Antony I. Ginnane accuses local industry of ‘ethnic cleansing’

November 13, 2008

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New SPAA President Antony I Ginnane accuses the local film industry of the equivalent of ‘ethnic cleansing’ pushing out and excluding filmmakers of talent or innovation. See here.

He goes on to say that the movies the Oz film Industry is making are “in the main, dark depressing bleak pieces that are the cultural equivalent of ethnic cleansing”

Then:

“We have to recognise that the feature film side of our industry has for some years now almost completely failed to connect with and find an audience…”

And…

“Nobody goes to see them. If they premiered most of the Australian movies of the past 24 months on a plane, people would be walking out in the first 20 minutes — and that’s not good.”

He could not be more on the money. For example without Baz Luhrman’s Australia Box Office expected to boost things a little, this year would be the worst for Oz film in 30 years.

A familiar story we have been outlining at MUFF since our inception.

Its simple we need to make ten or more new cutting edge genre films every year with a budget of between 500K to 1 million, and the succesful filmmakers from this fund imediately rewarded with another cold million to make another movie immediately, following a success. Then another group of ten talented filmmakers are brought in or near misses given a second chance, etc., then repeat. This initiative alone would change the industry forever in just 3 years.

The new Screen Australia guideline are receiving bad press as short films are not to be funded and I and many other Producers feel Screen Australia is relying too heavily on the Producer off set in these financially pressing times as a solution.

The only thing not up for discussion is the cushy wages, infrastructure, hotels, perks, trips. i.e the whole corrupt support system that is in place to look after the mandarins at Screen Australia and other agencies. These pampered bureaucrats, who get paid even if the industry remains a gigantic flop, will guide out us out of the cinematic wasteland? Guide us out! Huh, if anything its going to get worse before it gets any better.

To borrow a motif of Barack Obama, we need a Change in the Australia film Industry and its infrastructure and bureaucracy. To move it in the direction of innovation, viability and vitality and then perhaps these ‘perks’ can be justified.

More later…

One Response to “Antony I. Ginnane accuses local industry of ‘ethnic cleansing’”

  1. alex bell said

    Never were truer words spoken! The industry is F—! And Screen Australia (the same purky bureaucrats responsible for the current decline) doesn’t have balls enough to support innovation of any kind or recognise a good script if it jumped op out of their chardonne and bit them on their fat arses!

    Here’s the problem as I see it:

    Like Petrol To A Car

    Good Scripts are fundamental to the development of a viable and profitable Australian Film Industry, because without them, the edifice will collapse. Scripts are not just a minor aspect of the business they ARE its most important part (as petrol is to a car).

    The Writer – Director?

    Part of the problem, as I see it, is how scripts are assessed. For example, something like 85% of the Australian movies that have flopped over the last five years, have all been young ‘writer-director’ driven i.e. the director has also written them. This is ok, if the director has a ‘gift’ for good screenwriting or has been trained. But in the majority of cases, they don’t and haven’t. In fact, most have little or no experience writing scripts at all, and yet this is where a lot of the past funding has gone. Has quality been the determining factor here?

    http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2008/08/27/2358430.htm (Hear Jan Sardi, one of Australia’s most successful screenwriters telling it like it is)

    New Screenwriters and Old

    At the other end of the scale, are the New Screenwriter’s Programs, where a novice who shows talent /potential can get between $5000 – $10000 for writing a screenplay under the mentorship of a qualified script editor. Sounds good, but for the great majority of these potentially good writers, this marks the beginning and the end of their careers. Because very few – if any – of these projects ever reach the next stage of development. Why? A scroll back through the old AFC files will show literally 100s of abandoned writers and scripts. Is quality the determining factor here?

    Old or seasoned screenwriters should not be allowed to slip through without delivering the goods. There have been several recently released movies, written by ‘seasoned’ screenwriters that have been complete flops. Scripts should be assessed on their merits along and not because they were written by well known scriptwriters.

    The Viability Factor

    Quality and potential are two out of three factors that should guide script assessors and the industry in general. The third factor is: viability. Assessors should ask themselves how viable is this script in terms of it being successful in the marketplace? This is a complex question. For example, a script may be good, and at the same time, have the capacity to attract both popular and art-house audiences; or it may have a strong appeal to one or the other. It might even be groundbreaking and innovative, but with little popular appeal, except for perhaps movie critics, special interest groups and intellectuals. Before a script is assessed, its category should be determined along with its marketplace potential. But how? Feasibility studies would be one way. In the past few months, a collection, of what their makers and others have called ‘promising’ films have all nose-dived at the box office e.g. Not Quite Hollywood. Lets face it, it’s a nice little documentary, but really, where’s its audience base? Apart from a few nostalgic baby-boomers and one or two special interest groups – there’s none! In the marketplace, business projects based on feasibility studies are usually the ones that prosper and last.

    The Upsidedown Pyramid

    A good place to start is for the assessors to ask themselves: what elements made the top 20 most successful films in Australia popular? Well written scripts that contain many of these most popular elements should be given priority and placed at the top of the pyramid. Presently, the pyramid has been made to stand on its head, with the art-house and the esoteric on top at the heavy end. But these films, no matter how ‘important,’ ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘smart’, do not have the audience drawing capacity to sustain a viable and prosperous film industry.

    Accountability

    Assessors have a very important job – it is they who are responsible for moving the business forward. They should not only be ‘experienced’ in the craft of script analysis, but have a ‘head’ for business as it affects their industry. They should also follow a set of ESTABLISHED guidelines, that would make the possibility of nepotism and personal preference less likely in the decision making process.

    Another important aspect of all this is accountability. That assessors have not been made accountable is a pretty DUMB business move – when you consider that every successful business is based on accountability i.e. on the logic behind why particular decisions were made. Assessors in the Australian Film Industry need to be made accountable, to the writers and the industry, for the decisions they make.

    Alex Bell

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