person. It can be a deliberate or misunderstood change but more often than not, the story is interpreted different by the person listening.

How can we do justice to the original story?

We can’t always write down word from word what we are being told and then repeat exact words, as if it were some over rehearsed monologue.

As I reflect on my own experiences I realise that, we are all storytellers by nature. We exaggerate, we alter the details, we twist the truth, we take hold of a series of events and provide a story that makes interesting for our audience. Whether it be describing to our families an exciting Monday morning spent as if it weren’t mundane or an elaborate excuse for missing a friend’s birthday because we didn’t want to go.

It is our nature to tell stories. So, with another’s story, it is only natural that we tell it using words and emotions as if the story were our own.

By controlling the narrative, it is our best way of understanding the true meaning of the story and portraying it as if we had lived it ourselves.

Better late than never..

BCM311, Uncategorized

It’s a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in the Gong and I, being the sloth I am have chosen to spend the day indoors. Instead of being outside in the fresh air, soaking up some much-needed vitamin D and working on my non-existent tan, I thought I’d use the opportunity to begin the practice of blog writing for a new subject BCM311. In classic form, I could have written this a week ago but better late than, never right?

The first week of… class? I feel class is too formal a word, our shared learning environment if you will, we discussed what the prospects of entering the workplace. I, like most others in their final semester cannot wait to finish our studies and find our place in the world. However, will it be all that we hoped for? Will we all be Steve Jobs (except the cancer part)? We don’t know what the future holds, all we know is the present. The present though is happy to categorise us and tell us who and how to be. The Myer-Briggs personality type as an example. I don’t need a test to tell me in an introverted person, like most I worked that out on my own.

Earlier this week I began filling out applications for summer internships, not jobs just paid internships, yet still I’m applying to these companies having to describe myself and why I am the best choice for them. How do I know that? What if I’m not that good?

As a marketing student, I’m familiar with having to market a product or a service, though now I found myself having to market myself to the world as if I am a brand. This concept of our own brand isn’t new, I mean we have our social media pages, LinkedIn and this blog so it’s not a totally unfamiliar topic.

The main question is: How does one who isn’t comfortable talking about themselves, convince strangers of their best attributes?

Talk to Me

BCM310, Uncategorized

Humans are human and animals are animals, right? In our day to day rituals we have no hesitation stepping on bugs or eating a beefy hamburger. We as human are the superior and animals are merely the creatures that fulfil our lives, whether it be in the way of food or entertainment or putting them to work, like a sniffer dog. However, the world of humans and animals can become intertwined, the way in which we see our animal’s changes and they begin to appear with human like qualities.

We call this anthropomorphism. The term ‘Anthro’ derives from Greek origin meaning ‘human’. The animals are given these human like qualities by us, the humans ourselves, to allow us to better understand, communicate and form emotional bonds with animals.

Giving animals personality traits like our own helps stimulate a reaction from within us so we can better engage with the animal and form a deeper connection. To form a connection with any other person we need to be able to communicate with them, so it’s obvious that we give animals voices so they can communicate back to us.

article-2339722-1a439a34000005dc-606_634x831If you’d ever seen any Disney movie surely you would have seen this in action. Disney has made countless tales that feature an anthropomorphised character. Disney utilises the imagination to transport the audience to a world where animals are just like humans. They have the same emotions, the same struggles and same dreams and desires. The animal characters can completely replace the need for humans all together in some stories. For example, The Lion King is a retelling story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, though uses lions who are the king of the jungle as the central characters.

However, in the anthropomorphised world there is quite often a somewhat realisation or awareness that the humans are the ones to be feared. In Disney films the animal characters are the ones often we relate or empathize with the most and our emotional bond is strongest with and the humans are the monsters or evil that we are against.

Finding Nemo, the popular Disney movie focuses on a father and son fish relationship, like a single parent family. The story begins with very humanlike rituals such as first day of school and swimming lessons, even though they are fish and already swimming? Human children relate to this so it isn’t questioned in the film. Nemo gets lost while swimming and captured by a scuba diver and taken back to his aquarium. It is immediately known that the human is the evil, the ominous tone and its large daunting appearance transform the human into the villain. Nemo is kept hostage in the aquarium fish tank and his experience is shown to be unpleasant and frightening. The theme of being taken away and captured by someone is a frightening thought to most of us, however it being extremely common in real life we often don’t give it a second thought, like when we go and choose a new pet and drag it away from its mother.tvlyyti

Although the fish and humans both speak English in the film they cannot communicate, emphasising the real-life relationship between animals and humans where there isn’t verbal communication. There is often a theme to the anthropomorphised characters of these movies that they are not understood by humans and that humans often do not take the time to understand the animals.

Humans are social beings and require emotions and feelings in their interpretation of communication. We target animals for anthropomorphising as they are most similar to us, as they do action and we can gather some form of response, e.g. a cat sits in front of bowl signalling it’s hungry or a dog barking signalling play time and through film techniques like animation we can transform our animals into very human like characters and can communicate to the audience with these personality traits and allow us to understand and form emotional bonds.

 

The Struggle is Real

BCM310, Uncategorized

The pain of struggle can be very different for everyone, whether it be psychological, emotional or physical. To go through struggle or see someone we care about go through a crisis of struggle can be painful. We often try to cover our own struggle with laughter, it can be easier to laugh off falling over rather than focusing on the pain and embarrassment. A sense of humour allows us to cope with to pretend that we are not bothered by struggle. However, we as humans are not always as empathetic as we seem. If we were to witness another falling over, often our knee-jerk reaction is to laugh before we our assistance. Why do we enjoy watching others struggle? A complex question as human beings are quite complex themselves. A term used to describe enjoying another’s pain or struggle is schadenfreude.

To feed our appetite of watching suffering, our media has seemed to have the answer for this and we simply call it, reality television. cropped-reality-banner

Reality TV is the mostly non-scripted capturing of everyday people in unique situations. Everyday people trying to earn recognition or redemption. Reality TV formats often use competitions in hopes to win a prize. The early 2000’s is where we saw a real boom in our reality TV consumption. The TV program big brother solely focused on a group of large personality strangers being held in some would call captivity with no contact to the outside world. This kind of isolation from the real world leads to chaotic behaviour from the housemates and induces conflict between them, all to the enjoyment of the audience watching. The show is designed to test them to their limits and while they have nothing to but dwell on their emotions, the meltdowns begin to appear. These types of reality show commonly have a ‘diary room’ or some form of private space. A safe place for the contestants to spill out their deepest thoughts, however this acts as a portal for the audience to get an insight of how they are suffering.  The question of empathy is often raised with watching and creating these reality shows. Is it a reflection of how morally depraved we are?

Dr. Bruce Weinstein, who writes an ethics column for Bloomberg, says “if people didn’t want to invade people’s privacy, nobody would watch these shows.”

The key element for most reality shows is survival.  Survival is that state of existing and struggling through times of difficulty. The show ‘Survivor’ literally depicts this, hence the name, of people competing in physically enduring challenges with little or no food, eliminating each other off in hopes to be the final survivor and be rewarded for their suffering.

The recent hit show ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ in Australia has been a ratings success mainly to the fact that audiences enjoy watching the suffering. The suffering of these, well D grade celebrities give us a sense of power to watch these people who live privileged lives endure absolute torture. The suffering in this show isn’t what you’d usually expect in daily life, such as being trapped in a water tank with snakes and crocodiles or having to each an animal testicle of some sort. It is totally degrading but we love it. It gives the viewer a sense of pleasure and to the sufferer a sense of redemption that now they been suffered as we feel we do every day in our lives from minuscule things they’ve now earned our empathy.

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The idea to take away from suffering, even in the form of reality shows is that suffering provides character growth and that growth ensures our survival until the next suffering.