The Schembri article

March 7, 2010

Jim Schembri published an article by my good self and made it a feature on his blog. Check it out here and here is cut and paste version:

http://blogs.theage.com.au/schembri/archives/2010/02/bar_still_too_l.html?page=fullpage#comments

Leave a comment and have your say!

Here is my response. He hasn’t published it yet, but I imagine he will soon.

Hi Jim,

Thanks for publishing the letter the way you did. It is long time this debate about the Australian Film Industry crisis is taken up in a more public space and legitimate forum. You were one of the first mainstream journalists to really start to say, “The Emperor is wearing no Clothes” in the Australian Film Industry. For that I thank you on behalf of all those Aussie filmmakers out there who expect and demand a more vital, exciting and relevant Australian Screen Culture.

The comments here are great and from some important people in the Australian Film Industry like Michael Adams from Empire and the SBS Movie Show, Paul Martin from Melbourne Film Blog and Indy filmmakers Mark Savage, Dominic Deacon, Kelvin Crumplin, Stuart Simpson and others. They all make good points and the main point is genre and diversity.

I would disagree with Mark Savage who says some aggressive genres like horror won’t ever really be funded by government funding bodies. Some controversial films like Wolf Creek, Daybreakers and Dying Breed already have. And we should expect and demand more of same. The litmus test will be for the Aussie Government to fund one of Mark Savage’s brutal, uncompromising and revolutionary visions of Horror, though, I do agree on that!

From the articles linked to above on the Oz film crisis I’d like to add two more very articulate ones that are must reads. The first from The Monthly by Louis Nowra who viciously and rightly attacks the industry for its lack of relevance and kitchen sink sensibility much in agreement with my own thoughts and the MUFF critique:

http://www.themonthly.com.au/monthly-essays-louis-nowra-nowhere-near-hollywood-australian-film-2177

And Jack Sargeant’s lucid article from Real Time on the diversity, range and creativity at the margins of the Australian Indy and Underground cinema scene:

http://www.realtimearts.net/article/95/9748

I think these articles further articulate that there really is a HUGE Australian Film Industry crisis. Echoed in your own writings and in my own. Our National cinema is dying… or dead. And I for one not only want to do something about it, but I’m fighting mad things have been allowed to get this bad…

I sent The MUFF Open Letter to various film funding heads and Government ministers. Screen Australia set up a meeting with me to discuss the crisis and potential solutions about ten days ago. Some good signals came from that meeting but I can’t help but think we need more aggressive action…only time will tell.

There is an attitude, I believe, at these funding bodies that they feel they are above the issues raised here. That they are immune from criticism and can continue doing exactly what they have been as long as they drown it all in arcane guidelines. Nothing should be further from the truth!

This is the greatest scandal! How can the very body responsible pretend it somehow is or was not involved in creating the very climate of Industry crisis and crap Oz cinema they did in fact create? What’s more how do they DARE sit on their well paid and cushy government jobbed asses while the real Australian filmmakers and talent flounders and sometimes fails due to the very lack of assistance, innovation and attention they are supposed to administer and distribute! I mean it’s their jobs for F’s sake! It took ten years for them to take a meeting with me as a constructive critic of the local Industry who only wants to see change out of a love for our National Australian Cinema. It is a terrible and shameful state of affairs when this is allowed to just continue, unchanged, without at least trying some new ideas, tactics and strategies.

The fund I am suggesting of 5 to 10 million or so in each major State seems to get the general thumbs up here and elsewhere. That is only one less Tender Hook, Hey, hey its Esther Blueburger or one other totally shit Oz film Industry disaster per year. They can still make a lot of their PC bullshit movies if they want. Lets just see some more Indy genre filmmakers given a go. Perhaps half of said fund can be administered by the State and half from Federal Government bodies?  Apropos to pursue slates of aggressive and edgy genre films each year from the filmmakers discussed in Jack Sargeant’s article and elsewhere. This would be the way to go. And the successful filmmakers given funding for their next feature, immediately!, that way bodies of work can be built up by the most talented, innovative and successful. I agree that an additional 20% on top of a films budget should be put into publicity and promotion spends. If you make a million dollar movie keep an extra 200K spend in promo with the distributor also putting in some. With this attitude in mind we might actually see some bums on seats again at Australian movies.

My feeling is we are standing at a critical juncture in Australian Film History. With the success of genre films like Animal Kingdom at Sundance and an up coming slate of new genre films made (Red Hill, Daybreakers, Road Train, Eraser Children to name just four) or on the way (to name just two Jon Hewitt’s X and Stuart Simpson’s El Monstro Del Mar) the mood and ground is set for a new Australian Ozploitation revolution. The international festival community loves edgy, hip and out there Oz genre films and they will help and assist us in launching the movement on the International, as well as local stage, I am sure of it…

Pardon me if I talk grandiose, my first cousin twice removed was Ken G Hall ( …my Grandfather Alec McKay’s cousin) and I studied a lot of what he said about a commercial vital Australian cinema and its need to look to the future. And he spoke “Big”.

Why don’t we all just make Australian Cinema exciting again! It can be done! Demand that the funding bodies take action to support such schemes and launch a whole new and wonderful phase of Australian cinema onto the world stage. It’s either that or 20 more years of films about depressed Aussies with terminal illnesses, family problems, ethnic tensions all coming of age in the beautifully shot rural outback… while on a road trip, of course. After the last 20 years of mediocre government funded Australian Cinema (with some rare genre exceptions, of course, that proves the point) I think the choice is clear.

As we say on movie sets its time for, “Action”

Best Regards

Richard Wolstencroft

PS. For those readers who live in Sydney my new feature The Beautiful and Damned – a low budget genre feature and adaptation of the famous novel by F.Scott Fitzgerald plays at The Australian Film Festival on March 5th at 9pm at The Ritz in Randwick. Check here for details: http://www.australianfilmfestival.com.au/index2.html

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