Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Dark Age of Australian Cinema

(Note: An edited version of this post was previously submitted for my AFTRS Screen Culture course, Industry Appreciation article, January 2010)

It may seem ironic to title a reflection on a man I claim to be significant to the Australian industry with such a negative statement, but that has always been what is so unique about Antony I. Ginnane. From a Business background with an aim seemingly purely to make money, he is now the man whose job it is to lead our industry out of a Dark Age, and I believe he may be the man to do so. (I was inspired to publish this article I wrote after recently writing on the state of Korean Film in Australia over on the KOFFIA Blog).

The Dark Age was a period of perceived cultural decline or social collapse. To claim that the Australian industry is in such an era is not a bold statement in my mind, but a clear fact. While in a year  (this article was first created in 2010) that has been termed a ‘great year for Australian film’ the box office does not reflect this. Yes “Mao’s Last Dancer”, “Samson & Delilah” and “Charlie and Boots” may be the exceptions, but this is still an industry that does not provide a clear career path for young filmmakers. Plain and simple, it is not a sane decision to enter an industry that cannot sustain itself.

 Rachel, Margaret and Troy didn't seem to think the Australian industry had any issues

Ginnane’s approach of ensuring international appeal, gaining subsidy from both government and private sectors, and handling the distribution rights for various mediums, pushed the likes of “Fantasm” and “Patrick” and films he produced in the 70’s & 80’s into the Black. The cruel nature of the Dark Age was that those living in that time did not even recognize their disposition. Hopefully through Ginnane’s contribution we will not suffer from such a fate.

Ginnane was a pioneer of his time, combining his business and law background with an interest in film journalism and distribution. He developed an alternative model that drastically increased the number of films being made, ensured working capital and crucially also developed more filmmakers.

He is not a special man though, a genius with knowledge or skill so unattainable by others, he is purely a man that learnt from his mistakes. Originally making low budget art house dramas, Ginnane found this an unsuccessful model. Yet our industry does not seem to take note of this, that a shift to Genre film was needed. The definition of Insanity is ‘to repeat the same thing over and over and to expect different results’. Maybe Merriam and Webster should be notified to add an alternative definition: ‘the Australian Film Industry’. 

I am not even claiming ‘Ozploitation’ to be the savior of our industry. Ginnane’s “Dark Age” proves this, as it was unable to get a theatrical distribution in its time. But it is his model that I feel is what the Australian industry requires, a platform that treats box office with respect. This has often been thought of as an issue that is below that of the art house, but I beg to differ. Genre films – films that create heroes and myths, films that play with the conventions of cinema or reflect upon them – these are the films that make audiences connect with their stories on an emotional and a personal level. This, I feel, will ultimately lead films to box office success.

 Tarantino presenting "Dark Age" at PopCorn Taxi event.

We need to learn how to more accurately promote ourselves. Even the term 'Ozploitation' had to be thought up by Quentin Tarantino, why had someone from the Australian industry not already created this title? Having listened to Antony I. Ginnane recently at SPAA Fringe and ‘Oz Film vs. Oz Audience’, I am delighted that he has managed to migrate from the independent film scene to leading our industry practitioners. For if we do not take on his advice, that of ‘we only make dark depressing, bleak pieces, that nobody goes to see’, we will be left in the Dark Ages forever.

You can now catch my thoughts on Twitter @TullysRecall

No comments:

Post a Comment