The National Identity Policies Versus Australian Filmmakers

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It has not been too long since the Australian cinema witnessed renaissance. Accompanying this renaissance, many genre-related movies encountered output, agreement discourse and enterprise controversy oriented stature, dating to post 1980s period. In order to lure vaster audience, the Box Office has its eyes at commercial filmmakers and entertainment centred movie makers (Zion, 2015). The transformation of speculative Australian film industry into an established and promising marketable media sector is much anticipated, unfortunately, is missing proficient details of its strategy leading to practical execution. However, this debate is missing sync to Australian lineage and cinema. Further the correlation with modern trends and domestic audience is too absent. The arguments posed in this chapter points at the burden that filmmakers have to carry. Although Australian cinema has held its prominent reputation, there are considerable obstacles in the way of filmmakers like meeting the expectations of national and international audience, scarce generation scale and business configurations, current discrepancies among culture and commerce, and finally the recent film finding policy levied by the Australian government. The journey of Australian cinema has not been perfectly steady, but witnessed numerous fluctuations (Ward, 2019). To combat such fluctuations in marketplace and economy, there are several policies to help aspiring and established filmmakers. One of them being the Screen Australia- Producer offset. However, in order to be eligible for such policies an assurance for market place success is required (Producer, 2020).

Over the past two decades, Australian cinema has witnessed a new tide of movies releases around the globe. Australian cinema was largely carved on the basis of national identity agenda since 20th century. However, the resurrection of genre movies, portrays the vein of Hollywood filmmaking which consequently commemorates an explicit milestone in the Australian screen history. The beginning of 21st century glimpsed a miserable marketable feat of Australian movies. Following which a major controversy arose via the wider concern of audiences and the native cinema (Rayner, 2018). The goal is to attract vaster audiences along with better Box Office Performance; Commercial and entertainment centred filmmakers are being looked upon for this (Nowra, 2019).

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However, there is high uncertainty at the potential of filmmakers for achieving such milestones with the ongoing national funding policies, as these serve mainly as an obstacle rather than motivators. The public policy makers and AFTRS can be cited as major contributors in formation of such a mentality among the masses. Consequently, the debate has taken a craft based turn (O'Regan, 2019). Still, the lack of inspection of Australian movie culture and its chemistry with the audience and concurrent fashions requires to be acknowledged. As this essay argues, films have inhabited a hard degree under Australian cinema, which further encountered several hardships in terms of festivity with natives, which being evident by achievement of these films greatly overseas than the homeland. However, there too, they confront dominant linguistic barriers. Thus, international success is not sufficient alone (Moran et al., 2015).

Further, this essay focuses at examination of the chronological aspect of films within Australian cinema dating to the late 20th century till present. The aspects to be primarily analysed includes filmmaking tangibility, industrial dynamics and configurations, and entertainment. Entertainment Along the path, the essay will focus at examination of consequences of the recent renaissance of Australian films specifically indicating the advent of the filmmaker’s offset, and evaluation of dilemmas such films have to encounter in the native environments due to variable forces. Several citations to the dis-empowerment of Australian movie lineage have been made since the last century, however insights into Australian movie heritage has mostly been absent.

Celebrated Australian analyst and movie scholar: Brain McFarlane (2009), opine the negligence of potent filmmakers within Australian cinema. Claims like insufficiency of the Australian cinema in rendering everlasting excitement for the speculators prevail. However, some films proved to be exceptions to such claims. To name a few- Death Defying Acts (2007; suspense), Australia (2008; epic), Crocodile Dundee (1986; humour) and Mad Max (1979; trilogy). No doubt, such examples exist but their number is not convincing. So, McFarlane is correct to a certain extent. When viewed from another angle, there are certain other master pieces as well which lacks recognition and acknowledgement (Ryan, 2017). A limitation that comes into picture is the limited infrastructure with the Australian screen which could lend a support for sustainable proceedings. To be specific, movies needing greater budgets, mainly dealing with action, thriller etcetera cannot be produced as effectively. This is the reason that genres like comedy which require lesser material resources and only strong scripts are preferred over their counterparts that have to dominantly depend over government funding and look into the ongoing legal policies and reforms (Victoria, 2018).

A receptacle carved out of film output, culture, policy and criticism is known as national identity. A reference to this identity becomes a necessity here as the previous decades have witnessed autonomous prototype for getting insights into Australian cinema. The cultural policies and subsidies have a significant role in sustainability and fostering of the cinema. It has been put forth as a display and conservation of Australian community, temperament and essence (Maher, 2016).As a result, an emphasis over content centred on quality and culture is given while entertainment and commercial content is often thwarted. Such practises intend to induce a sense of community in the natives of Australia. Another prominent film scholar put it forth as the Australians uninterested in producing films purely meant for entertainment and audience enticement such as horror and action. Promotion of films up to Hollywood like standards is hardly tried by the Australian filmmakers. Public funding environment might also be put to blame for this (George, 2016). Australian cinema must seek inspiration from the minor film enterprises which enjoys relatively healthier associations with Hollywood and competes with the rivals despite their small size (Rayner, 2018). On the other hand, Australian cinema is trying to set a demarcation among itself and the Hollywood rather than initiating collaborations. The notions of a national cinema have evolved due to such opinions.

Now a need is there to choose among either of the opposition arguments which serve as the filmmaker's dilemma and can be rephrased as: Shall the Australian film industry indulge in production and promotion of heritage specific genres which deal explicitly in Australian realisms and succeed up to a level in domestic market alone, or produce entertainment and demand based movies that would acquire recognition across the globe but defy the national identity norms set up by Australian government for funding (Cunningham, 2017). This indeed is a major dilemma in the motive of producing a film that involves recognition and success. However, such cannot be achieved through funding. Both the forces seem to be mutually exclusive and attainment of one excludes the other (Dallas, 2019). As the phase of year 1980 ended, there were some major reforms in tax write offs for film makers. The 10BA was held back and the taxes were revised to be set at 150 percent from a 100 percent. This change dates to the year 1988-89 and 2001-02. The private investors were motivated by this move and the investments started decreasing gradually. The aftereffects that followed was the falling of diversity in the Australian cinema and film industry. This demise had a devastating effect as a complete sub class which earlier comprised of medium level thrilled, had been completely eliminated (Harley, 2017). Various observations by scholars from film industry followed this change. The insights were necessary as well, as called by Stephen Rowley (1998). Films like the Dark city released in year 1998 and the Matrix in year 1999 are the perfect example of such observation in the former decade of the Australian films.

Further, a major blow was there for filmmakers who were thinking of producing content in genres like fantasy and scientific fiction. It was a disadvantage to think of such ideas because there were budget limitations that were levied upon Australian artists and producers with maximum spirits, as has been quoted by Andrew Mason in Helms. The only option left was a comeback by the Australian government into the film production market. Evidently, the government turned out to be the principal investor for entertainment. Obviously, higher demand films were no longer possible now. As what the public wanted to see, would have hosted too much which the government was adamant not to pay. No reason or logic could be cited against such will of the government. Hence, high budgeted films escaped altogether. If the market then (in 1990) was to be compared with that in 1980s, then sharp contrasts could be seen (Ryan, 2017). It can be summarized as: before this period a spirit to imitate and even overpower the Hollywood prevailed. However, this was no longer the case after government reforms for film funding. The trend that saw elevation was in the local films.

The Australian film market was loaded with such and these focused at the everyday settings which were more relatable and recognisable by the general public. This gave a feeling of documentaries to the viewers. Further, no attempt was made by artists who had potential scope in their works. For example: Strictly Ballroom. Such excerpts indicate that the enthusiasm for global exposure no longer existed in the filmmakers and exclusively Australian content was being produced. Such type of production methods continued, prevailed and dominated till the 21st century embarked (Dallas, 2019).

With beginning of the 21st century, the industry was not lucky enough as a major catastrophe had hit it hard. In the year 2004, the percentage adjacent to local share of box office showed a number of 1.3, which is the minimum ever as observed in the history. Following the trend, in two years the numbers rose to 2.8%, which was no very fascinating for the film makers. As the numbers observed kin the year 2000 were approximately 8% at Screen Australia in 2011. After publication of these figures, the filmmakers and the government were put to blame. They were held liable as the filmmakers had produced such films while the government and the funding institutions had approved a content which was said to cause depression. The people did not find that content entertaining at all rather they were disappointed with such productions (Nowra, 2019). There had been a constant demarcation among national policy schedules and the varieties that audience wanted to consume (Victoria, 2018). While the allocation of funds for the film making in Australia had been chiefly regulated by the strategy intentions, the native speculators have a complete contrasting taste. They do not share a greater inclination for films meant with the federal schedule or any form of artistic identities. (Victoria, 2018).

The year 2005 governed an introduction of a fresh funding module that aimed to covert the former deal driver model by removal of subsection. The deal driven model used to access films based on their performance in the presales attained at bit national and worldwide levels. However, the feeder model was based on an assessment inculcating strength of the script, potential of the audience engaged, the star casts associated with the film and other such relatable factors to analyse the expected market acquisition (Zion, 2015). Initially, such returned proved to be fruitful as they helped in uniting the commercial filmmakers and the audiences under a mutual shade, however, the following years governed something deviating. As it was announced that the funding structure would undergo further reforms which aimed at marking a contemporary era for the Australian market. Probably that did not prove to be true in the forthcoming period (Dallas, 2019). The content, script and the movies altogether, do not lack potential. So what is refraining the Australian cinema from acquiring the best recognition? That is probably the various fences, separating the local filmmakers and the Australian cinema. Simply producing a genre film, promoting it at social media, and the audiences will come. The process is certainly not as simple as this in any way (Moran, 2015).

The attitude and reactions delivered by the policy makers for the supporters of conventional Australian genre cinema within the industry is not favourable to its best. Further, another hurdle as cited by the producers is the cultural discount which being the difficulty in comprehension of Australian agent by the audiences around the globe. To cite an instance, comedy Kenny (2006) performed exceptionally well at the local box office and won the title for the best grossing Australian film (Eltham, 2015). Conversely, at the international markets it could hardly gain any recognition and failed terribly. A slap on the producer’s face was put when it was deliberately released in the United States. Ironically, the film itself was in English language, and the accompanying subtitles were too in English language. For the people investing their time, money and efforts in the films, such types if cultural threats deviate them and demotivate for further production of such movies. There have been other instances as well when the producers were criticised badly for their decisions to produce such transnational movies. It would be worth mentioning here that the transnational achievement of Australian films is scarcely commemorated within familial film culture. While domestic box-office revenue is diligently documented and publicized regularly by prominent media like Screen Australia. Annual breakdowns are also celebrated, there are a few names that either publish or celebrate the Australian film’s performance in the international market (Ryan, 2017). This is an indicative of, importance of Australian cinema with the local box office alone whilst excluding the international marketplace. This certainly is a continuation of heredity of the nationwide personality and the cinema schedule. Until recently, the determining factors for measuring a film’s achievement and dignity had been limited to household theatre production accompanied by global acclaim, framed critically (Ryan, 2017). Conversely, earnings, global revenue, and global box office sales used to be unimportant interests.

The essay has assessed a comprehensive narrative of chronology of movies in Australian cinema. Three major degrees, namely significance, perception, and assistance inside of the industry and national agreements have been discussed, serving as the milestones achieved by the Australian films. However, there are certain restrictions and obstacles in the way of filmmakers who aim at gaining recognition worldwide by indulging in various genres. But the current government policies aiming at the national identity prove be a constraint for them. This conventional approach requires reconsideration. As I have argued, the filmmakers can not solely carry the burden of all restriction being levied upon them and the pressure for success of the movie even adds to it further. The Australian creature films have to cross the hurdles like cultural status, restricted resources, cultural and commercial discrepancies, the contrast among domestic and international market, and most prominent of all- the national identity agenda. Additionally, a commercial turn is being witnessed that might only be a newer session of experimentation. Thus, it becomes mandatory to acquire certainty before the needle of policy starts to point at cultural and national identity even with higher strictness. In order to untangle the mysteries and tensions among the aspirations of local filmmakers and policy makers, dynamics need to be explored more effectively. An agreement is required that would compensate the aspirations of both the parties. As having single handed inclination might prove to be harmful in the long run. However, that might be skipped if sustainability is not the goal. To conclude, two unique Australian entities in the marketplace viz. national identity and the filmmakers with varied aspirations needs to come together with a settlement. Specifically, the genres relating to thrill, fiction related to science, and adventure etcetera have obtained a restrictive distinct. The Australian cinema based on genres has the potential to serve as a wholesome and provide additional sub-genres for further creativity. It needs to be associated with a generic identity than a national identity for this purpose. More policies by institutions like Screen Australia are required.

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The National Identity Policies Versus Australian Filmmakers. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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