Thursday, 17 July 2008

Perils of the South Pacific Film Industry

Prepare yourself for a bratty whinge, if you don't like whinges then don't read this post.

This is why I now live in Tokelau. The Australian film industry is about as effective as the Spinners-and-Weavers guild in Carlton. I'd like to erect a little blue sign up on a street post somewhere in St Kilda saying ...

... because you'd probably discover if the Taxi driver shuts off his navigator and winds down the window to read the signage he'd finally find it. Call me a cynical bastard, no need, my clinical psychologist does it for me. Yet, I feel a strange alliance to certain artists regardless of their creative creed. I found Shannon Young refreshingly versatile in his approach to the practical side of filmmaking, Bill Mousoulis seemed incredibly articulate and balanced despite never having added me as a filmmaker to his independent filmmaker lists, and Richard Wolstencroft always pushes the right buttons even when the floors are less then what the elevator boasts it can climb to. All revealed, hook, line and kitchen sinker in this series of quick bites on what is happening or has happened to Australian film.

Yet, I feel, the voices are growing louder but the hallways are still empty, and I suspect the reason exists with the suggestive retitling of this country I'd like to submit for approval ... simply because I have discovered it ...

I've been having a think about this crisis we've been going through for the past thirty years or so. Is that too late? Well, pretty much since I was born in 1976, the year Fantasm and The Devil's Playground got released. There has been a lot of debate, a lot of well meaning solutions, and most of all those solutions stem from the infrastructure of funding - they don't pay any attention to the mindset of the people (i.e. audiences), the creative prowess of our filmmakers, or distribution. Least of all, can I repeat, the audiences. The population, the mass, or mob as Henry Miller would curse about his respective Americans. The reason why is because most filmmakers are scared of their audience, they want them to love them, the feeling is never mutual.

The audiences. Well, Bernard Shaw made a very wise summary at the height of his success that in order to make the common mass learn, he had to make them laugh, in doing so the mob would learn without realising so. That's entertainment? In its most successful context, it is. In its history shaping context it is, no one can deny that.

It is stimulus, whether laughter, fright, or sadness, learning/understanding at least something makes the world go round. Hollywood has been proving this for years because Hollywood has been employing the morals not ethics of the population for decades successfully, more esoteric films have been pumping out the the same philosophy in Europe, but in Australia we take everything literally and you can't do it if you insist on being literal. That is the major problem, literal ideas produced to effect affectation, that's it and that's what we set out to deliver, it is done, you're fried, you've merely skimmed your own lunch box for crumbs of achievement. It's a solvent, nothing more, nothing less. It is, sadly just a stone not a rolling stone, not a Beatle, not a metamorphosis.

Looking at thirty years of film I would say this ... The 1970's was coined the "Me Era", the 1980's the "Us and Them", the 1990's was the "I era" and the new millennium has found us, as I say, in the "My Era". So where is the "We, Us, They, Those, and Whose era?", is the spectrum going to arise or has it? Has it already before the thirty year continuum I have just spread before us in less than a paragraph, merely even begun to arise? Has it been and gone? What is going on in people's heads not just what is coming out of people's mouths. I'm tired of people's mouths, what is going on in their heads?

This is all relevant in the context of film. If you can't read a book, look at a painting, wonder at a person or listen to the performance of a song, you are working for the opposing team. You are playing off field to a wave of funk whose only purpose is to make the pariah's inventiveness twice as difficult. If you can read a book too much, look at painting too hard, wonder at a person too obsessively, or promote a piece of music more to the extent of the players then the sound, then move to PR, not filmmaking.

Why do I say all these things in such a way? I say them because I once worked for a long time with the "everyman", and I tell you, it isn't truthfully what lies at the heart of the people in this country. They couldn't care less about the visions of filmmakers, they don't give a shit about making an entertaining point or substantiating ideal, what drives them is completely practical, if it 'aint gonna change circumstance for the best, it's fluff. If you bust a nerve getting a flick out there, they couldn't over boil a noodle for the benefit of what your trying to do. You think you are making movies people want to see, then stand one day in a busy brothel and see which girl gets the most attention, then see which girl gets the most clients, then note who you choose. There are your answers.

In summary, my solution for the Australian film industry is this ...

1) Weekly movies on television, make them mostly Australian and only one or few adverts.

2) Funding bodies should be segmented like Housing Offices, in catchment areas, so you can at least scrape a bit of cash from each depending on your circumstance.

3) Late night movie houses need to be in place not just x-rated cinema joints but venues that can keep running with one person managing front of house whilst two people sit kissing in the cinema.

4) Filmmakers stop acting like Clint Eastwood, yes he ended up making films but his Cowboy characters were just that. Want to to be tough and write, be Hemingway and live in Paris enjoying refinements with boxing gloves on, otherwise you're farting in the immortal bathtub.

5) Australian's are growing old by the dozen, if you want to cast your net over such a crowd forget it. The older generation are spending too much time renovating houses and having children. As Samuel Butler said, "Sensible people get the greater part of their dying done during their own life time".

6) Tax breaks.

7) Cinema should be promoted like sport, until then Cristiano Ronaldo is making more goals in kicking a ball then you'll ever do making a point or trying to get people reacting to your ideas.

I reckon you should listen to the old masters even if it does seem irrelevant, Australia only has two hundred years of centuries of thought, thought it doesn't want to acknowledge. It thinks two hundreds years is enough, ah, I reckon there is at least two hundred more to go. Have great grandchildren quickly is the surest advice. Otherwise we should go on what C. J. Dennis started and reverse what D.H.Lawrence thought of Australia, reverse the absurd censorship we attribute as part of our properness.

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